LADY BRACKNELL said that one should always keep a diary so that one would always have something sensational to read in a train. I have several boxes full of them, waiting to be read, and to cause heaven knows what sensations in their author. To my amazement, however, I was able to find, in the 50 or so years of noting, confessing, copying, and “thinking aloud”, something really useful: my grandmother’s Mocha chocolate cake recipe, and Auntie Annie’s trifle.
Auntie Annie was not my aunt, you understand, but the aunt of an elderly cousin; so her trifle was a confection from Oscar Wilde’s Belle Epoque, of which my cousin was extremely proud. She made it in a slightly squared cut-glass trifle bowl, and it was the epitome of elegance, with not a mandarin segment or sniff of jelly in sight.
The top was a virginal sea of thick cream, set with four blanched almonds at 45 degrees. The ingredients were ratafias, and four macaroons — the big, squidgy almond sort, bought at a bakery — laced with sherry, egg custard (custard powder and 1 egg), and double cream. The three layers of colour and flavour — brown, yellow, and cream, super-richly sweet, gently sweet, and then bland/subtly sweet — complemented one another, with no distractions.
Well, good luck in finding proper macaroons and ratafias nowadays. At Christmas, I had to make do with amaretti instead. None the less, it was a good try, and the perfect offering for a pre-Lenten Sunday lunch.
And here’s the sensational Mocha chocolate cake or pudding — very dark and dense, and set off by whipped cream. Keep one or two amaretti biscuits back to crumble over the top, just before serving, to ensure that they are crisp.
100g (3½ oz) bar 85% chocolate
100g (3½ oz) butter
125g (4½ oz) coconut sugar
75g (3 oz) ground almonds
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
300ml (10 fl. oz) extra thick double cream
A handful of amaretti biscuits or toasted, flaked almonds
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4, and line a 20cm (8 in.) cake tin with baking parchment. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until the mixture is just melted, and stir in the ground almonds and cacao powder. Whisk the eggs and sugar for 4 minutes, until very light and fluffy, and then whisk in the chocolate mixture. Bake the mixture for 20-30 minutes until the cake is just crusty on top but only just baked underneath, like a brownie, and cool on a wire rack.
When it is completely cooled and you are ready to serve it, spread the cream over the cake, and crumble the biscuits over the top, or use a handful of toasted, cooled flaked almonds.