Sunday, March 29, 2015

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake with Dark Chocolate Pudding Buttercream

Singapore is in mourning, the whole island is shrouded in a heavy curtain of grief and sorrow for the passing of our founding father, H.E. Lee Kuan Yew. Floods of tributes, stories, pictures and videos have been pouring in from the Singaporean public and international media. People are patiently waiting, queuing for up to 9 (!!!) hours to pay their final respects. My heart feels heavy with grief and sadness that the man who built Singapore, whose entire life revolved around our tiny island is gone. Yes, not all of his policies were just and politically correct. But the policies set in motion, were for his vision of a prosperous, successful Singapore. And for that we will always be thankful for, and will always remember.

I see his memory in the thousands of Singaporeans grieving together as a nation, the little acts of kindness – restaurants passing out free drinks and snacks for the queuing public under the scorching heat, and even florists handing out white lilies. I see it in my own students, and their somber appreciation and acknowledgement of our country’s greatest loss. My heart was touched when even my Malaysian students confided that they queued for 4 hours to pay their final respects, stating matter of factly, ‘It’s only the right thing to do, he did a lot for Singapore.’ And I saw in that moment, regardless of nationality, that Singapore is as much their home as it is mine. LKY might be gone, but his legacy will live on in Singaporeans as we carry out and live his vision for a successful island nation, a successful Singapore.

Rest in peace, Mr. Lee.
And thank you, for everything. For my Singapore.

Though I’m fairly certain Mr. Lee would not have been a fan of this dark chocolate olive oil cake, (his breakfasts were steadfastly simple – a bowl of unsweetened tauhway) it still reminds me slightly of him – dark, richly bodied with a meltingly soft centre. Just like the romantic soft side he had for his wife, Kwa Geok Choo.

The recipe is slightly adapted from my cooking heroine, Nigella Lawson. She made the cake look so simple and luscious in her video, that I had to try it out for myself. And easy peasy it is! I did make some minor adjustments though - swapping out hot water for coffee and adding additional spices to pair with the chocolate flavor. The extra virgin oil I used is undetectable in the cake and just makes the cakelets extra moist and melt in your mouth tender.

The frosting is divine , a takeaway from Ovenly’s Brooklyn Blackout buttercream, a slightly tedious undertaking of making homemade salted chocolate pudding and mixing it into a regular buttercream. Tedious, but do it ANYWAY. The buttercream tastes delightfully of a silky chocolate pud and rich butter frosting. Yummy. If it still deters you, just make a regular batch, and you can freeze them well up to a month for future use!

Ingredients (Recipe slightly adapted from Nigellissima)
·       50 grams good-quality cocoa powder (sifted)
·       150 ml regular olive oil (plus more for greasing)
·       125 ml boiling coffee
·       2 teaspoons best vanilla extract
·       150 grams ground peanuts (or 125g plain flour / 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour)
·       2 teaspoons baking powder
·       ½ teaspoon of salt
·       1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
·       ½ teaspoon of all spice
·       200 grams caster sugar
·       3 large eggs

Directions (Makes 12 regular cakelets)
  • Preheat your oven to 170°C/gas mark 3/325ºF. Line muffin pan with wrappers.
  • Measure and sift the cocoa powder into a bowl or jug and whisk in the boiling water until you have a smooth, chocolatey, still runny (but only just) paste. Whisk in the vanilla extract, then set aside to cool a little.
  • In another smallish bowl, combine the ground peanuts (or flour) with the baking powder, salt and spices.
  • Put the sugar, olive oil and eggs into the bowl of a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment (or other bowl and whisk arrangement of your choice) and beat together vigorously for about 3 minutes until you have a pale-primrose, aerated and thickened cream.
  • Turn the speed down a little and pour in the cocoa mixture, beating as you go, and when all is scraped in you can slowly tip in the dry mixture.
  • Scrape down, and stir a little with a spatula, then pour this dark, liquid batter into the prepared tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the sides are set and the very centre, on top, still looks slightly damp. A cake tester should come up mainly clean but with a few sticky chocolate crumbs clinging to it.
  • Let it cool for 10 minutes still in its tin, and then remove from the muffin trays. Leave to cool completely or do like I did and top with a dollop of chocolate pudding buttercream.

Baker’s Notes
1.    I used peanut flour instead of almond, as it gives a more nutty sweetness. However, I would experiment with a mix of regular and peanut flour in future, to tone down the nutty taste.
2.    Using hot coffee instead of water is recommended because the coffee really gives the chocolate flavor an oomph!

3.   I love adding spices to any of my chocolate cake recipes, they really tease the palate.  

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