Wednesday, March 24, 2010
A cure for most ills
When you enjoy baking as much as I do, baking for others can sometimes be more stressful than people expect. Friends and family are surprised if I stress about what cake to bake or dish to cook. "But you're a good cook," friends say. "You have heaps of recipes to choose from."
And that, in a nutshell, is the problem. Too many recipes, too much choice, too much pressure to come up with the perfect dish for the occasion. A simple slice is easy to make but will it have the 'wow' factor? Should I risk making a new cake that I haven't tried before? Biscuits are a nice treat but will they seem too small and boring?
Of course, all this pressure is self-imposed. Most people are impressed simply by the fact that someone has gone to the trouble of baking something homemade for them. The cook may bewail the fact that the corner of the cake broke when it came out of the tin, that the icing didn't set properly, or that the finished product doesn't look picture-perfect, but I guarantee that most of the recipients won't even notice.
If you want to impress people, I find that a homemade chocolate cake is always a winner. A chocolate cake can be dressed up or down, adorned with simple butter icing or a rich ganache, filled with whipped cream, or left plain. Morning tea, afternoon tea, dessert, birthdays - chocolate cake suits all occasions.
This chocolate cake, from Allan Campion and Michelle Curtis's excellent In The Kitchen, is a recent addition to my repertoire but an instant hit and one I've made several times since. I made this cake recently for the regular Friday morning tea at my work. Although I normally serve it plain at home, usually dusted with a mixture of icing sugar and cocoa, this time I dressed it up with a chocolate ganache. It is a rich fudgy cake that is guaranteed to impress - there were definitely no seconds when I served this one!