I forgot to take any pictures of this in its intact state, but here: evidence that the leftovers went down well at work (look closely and you can see the remains of the lemon cake too). We had friends coming over who we hadn’t seen for aaages, and it seemed as good an excuse as any to crack open the bottle of pisco we’d brought back from holidays in Chile and make a batch of pisco sours. If you’ve never had a pisco sour, they’re delicious – the perfect pre-dinner drink. Just strong enough to put you in the right celebratory mood, but not so strong that you’re drunk before you move onto the wine (if you only have one, which is probably advisable). The method of making seems to vary, but we made ours with lemon juice, egg white and icing sugar all shaken up with the pisco in a giant thermos flask and it was an almost exact recreation of our favourite holiday aperitif (perhaps a bit tarter, but the Chileans seem to have a big case of the sweet tooth. Oh, and they probably used a proper cocktail shaker).
The cake was one I’d had my eye on for a while, because of course I am nigh on obsessed with putting nuts into everything I cook, and I love sherry. I hadn’t made it yet because of these exact things: I know many people for whom the addition of nuts, alcohol and raisins to an innocent chocolate cake would be horrifying. Presented with the opportunity to make it for people who I didn’t know for sure were chocolate-nut haters, the urge was too strong and I pressed on, with grudging consent from Tom (I think I might have broken his spirit).
We brought this out after a main of Catalan chicken with picada, which was, well, fine. It’s just that it also contained raisins soaked in sherry and ground almonds and I expected a little more of it. Perhaps sherry in cake form is more likely to win over its detractors. And don’t worry if you are such a person – the sherry flavour is really quite gentle, a faint whiff of booze rather than an all-out assault, meaning this sits somewhere between a grown-up dessert cake and an afternoon coffee cake.
Chocolate, hazelnut and sherry cake Serves 8 (generously – could easily have stretched to more)
The recipe introduces itself as follows: “Chocolate and sherry – a marriage made in heaven”, and, you know, I think I might be tempted to agree. It also suggests you treat yourself to a glass of Pedro Ximenez sherry to go with it, which I imagine would be absolutely heavenly, but I was loathe to delve into pre- and post-dinner drinks on a weeknight.
150g plain chocolate (mine was 70% cocoa solids)
75g unsalted butter (I had salted butter so I just left out the salt later on)
125ml dry fino sherry (I used Solera Jerezana dry oloroso, from Waitrose because I wasn’t about to buy two bottles of sherry for one cake)
6 medium eggs, separated
160g caster sugar
150g hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (actually, I would err on the side of finely chopped. And don’t do what I did – realise you’re one egg short and run to the shops, forgetting the hazelnuts toasting under the grill. This makes a lot of burnt nuts)
a pinch of salt
55g self-raising flour, sifted
55g cocoa powder, sifted
icing sugar for dusting
for the sherry-raisin yoghurt or cream:
250ml oloroso sherry
300ml double cream
60ml greek yoghurt or fromage frais (I only had greek yoghurt, so I substituted the cream for yoghurt)
4 tbsp icing sugar
Grease a 22cm spring-form cake tin (clearly Diana Henry has a 22cm cake tin. I have a 23cm cake tin. Maybe this is why neither of her cake recipes have worked out quite right for me). Line it with greaseproof paper.
Put the chocolate, sherry and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Heat until melted, stirring occasionally. Let the mixture cool.
Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until glossy (wasn’t quite sure what she meant by this – I whisked for a few minutes until it was quite pale yellow). Add the cooled chocolate mixture and 70g of the hazelnuts. Beat the egg-whites until fairly stiff (I took this to mean just before the stiff peak stage). Using a large metal spoon, loosen the chocolate mixture with a big spoonful of egg white (again, ? I just stirred it slightly). Fold in the rest of the egg white, flour, cocoa and salt (if using).
Pour into the tin and bake in an oven preheated to 180c for 50 minutes (this is absolute madness. I took mine out at 30 and it was slightly overdone, and I have an oven thermometer so I know the oven was the right temperature.) Do the skewer test to see if it’s done. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for half an hour before turning it out.
In a small saucepan, heat the raisins in the sherry for the cream. When the sherry is about to reach boiling point, turn the heat off and leave the raisins to plump up.
Whip the cream (if using) and stir the yoghurt and sugar into it. Add the raisins with their soaking liquid (I would actually advise not adding the soaking liquid as it turned it an unappetising colour and it was pretty boozy already. This might have just been because I mucked about leaving out the cream though). Check the sweetness.
Dust the surface of the cake with icing sugar and scatter the rest of the hazelnuts on top (oops! I forgot. Blame the pisco sour). Finish with another light dusting of icing sugar and serve with dollops of the cream/yoghurt.
Adapted from Diana Henry’s ‘Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons’.