Nigella Lawson's chocolate raspberry heart cake.
Nigella Lawson's chocolate raspberry heart cake. James Merrell
FOR THE CAKE
2/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup superfine sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons best unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
FOR THE FILLING
1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 cup raspberries
FOR THE GANACHE ICING
2/3 cup heavy cream
5 1/2 oz. dark chocolate, minimum 70 percent cocoa solids
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 cup raspberries
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and line two shallowish 9-inch heart-shaped pans with cut-out hearts of parchment paper.
Pour the milk into a small pan with the butter and heat until warm and the butter has melted. Or you can just stick a glass measuring cup in the microwave. When hot, add the vanilla.
Whisk the eggs and sugar till thick, light and frothy, really frothy; I use the flat paddle of my KitchenAid mixer for this, but you could equally well use a hand-held electric whisk. Meanwhile, combine the flour, cocoa and baking soda. Buy the best cocoa you can find, as this is what determines the rich and glorious taste of the cake.
Still beating the eggs and sugar, or going back to beat the eggs and sugar, pour in the hot buttery, vanilla'd milk and when incorporated, slowly fold in the flour-baking soda-cocoa mixture, wither with the flat paddle on slow or with a rubber spatula by hand. You will need a final scrape-down and fold with a rubber spatula in any event.
Divide this mixture between the two pans and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and let cool in their pans for about 10 minutes before turning the cakes out, and then turning them over so that they are sitting on the wire rack, out of their pans, the right way up. (This is because they are such tender cakes that the wire racks will leave indentations.) Now, I know the cakes look very thin and flat at this point, but I promise you the finished cake has the requisite depth once it's filled and iced.
Leave the cakes until cool before icing. You can make them a day in advance, but they are sticky so you must wrap them in parchment paper before wrapping in foil.
To fill the heart, whip the cream until thick but not stiff. Add the raspberries and crush with a fork, though not too finely. The cream should turn wonderfully pink, in a rose-and-white mottled fashion. Sandwich the hearts with this raspberry cream.
To ice, put the cream, the chocolate cut up in small pieces, and syrup in a pan over low to medium heat and when the chocolate seems to have all but melted into the warm cream, take off the heat and start whisking — just with a little hand whisk — until you have a smooth, glossy mixture. Pour, and then spread, preferably with a palette knife, over the top of the cake to the edges of the heart (not worrying too much about drips).
Take out your raspberries and, about 1/2 inch or slightly less from the edges of the heart, stud the chocolate topping with the raspberries (hole side down) or however, indeed, you like.
You can see from the picture that all is not lost, or not quite, if you are heavy-handed and sadly lacking in the decorative arts. I had thought of pretending that my children had iced the cake here as a cover for my clumsiness and ineptitude, but then decided it was better to come clean.
Excerpted from Feast by Nigella Lawson. Copyright (c) 2004 Nigella Lawson. Photographs by James Merrell. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold.