Sink me! My first brush with a soufflé

My little iPhone calendar thingy says ‘June’. I have a little giggle to myself, because Steve Jobs’ technology has clearly gone madly and horrifically wrong. Looked outside recently, little iPhone? No, clearly not. Because anyone with even half a sense of perception can see it’s obviously October. So, a Saturday afternoon on a schizophrenic day that is half gorgeous sunshine and half bonfires and drizzle. This presented me with quite a quandary about what to bake, as clearly neither a bright and breezy pavlova OR berry-based spicy confection would fly at all. 

I scanned the bookcase groaning under the weight of a myriad cookery books, my eyes flicking along until I saw the woefully underused Green and Black’s ‘Ultimate Chocolate Recipes – The New Collection’. Now, who am I to argue with something calling itself the ‘Ultimate’? I actually very rarely fancy chocolate, but today was one of those rare occasions. It took me a while to locate the recipe I wanted, but once I spotted the right one, I knew. Deep in my heart, I knew that this was the cake I had to make. ‘Chocolate and chestnut soufflé cake’.

It seemed perfect – a bit of Autumn in there, with that chestnut (not to mention that I’ve long coveted those little tins of chestnut pureé in Waitrose), but light enough with the soufflé element.

Don’t be scared. This was my first ever soufflé, and it went perfectly. It can for you too.

Green & Black’s Chocolate and Chestnut Soufflé Cake

25g soft unsalted butter
125g unsalted butter
125g dark (70% cocoa solids) chocolate, broken into pieces
A pinch of salt
250g can Clement Faugier vanilla chestnut spread (Waitrose stocks this!)
100ml semi-skimmed milk
3 large free-range eggs
75g caster sugar
Good-quality cocoa powder, for dusting
Creme fraiche, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C/gas mark 3. Does anyone actually use the gas mark thingy? I might just stop putting it in. Anyway, smear a 20cm tin with butter (with a removable base if you have that luxury). Line it with parchment paper. I personally put the tin ON the paper, trace a line round it in pencil, then cut to size. If you’re super cautious, you can put this tin on a baking tray too.


 2. Meanwhile, in a universe far, far away…heat up the chestnut puree with milk in a separate pan. I’d tell you to take it out of the can first, but you’re a clever bunny, aren’t you? Stir until smooth again…I already used the Chippendale joke didn’t I?


3. Separate eggs and yolks, and whisk the yolks and sugar in a bowl.

4. Pour the chestnut mixture into the chocolate, and make sure you stir it well. Stir it until you think you’re done, then stir it one more time. Make a wish if you have to.


5. Stir it into the egg yolks, and mix to make a smooth batter. Yes, this recipe is sponsored by the words ‘stir’ and ‘smooth’.

6. In a new bowl (by this time your kitchen should look like a bombsy tit, as Adam and Joe say), whisk the egg whites into stiff peaks. You have to test this in the traditional way – pick the bowl up, turn it upside down, and lift it over your head. If it all goes wrong, egg whites make an amazing hair mask, so don’t worry.


7. Now for the chance-y bit. Use a metal spoon to stir in one spoonful of egg white into the chocolate mixture. Fold in, gently.

8. Bit by bit, stir the rest of the egg whites in, folding lightly. You’ll need to make sure it’s properly mixed, but just don’t stir too vigorously.

9. Pour the mixture into the tin, then pop into the oven for 25 minutes. It’ll rise, go a bit wobbly in the middle, then sink towards the end, as cracks start to appear – like Cheryl Cole’s career.


10. Take it out, leave it to cool, then slide it out of the tin. I left the parchment paper on, to give it a little support, but you can peel this away. It’s very satisfying.

11. Cover with clingfilm for 2 hours, then dust with cocoa powder.

 And, you’ve survived your first ever soufflé. Celebrate by eating it.  

The icing on the cake. Literally.

Well, you sexy beast. I bet you’re feeling pretty proud of yourself, aren’t you? You should be. There’s just one teeny tiny thing left to do to crown your cake in glory. I’m going to apologise in advance for my final pictures. It’s not a delicate attractive cake like wot I usually make. It’s a bit of a hulking brute. My excuse is it was a Monday afternoon extravagance, not a proper weekend cake. Anyway. Bring on the ganache.

Ganache ingredients
150ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
150g dark chocolate

1. You are going to be so, so excited when you see how easy this is.

2. Put it all in a pan.

3. Heat.

Did you just die a bit of excitement? I did. Glorious.

Now, you just spread your creme patissiere thickly on the top of one of the cakes:

My cake looks very flat here. It wasn’t. Must be a dodgy angle. Hmm…a camera angle that makes things look smaller than they are….I must experiment with that….

Then just spread your ganache on top. And take a huge slice out:

Honestly, I do apologise for this rather unattractive looking cake. It tastes delicious, I can assure you, and I’ll be making up for it this weekend with a Passionfruit and Lemon Curd layer cake, as well as other lovelies. Enjoy!

Boston Cream Pie a la Nigella

So, as I’m not really a cake person (apart from tiny cupcakes, which are a whole different kettle of…tea), and also as someone who likes a challenge, I thought I’d have a crack at a Boston cream pie. For those in the know, it’s not a pie at all – it’s actually a layer cake with creme patissiere in the middle, and a bitter chocolate ganache on top. I’m breaking my blog down into two posts, one for the cakey part, and one for the topping and filling.

Sponge ingredients:
225g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
200g self-raising flour
25g cornflour
3-4 tablespoons milk
2 x 21cm sandwich tins (about 5cm deep), buttered

The cake is a simple Victoria sponge recipe. Nigella (the charlatan) advocates just shoving everything in a food processor and mixing. Calls herself a domestic goddess…If you have a glorious Kitchenaid mixer, then go for it. If not, use the following method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C/gas mark 4. I used loose-bottomed tins (laugh it up…baking is joyful). I also lined the bottoms with parchment paper, but you can butter them up to your heart’s content if you so wish.

2. This is where dearest Nige shoves it all in a processor, so if you’re feeling suitably lazy, do that right now. ALTERNATIVELY, cream the butter and sugar together until very smooth. It MUST be super smooth, a baby-bottomy consistency. Any roughness at this stage will impede the eventual lightness and fluffiness of your sponge, and that simply wouldn’t do at all.

3. Now. This is the crucial stage. Add your vanilla, and then one egg. Beat for between 1 and 2 minutes. Add a tablespoon of flour and beat again. Add egg number two and repeat. Same with eggs number three and four. You MUST beat for a considerable amount of time after each egg. This is what will add air to the cake and eliminate any heavy, dry, styrofoam texture that puts you in mind of your lovely but inept grandmother’s teatime efforts.

4. You should now have a pale cream mixture that feels slightly stiff. Add as much milk as you think you need. (It shouldn’t be a huge amount)

5. Divide your mixture in two and pour into the two tins. Pop in the oven for around 25 minutes. Do keep vigilant. It would be simply criminal for anything to go wrong after all your hard work. Your masterpiece should turn golden brown and start to come very slightly away from the sides of the tin. Other signs of readiness should be a ‘springy’ texture when you lightly press a finger down on top of the cake. Slip a cake tester in and if it comes out clean, you’re in business.

6. Take them out of the oven and leave for 10 minutes. Then turn them out of their tins and leave to cool.

7. Now onto the fun bit. See the next post!