Cook it, live it: chocolate and cognac cake

This rich, dark chocolate cognac cake is perfect for an evening in with friends. That means perfect for this new cooler season that we found thrust upon us this week!

Neil Perry shows us how it’s done. Read on…

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400g (14oz) good quality dark chocolate (I use Valrhona 53% cocoa solids), broken up

6 free-range eggs, separated

150g (5 1/2 oz.) caster (superfine) sugar

100 ml (3 1/2 fl oz.) good quality cognac

300ml (10 1/2 fl oz.) thin (pouring/whipping) cream

Unsweetened cocoa powder or icing (confectioners’) sugar, to serve

Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F/Gas 3). Cut a piece of baking paper to fit a 20cm (8 inch) round cake tin, with a double layer for the side and a single layer for the base. Spray the tin with cooking oil and fit the baking paper snugly. Don’t use a spring form tin here – it needs to be solid.

Melt the chocolate in a stainless steel bowl set over a saucepan of hot water ensuring the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Don’t let the water boil, as you can scald the chocolate. Remove the chocolate from the heat and let it return to room temperature.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and 100g (3 1/2 oz.) of the caster sugar until pale and creamy. Add the cognac and continue to beat until well combined. Add the chocolate and store until completely incorporated, then slowly stir in half the cream. Set aside.

Whip the remaining cream until soft peaks form. Set aside. Whisk the egg whites in a very clean bowl until soft peaks form, then slowly add the remaining caster sugar and whisk until very firm. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the egg whites.

Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin, place the tin in a deep roasting tin and add enough hot water to come 2.5cm (1 inch) up the side of the tin. Bake for 45 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 150°C (300°F/Gas 2) and bake for another 45 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the cake in the oven for 40 minutes, then remove to a wire rack. Run a knife around the inside edge of the tin and turn it onto a plate or a board – the cake should slide out easily but be extremely careful as the cake is so soft and fragile. Sprinkle with cocoa powder or icing sugar. To slice the cake, use a knife dipped in hot water and clean the knife after each cut. You will only want a slither per person, as this cake is so rich.

NOTES:

-The quality of the chocolate you use is directly proportional  to the quality of the cake. This rule also applies to the cognac.

– The cake rises like a souffle’, since that’s really what it is. It will fall and set slowly in the oven as it cools, so don’t be tempted to take it out too soon.

– This cake will last for three days, covered, at rom temperature. Don’t refrigerate it: it will set like a brick!

Easy Weekends by Neil Perry (£18.99) by Murdoch Books

Photography: Earl Carter 

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