By the time I had put my “spooks” on the cake, the whole thing looked so different from the work of art I had visualised. With the meringue spooks now sitting in somewhat sticky ganache (we live in warm climes), there was no way I could re-arrange everything to my satisfaction without messing up the whole thing. So don’t go by the way my cake looks, and trust me when I say this chocolate cake is nice. It scores with me not just on taste but also the minimal effort that goes into it. You don’t even have to take your electric mixer out as there’s no creaming involved and a whisk or a wooden spatula will do. The Ganache is easy to make and though you will need that mixer to make short work of the meringue.
I used cake flour equivalent for my cake (2 tbsp corn starch in a 1 cup measure topped up with all-purpose flour = 1 cup cake flour), but you can use all-purpose flour instead. Oil based cake batter produces a moist and light cake here.
This cake calls for boiling coffee decoction or water. I prefer using coffee because that somehow makes chocolate cakes so much more full flavour. The strength of the coffee depends upon you and you can use instant coffee dissolved in water, though I use filter coffee decoction because I usually have it on hand. If you are serving this cake to children, it might be better to use water instead of coffee.
As for the meringues, I personally prefer the taste of meringue made with lemon juice but I find those made with cream of tartar whip up stiffer and hold up much better.
Meringue Spooks/ Ghosts:
3 egg whites 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (or 1 tsp lemon juice) 1/3 cup icing sugar 1/3 cup fine sugar 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 1/4 cup or so miniature semisweet chocolate chips
Method: Line 2 baking sheets with cooking parchment, or butter sheets and dust with flour. Put the egg whites and the cream of tartar in a deep bowl. With a mixer on high speed, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar to thick foam. Continuing to beat and the add sugar, 1 tablespoon every 30 seconds, until meringue whips up into very stiff peaks. Add the vanilla during the lt bit of beating the whites. If using parchment, smear a little meringue on the underside of each corner to make it stick to baking sheets. Spoon the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip. If you don’t have a piping tip, then use a piping bag and cut off a 1/2-inch-wide opening at the tip. Pipe the meringue onto baking sheets into spooky/ ghostly shapes about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, 2 to 4 inches wide, and 4 to 6 inches long, spacing them about 2 inches apart. To make eyes, press the chocolate chips lightly into meringue. Bake them at 100C (200F) for about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours till the meringues begin to turn pale gold and are firm to touch. Turn off heat and leave meringues in closed oven for 1 hour. This will make them crisp. Slide a spatula under meringues to release them. And if you live in my kind of climate, then place them in airtight containers so they stay crisp. Right now we’re in the driest weather we ever have and it takes just half an hour for my crisp meringues to turn soft and cotton woolly! This recipe makes about 3 dozen meringue spooks/ ghosts.
Easy Ganache Covered Chocolate Cake
For The Cake :
2 cups cake flour 1 1/2 cups sugar 1 cup cocoa powder 1 1/2 tsp baking powder 1 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/4 tsp salt 2 eggs 1 cup milk 1/2 cup oil 2 tsp vanilla extract 1 cup boiling coffee decoction or water
For The Chocolate Ganache:
1 1/2 cups cream (I use 25% fat) 1 1/2 finely chopped cups semi-sweet chocolate 1 tbsp butter
Meringue spooks/ ghosts and chocolate covered wafer balls to decorate
Make the chocolate ganache first so it will have time to cool and thicken. To make the ganache, heat the cream in a saucepan over medium heat (while stirring it on and off) till it starts bubbling at the edges. Take the pan off the heat and add the chopped chocolate and the butter and leave it for a couple of minutes. Whisk the chocolate-cream mixture till smooth, glossy and thick. Let it cool for 1-2 hours, or until thick enough to spread over the cake. Now make the cake. Put all the dry ingredients for the cake into a large mixing bowl. With a wooden spoon or whisk, mix together. Add all the wet ingredients, except the boiling water, and mix until you have a smooth batter. Add the boiling water to the batter, a little at a time, until smooth. The cake batter will be very liquid. You might have never seen a cake batter like this, but that’s how this one’s meant to be, so no worries. Divide the batter equally between 2 greased and lined 8” (or 9” at a pinch) cake tins. You can use a tea cup to do this easily. Bake at 180C (350F) for about 25 to 30 minutes, or till the top is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes completely in their tins, and then loosen them by running a round-bladed knife around the inside of the cake tins. Carefully remove the cakes from the tins and sandwich them with about a little less than half the ganache and cover the top and sides of the cake with the remainder. This cake serves 10 to 12.