Love. The very mention of the word can conjure up sweet reminiscence of coy glances exchanged across a room or of amorous lovers’ silhouetted by the moonlight. On the contrary the very word can summon up vile recollections of bitter heartbreak, screaming matches in the car and all too messy break-ups. Whichever end of the love game you’re at, isn’t it just grand?
With Valentine’s Day just over and done with, I think the topic of love and relationships is quite apt. I am by no means an expert on the subject, although it seems to me that wherever I go, the subject of relationships cannot escape me. Those in relationships talk about theirs (me included) and those who aren’t in one talk about their lack of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I was single for a large chunk of my life so I don’t take being in a relationship, and a great one at that, for granted. It seems to be, for as long as I can remember, perhaps even daresay from the beginning of time, the pursuit of love has been pertinent to us all.
It all starts at school on the playground; Tommy says he likes you, but you don’t want anything to do with boys. Little girls clap their hands together and chant about boys having “cooties” and then a game of kiss and catch erupts across the playground.
Then comes high school; love notes are passed across the classroom, “Do you like me? Yes? No? Maybe? Smiles are exchanged and hopes arise that perhaps he will ask you to the dance. Even then, schoolyard romances are rife with drama that could rival that of any Shakespearean tragedy.
Then you’re out of school, and it seems that nothing really changes, except that the playground just gets a lot bigger. The playground also seems a lot more difficult to navigate and it things tend to get a bit more tangled up, although the feelings of bliss and hearts-a-fluttering and the feelings of despair and heartbreak still remain the same. Oh how thorny is the path to love.
Why all this talk of love and relationships on Milk and Cookies you ask? I usually like to steer clear of contentious topics and prefer to talk about inane trivial matters like whether or not you should dunk your biscuits in your coffee, shoe shopping and what we did on the weekend. But it just so happens that this month’s Sugar High Friday's theme is all about seduction.
If you ask me when it comes to love and culinary pursuits, it’s the sweet stuff that always sucks you in. And if there ever were a sure fire way to love, I would have to say that this cake would be one of them. A spoonful of this Chocolate Clementine Cake is enough to seduce any would-be lover or even one who is only slightly inclined to the sweet stuff. It’s rich, but not too rich; it’s sweet, but not sickeningly so and it’s chocolaty yet tinged with subtle hints of citrus. The cake is almost flourless, so all you can taste is the chocolate and the clementines.
Clementines, I found out are a variety of mandarins, they are not as tangy as oranges but are sweeter and juicier. They are sometimes mistaken for tangerines, and to be honest I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart if they were next to each other. All I know is that when I found them at the supermarket, I exclaimed at the event of finally finding myself some clementines. I always wondered what they tasted like, although never came across them anywhere until now. Nigella Lawson has a great sounding Clementine Cake recipe on her website, although for the purposes of seduction I decided to pair this sweet fruit with one of most proficient seducers of the culinary world- chocolate.
So make this cake for someone you love, be it a secret love, or one that you want to shout from the rooftops. I can assure you, your intentions won’t be lost in translation.
Chocolate Clementine Cake with Chocolate Syrup
serves 8-10 people
225g cup unsalted butter, diced
7 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
¾ cup plain all-purpose flour
2 tsp clementine zest
2 clementines, coarsely chopped*
3 tbsp orange blossom water (can be substituted with juice)
¼ tsp salt
whipped cream, to serve
Chocolate Syrup (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a 23cm springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper or alternatively grease 8-10 individual metal moulds.
Melt chocolate and butter in a small heavy based saucepan over low heat until smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat egg yolks and ¾ cup of the sugar until thick and pale.
Add the melted chocolate mixture and continue to beat until well incorporated.
Fold in flour then the zest, chopped clementines and orange blossom water.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they form soft peaks.
Add the salt and the sugar in small additions, beating until stiff peaks form.
Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture in three additions.
Pour batter into pan or moulds and bake for 40-45 minutes (for individual moulds) and 50-55 minutes for springform pan.
The top of the cake/s may crack slightly.
Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes.
Remove sides of springform pan and place cake onto a serving plate.
If you are baking them in the individual moulds, invert moulds and the cakes should slide out easily.
Serve with chocolate syrup and a dollop of fresh whipped cream.
*after zesting clementines, use a knife to remove peel and white membrane from fruit and coarsely chopped peeled clementines.
makes up to 1¼ cups
100g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¼ cup whipping cream
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring for about 5 minutes until smooth.
You may serve this sauce warm or at room temperature.
NOTE: This sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days and heated up when required.