There are some cakes that remind us of our childhood, cool spring evenings, the weeks leading to the summer school holidays, our birthday parties, visits to family, dipping fingers on chocolate glaze and being told off that the top of the cake will look ruined...
This is one of this kind of cakes. The recipe comes from my aunt, who always made amazing things for us ever since my childhood, and the times I visited her house we always gathered in the kitchen, playing on the kitchen table while something delicious was baking/cooking/being prepared. It's an extremely simple concept for a cake, but surprisingly delicious. We call this a "pot cake" in Greece, since you don't need a mixer or any big bowls to make it, pretty much everything is made in a big deep saucepan, the same one my aunt would use to boil her pasta.
When I moved to the UK in 2001 I came to do an MA, and in my University Accommodation kitchen I realised after a few months that I couldn't do without some sort of baking fix. Having discovered that the super-advanced microwave doubled up as a convection oven (4 months after moving to the place, thanks to some helpful past resident who conveniently had thrown the instructions behind a cupboard...) I started with pizza doughs, quiches, and other savoury concoctions, but I still couldn't do cakes without the much-required electric mixer that my student budget couldn't cover.
And then I remembered the "pot cake". Not surprisingly, my announcement raised a lot of excitement in the shared kitchen, as everyone took the "pot cake" to be some advanced version of hash brownies, getting initially disappointed at the lack of "extra oomph" they were expecting, but even so it was a huge success and I was asked to make it again and again to cover the needs of all my homemade-cake-starved fellow flat-sharers. This is still one of the cakes that I make frequently (9 years after having passed through at least 3 generations of mixers) and people always ask me for the recipe. It's simple, it's easy, it never fails, and its taste makes everyone think that it's far more complicated to make than it truly is. Try it and let me know what you think, it will make my aunt (now that she's in her 60s) happy to know that people she's never met are enjoying her recipe in foreign lands...
Chocolate sponge cake with almond crunch
Source: Passed down from my aunt
- 1¼ glasses sugar
- 6 tbsp water
- 2½ tbsp cocoa powder
- ¾ glass plain flour
- 125gr butter
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup of blanched almonds
Preheat the oven to 200°C. In a deep saucepan mix the water with the sugar and cocoa powder and simmer gently, stirring constantly. As soon as the sugar has melted add the butter and mix until melted. Leave aside to cool slightly.
Separate the eggs, keeping the egg whites and yolks in separate bowls. In a small bowl beat the egg yolks and mix thoroughly into the slightly cooled chocolate mix. Keep one cup of the mix in the fridge.
In another bowl beat the egg whites into a meringue. Fold the egg whites softly but quickly into the chocolate mixture, gradually adding the flour, vanilla extract and baking powder. Pour into a round 20cm spring-form tin and bake for 30 minutes.
In the meantime chop the almonds in small pieces and fry in a pan over medium heat until browned. When the cake is ready and still warm take the cup of chocolate mixture out of the fridge and spoon it evenly over the top. You have to do this while the cake is still warm, so that the chocolate mixture will melt slightly but stick to the top. Finally sprinkle with the toasted almonds, lightly pressing them into the chocolate coating.