I've been struggling to find the words with which to start this post. I wanted to say something about Valentine's Day, but everything I wrote ended up sounding cynical. It's just ... I've been watching this parade of heart-shaped cookies, rose petals and pink frosting on the Internet and all I could think was: "Is this the best we can do?" It seems so unnatural. Every relationship is different. We all have our own unique memories, our own issues, our own feelings. We love our partners for different reasons, choose different paths, define "love" in different ways. So why do we all choose to express it with the same icons?
I believe love should be expressed through gestures that are personal and thoughtful. No matter how big (or small), no matter what day of the year, as long as it taps into something that is meaningful for the relationship or the people involved. If I still lived in my old apartment, I would probably have ordered pizzas and invited Thomas up on the roof to eat them, because that's what we did on one of our first dates. Instead, this Valentine's Day seemed like a good opportunity to finally try my hand at the chocolate nemesis - a dessert I'd been wanting to recreate since our trip to Denmark last summer and one I knew Thomas would like for both its flavor and the memories attached to it.
The chocolate nemesis is the delicious piece of gooey chocolate cake that we had on our first night in Copenhagen, after spending 10 days on our bikes and eating mostly from little plastic bags. The nemesis was hard to define - baked in a waterbath like a flan, with a texture that held the middle between a regular cake and a clafoutis - but it tasted like rich, dark and chocolaty perfection.
Somehow, in the six months that have passed since that moment, the chocolate nemesis has come to symbolize not only that fantastic meal at Paté Paté, but everything about the trip. All those moments riding side by side, talking about life, about nature, about clouds and light and landscapes. All those moments that felt exactly like those nights when we first met, when we would talk for hours on end. All those moments reconnecting. I feel like both of us were at our best during those couple of weeks, as individuals and, as a result, as a couple. While certainly not the farthest or most exotic trip we've made, biking to and through Denmark therefore seems like one of the best journeys we've made together. Like the chocolate nemesis, really: hard to define, but amazing; new and intriguing, but familiar.
I wish I could tell you that I recreated this gooey chocolate cake perfectly. I didn't. After a couple of weeks of recipe testing and one too many chocolate cakes, I still didn't succeed in getting the texture exactly right. This chocolate cake is still rich, dark, creamy and delicious, though, so I felt it was worth sharing. It's the best I can do for now, although I do hope to share a proper chocolate nemesis sometime in the future. I actually already have a couple of ideas lined up. If anyone else has any tips or ideas, though, feel free to share in the comments below.
• I tested recipes for flourless chocolate cake and chocolate flan, before deciding that neither were right. In the end, I threw together a couple of cake and clafoutis recipes, which is why the recipe may seem a little strange. To tell you the truth, it still seems strange to me. But it works. Trust me.
• This cake is baked up in a water bath. I'm not usually a big fan of water baths, but it makes sure the cake bakes up evenly and it helps give it a moist, but delicate texture. Just make sure to wrap your springform pan in multiple layers of aluminum foil and to bring those up high enough along the sides. You don't want any leakage.
Creamy Chocolate Cake
makes a 20 cm/8 inch cake
120 gr dark chocolate, roughly chopped
100 gr all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
80 gr unsalted butter, room temperature
80 gr granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
100 ml whole milk
100 ml heavy cream
1. Prepare a 20 cm/9 inch springform cake pan by wrapping it in 2 to 3 layers of aluminum foil, so that it is fully sealed. Grease the inside of the cake pan with butter or cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 200˚C.
2. Melt chocolate over a double boiler (au bain marie).
3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
4. Cream butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating for 30 sec. to 1 minute after each addition to make sure the eggs are fully incorporated. Stir in the melted chocolate, followed by the milk and the cream. This mixture will be very runny.
5. Add the flour mixture all at once and fold it in with a rubber spatula until just combined, with no large lumps. It will still be very runny. That's ok.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and set the tin inside a large baking dish. Fill the baking dish with boiling water, until it reaches just over halfway up the sides of the cake tin. Carefully put the baking dish into the oven and bake for 30-45 minutes, until the top starts to crackle and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
7. Take the cake tin out of the water bath and remove all layers of foil. Leave to cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes before unmolding.
8. This cake is best when it's still slightly warm, served with a little bit of cream or crème anglaise and a sprinkle of toasted almonds.