I’ve made no secret of my pure, unadulterated love for chocolate. It’s been 26 years but my love for the brown stuff shows no sign of abating, and nor would I want it to. Unluckily for me though, this week chocolate has not loved me. I don’t know what I’ve said or what I’ve done, but clearly I’ve pissed the chocolate gods off in some way, shape or form; what else could explain the disasters that have befallen me this week? Before I tell you of the heartbreak and distress that I have suffered, I should probably start with the more savoury stuff. Some of my lovely workmates came over for dinner earlier on in the week (this blog entry features these cheeky scamps heavily I’m afraid!) and rather than stressing myself out by cooking something time consuming or complicated I decided to take advice from my all time favourite, Nigella Lawson, and make a simple tray bake. It was Spanish chicken from Kitchen, and the only effort required of me was to chop up some chorizo, red onions and sweet red peppers and chuck them in a roasting tray with some chicken thighs, olive oil, new potatoes, oregano and orange zest. Minimum effort, maximum taste. I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again, you can always rely on Nigella. I was worried the dish might be a little dry but the amount of spicy paprika oil provided by the chorizo was enough to prevent any dryness and gave everything shed loads of flavour. Plus the skin on the thighs was nice and crispy due to the high oven temperature, perfect. The dish even introduced one of the girls to the delights of chorizo, so as well as feeding I like to think I’m also educating! This yummy main was followed by chocolate lava cakes with a salted caramel centre (this sounds so much sexier in French- moulleux au chocolat coeur fondant caramel sale – swoon) which came from The Little Paris Kitchen. Then things started going wrong. If only I was capable of following instructions To.The.Letter. Being the maverick that I am though, I fobbed off her advice to fill up the ramekins with the cake mix and then pipe salted caramel into the centre of the uncooked mix, and instead filled the ramekins up by a third with cake mix, dolloped some caramel on top, then topped with some more mix. A silly, silly mistake. After baking until juuuuuuust right (thank you Goldilocks), I attempted to get the fondants out of the ramekins. Instead of cakes with an oozy caramel centre, I ended up with a thin layer of chocolate cake covered in salted caramel and the rest of the cakes stuck in the ramekin. Oh sure, they came out eventually with a little prodding and poking, but the effect of cutting into the cake and a soft, oozing centre flowing out was lost. Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry would be less than complimentary. Luckily for me, my workmates are not Paul and Mary, so I may have gotten away with it, but Masterchef it ain’t. When the entire structure of a pudding collapses, you know you should have just manned up and tried to get to grips with a piping bag instead of taking the easy way out. They looked a mess, so no photo this time. Despite this disaster, the ladies seemed o enjoy it, and that’s the good thing about friends, they don’t judge you on your ability to hold a chocolate fondant together. That’s one of the positive sides of having a boyfriend who works away for long periods of time: you find out who your real friends are and which ones make an effort to talk, meet up, send texts, or just get me so trollied that I can barely even remember my own name or that my boyfriend is on the other side of the world.
Onto my second chocolate disaster. Once again, this was for one of my lovely workmates whose birthday it is on Monday, so what with it being a big birthday I decided to bake a cake for her. I do feel for my workmates, I’m regularly bringing in various baked goods to force feed them with, whether they regard themselves lucky or unlucky over this is hard to say as they may well be very good liars. Until they say stop, I’m going to keep bringing them in. This cake was Coca Cola cake from Marian Keyes lovely book Saved By Cake, and was chosen because the birthday girl is a coke fanatic. It’s hard to put down in words how much she loves the stuff, I’m not even sure I can fully comprehend her love for it, but I imagine it’s similar to my overwhelming love for chocolate. This is a cake that would be absolutely perfect for kids what with it containing coke, chocolate, mini marshmallows and topped with fizzy cola bottles (not such a perfect cake for the parents though I guess, what with toddlers likely to still be screaming and rolling around the floor from an intense sugar high at midnight) but is just as enjoyable for childless adults. The cake itself was lovely, damp with a gooey stickiness from the melted marshmallows, strong cocoa flavours and a hint of the fizzy stuff (you must go for the full fat coke, Diet would simply be wrong and pointless when you look at all the other ingredients). The icing though, was another story completely. Made up of butter, coke, cocoa powder and icing sugar, I just could not get it to thicken and set. It didn’t help that I had exactly the amount of icing sugar stated in the recipe, so adding a bit more to thicken the runny sauce was out of my hands. I was covered in flour and chocolate so a trip to the shop was out of the question, I just had to pour it over the stacked cake and pray it all went OK. It did not go OK. While some of the icing stayed put on the cake, the majority ran off the cake and gathered in a pool on my cake stand (which in actual fact was the lid from a Celebrations tub), which ended up looking like a very big boat in a small, muddy puddle. Again, my presentation skills need some serious improvement. Fizzy cola bottles saved the day though and I arranged these as prettily as my unartistic hands could manage. This morning upon waking I was in a foul mood, and on asking myself why I realised it was because of the failed icing and the cake looking a mess. I invest way too much emotion into my baking. Either that or life’s so great right now that bad icing is the only cloud on my horizon. But I think it’s the first one. In the end it didn’t matter too much as Cokehead seemed to really enjoy it and with lit candles and a sparkler the pool of icing didn’t seem so bad. Its the thought that counts, right? In baking, mistakes are easily made and I need to learn to not be so ridiculously hard on myself and just enjoy doing it, then subsequently eating it.