We agreed, ‘No Gifts’ this year. I still traipsed through the shops looking for something small to commemorate the occasion. Nine years, is nine years I thought, it has weight and merit. Could I find something that wouldn’t bust the budget? Something that was relevant, maybe offbeat, charming? No chance, and of course, I left it too late to do the necessary pavement pounding to find a gift for a person you know too well. Sometimes mystery is good in that regard; there is an ambivalence that makes choosing gifts easier. But being acutely aware of what they will absolutely not appreciate hampers ideas a fair bit.
I can bake though. And I can make a cake that I know will definitely tickle his taste buds. I know that he loves pistachios and that he likes dousing every single bake in cream. I could work with that, this once. Chocolate would marry perfectly with pistachios. They would contrast each other in every way; colour, flavour and texture, yet the differences would be the very thing that amalgamates it to a perfect whole. Like our nine years together. It’s a study of contrasts.
I’m yappy, he chooses his words carefully. He likes house music and eighties tunes are a nostalgia trip. I’m a rock girl at heart but been moving onto crafted, folk type music. He wears different shades of blue and I put on all colours under the sun. He’s blonde, and brightly blue eyed in the morning, I’m dark – skin, eyes, hair as well as mood until ten am. Calm and pragmatic opposing/balancing my sense of dramatics. He loves custard and I just don’t get that.
We did agree on this cake. This Chocolate Sponge Cake by Marlene Matar was first brought to our collective attention on the forum by the Hostess with the Mostess (with a mean nose for a good recipe), Sam. Thanh introduced her blog with it baked in a beautiful shaped tin, Meenakshi of Masala Art followed suit with added almonds, Jodie made it with dark sugars and it has appeared in gothic Nordicware tins, square tins, muffin tins, loaf tins and long slabs online with rum custards, berries, creme fraiche and glazes. In other words, this majestic cake is your willing servant, it does as it’s bid.
With a close, densely held crumb, you would be forgiven for thinking it would feel as heavy as it looks. Yoghurt is the magic ingredient that keeps the cake softly yielding to the pressure of a fork. With a heart pounding amount of cocoa powder only, it ensure lightness, and an intense chocolate flavour, with it’s slight bitter notes coming through and a velvety feel in the mouth. Best part is that it keeps supremely well, maturing in flavour. Mhairi, my baker pal extraordinaire, suggested a good dousing of orange syrup on the hot un-moulded cakes and it was an inspired addition, bringing out the flavour of both, bean and nut. Pistachios have an amazing delicate, perfumed flavour and are very sweet nuts. The icing makes no concession on that account, but when eaten with such a deep, rich cake, the sweetness is perfectly balanced. Also, the slight rubbliness in the icing offers textural differences that are entirely desirable. In short, I simply adore this cake in it’s entirety.
The Scotsman did douse it in cream, but this time I didn’t find that offensive to my sense of culinary balance. The kids licked their bowls or would have if I didn’t scowl hard at them. We all had multiple slices while watching Lilo and Stitch. I love the concept of the movie. A fitting cake, for the day and the movie. Love in the midst of differences.
Click on Page 2 below for the recipe