I woke up on Sunday morning with this recipe in my head – not, I am glad to say, being dictated by my subconscious in a dream, but more a natural progression of the fact that I hadn’t slept well and had been thinking about Shakespeare food all weekend.
I wanted to make at least one sweet dish that didn’t have eggs or nuts in it and wasn’t too obnoxiously healthy. Also, I recently tasted a rather delicious chocolate bar from The Curious Chocolatier, that was flavoured with rosemary and apricot, and I had been wanting to try this combination in a cake sometime. The recipe is based on my vegan Raspberry, Coconut and Chocolate Cupcakes, and while this one isn’t vegan, it is very easy to veganise (see variations below). It worked beautifully, especially the ganache! Glossy and rich and bittersweet and totally perfect! I have to confess though, that while I wish I could tell you the secret to lovely, shiny ganache, mine splits with distressing frequency and I have no idea why (though it definitely behaves worse on occasions when I really want it to look beautiful – but then, doesn’t everything?). This one worked perfectly, and I don’t know how that happened, either.
Your Shopping List75 ml cream two small sprigs of fresh rosemary 85 ml apricot nectar 150 g dark chocolate (preferably Lindt 70% cooking chocolate) 200 ml milk 1 tsp cider vinegar 2/3 cup caster sugar 40 ml olive oil 125 g tinned apricots, pureed, or 125g dried apricots soaked in hot water for an hour, drained, and pureed, or 125 ml apricot nectar apricot essence or apricot schnapps (optional, but a good idea if you go the nectar option – the flavour isn’t that strong) 1 cup plain flour 1/3 cup cocoa 1/2 tsp baking powder 3/4 tsp bicarb of soda 2 tablespoons of apricot jam, or thereabouts.
Now what will you do with it?
Put the cream and rosemary sprig in a small saucepan, and bring the cream to a boil. Turn off the heat, pour in the apricot nectar, and leave it all to infuse for at least half an hour, preferably an hour or two.
Preheat the oven to 175°C, and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cases.
Put the milk into a bowl with the vinegar, and leave to curdle for a few minutes. Mix in the sugar, oil, and apricot nectar or puréed apricots.
Mix together the dry ingredients, or be lazy like me and just dump them in one by one on top of the liquid ingredients – just make sure you put the soda and baking powder in last so they don’t start their chemical reaction too soon. Incidentally, you do know about not mixing your wet and dry ingredients together until the last minute if there is bicarb or baking powder involved, yes? This goes for self-raising flour, too, because it contains baking powder. Basically, the bicarb or baking powder reacts with liquid to create air bubbles in your cake mix, which is what makes it rise. You want this to happen during baking, and not while the mixture is sitting around at room temperature, waiting for you to heat up the oven, find baking tins, hunt for paper cases, knock everything off the paper case shelf in the pantry and put it all back on again, and come back. Bye-bye, rising process…
As you may have gathered, I figured this one out the hard way, along with the whole bit about pre-heating the oven before putting the cakes in, and also the one about pricking potatoes before baking them if you don’t want them to explode. It’s amazing how much better things work when you follow the recipe. Well, some parts of the recipe. But I digress. Significantly.
Mix your dry ingredients into your wet ones, and beat together quickly until mostly smooth. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until risen and springy. Let cool on rack.
When they are cool, cut a small hole in the top of each cake as though you are making butterfly cakes (but smaller – you just want a well the size of about 1/2 a teaspoon). Fill each well with jam – you can eat or discard the little bits of cake you dug out, and I think we all know which of these options I advise.
Remove the rosemary from the saucepan where it was infusing all this time, and add the chopped chocolate. Stir over very low heat until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is uniform. Do not wander off to do something else during this process as chocolate burns very easily. But on the bright side, it melts very fast, too. Let cool for ten minutes or so, then spoon over the cakes. Decorate with shiny little stars or leave plain.
Eat with delight! This recipe isn’t a bad one to make the night before, as the flavours mix nicely overnight and the ganache and apricots will stop it drying out too much.
To veganise this, use soy or rice milk – or almond milk would be fabulous, I think – instead of dairy milk, and soy milk or cream for the ganache. I wouldn’t use coconut milk here – I don’t think it would go with the other flavours (this ganache is lovely and bitter-sweet and slightly astringent from the rosemary – wonderful!). A gluten-free flour mix would work just fine in this recipe.
Don’t mess with the flavours – they are lovely as they are. Or if you must mess with them, mess thoroughly – no wimping out on the rosemary because it sounds scary – pick another herb with which to infuse the cake, and a fruit which you think will go with it. Strawberries and mint, or pineapple sage, or pineapple and lemon balm. Go wild!