Brilliant baking: My dark chocolate sponge cake with a coconut-espresso crème.
I have a passion for bold flavours. The scent of fresh espresso filling the house on a sunny morning. The subtle bitterness of the darkest chocolate icecream on a beach-day. Strong flavours have something quite charming about them. They are rough and at the same time so comforting. Unfortunately they often come with a downside. The best cakes, mousses and deserts can be the heaviest. Just the smallest bite of a dark chocolate cake can fill you for hours. Not my dark chocolate sponge cake with coconut-espresso crème. It’s light and fluffy, the light crème melting in your mouth, but at the same time there is a richness and darkness only the combination of espresso and chocolate can bring.
Another week, another cake. No matter what I do, baking always remains a nerv-wrecking venture for me. I know that learning is a process of trial and error – but a bit less error would be nice for a change. Or no error, really, that would be best. The sad thing is that I only bake cakes for birthday parties. Now that’s not the sad part, because birthday parties are fun. The sad part is, that the birthday cake usually is the first trial. So people end up getting less than they actually deserve. This cake is no exception. After a series of trials, this is the cake my red-headed friend with an affinity to Australia and coffee should have received. I’m sorry that you didn’t.
This is an incredibly fluffy chocolate sponge cake, with a light coconut and coffee créme. I have read about whipped coconut cream as a substitute for regular whipped cream for quite a while now: I always wanted to, but never actually gave it a go. I couldn’t quite imagine what the result would be like, so when I first tried it I was very surprised. Very surprised. Coconut cream is not quite like anything I know. It is strangely light and melts in your mouth within seconds, which makes it ideal to be used as a frosting.
When making this cake, be patient. Dare to make errors, but make them mindfully. Not knowing what you did wrong will not help you to improve. It will just make you shout angrily (which is what I did for the past couple of days). And once you’ve got the hang of it, you will be rewarded with a rich cake, full with strong flavours: dark chocolate and the strong notes of espresso, counterbalanced by the lightness of the cream and the fluffiness of the sponge. My chocolate sponge cake with coconut espresso crème tastes like eating chocolate and espresso clouds.
My chocolate sponge cake with coconut-coffee crème
Eggs Sugar Butter Dark chocolate Salt All-purpose flour Cocoa powder
This recipe is designed for a small cake (12 cm spring form), I use two medium eggs for this. The conversion to a larger form is rather straight forward. One egg needs 7.5 g of each cocoa powder and flour, 15 g of each butter and sugar and 30 g of dark chocolate. In a 3 cm deep form, the batter needs about 20 minutes of baking at 180°C. Adjust the baking time according to your „batter-deepness“ and you should be fine (the thinner the layer of batter, the less time and the thicker, the more time is required).
- Preheat the oven to 180°C
- Melt 60 g of the chocolate and 30 g of butter in a bowl over soft steam. Whisk to incorporate the butter into the chocolate. Take off the heat and let cool down. (The butter is necessary as we will add some flour later – it will help to keep the cake moist.)
- Seperate the two eggs. Add 20 g of cristal sugar (10 g for each yolk) to the yolks. I have always have a jar of sugar with some vanilla bean-stalks handy, to add a bit of extra flavour. Using a handmixer whisk the eggs, at medium speed, until they reach the so called „ribbon-stage“. The sugar will help you to incorporate air into the yolks, as a result they will increase their volume (about double I’d say) and turn very pale. You are done beating the eggs when a spoon full of crime will drop back into the bowl and leave behind little „ribbons“.
- Mix each 7.5 g of cocoa powder and flour. Sieve one teaspoon over the egg-chocolate mix. Gently fold in and add another teaspoon. By lightly dusting the mix, you avoid lumping and retain as much of the trapped air as possible.
- In a clean bowl beat the two egg-whites with one pinch of salt on medium speed. Both bowl and the whisk-attachments need to be absolutely clean: Every last bit of grease might prevent the white from properly stiffening. Whisk until the whites form soft peaks: they are decidedly fluffy. Add 10 g of crystal sugar to the whites and proceed with the beating. We are after firm peaks: if you lift your whisks, point peaks should remain on the tips.
- Spoon by spoon fold the cooled down chocolate into the egg-crème (Use a rubber spatula and „wrap“ the chocolate into the yolk-mix. Be careful about it, too much stirring will punch the air out off the mix).
- Take a fourth of the egg-whites and work them into the chocolate-yolk-dough. You can be less careful about it. Our goal is to lighten the batter enough to make subsequent folding easier. Add the next fourth of the whites and gently fold in. Carefully proceed with the rest of the whites. It is important to be gentle, so that your resulting batter is as fluffy as you can possibly get it.
- Line the bottom of your spring form with parchment paper. Lightly grease the bottom and rim (butter, oil or a non-stick spray) and add a teaspoon of flour. Turn the form until both the bottom and the rim are covered with flour. Turn the form around to get rid of the excess flour.
- Add all the batter to the form and put it in the preheated oven. Bake for about 20 minutes. The cake is ready once a toothpick, picked into the centre of the cake, comes out clean. There will likely be some cracking of the surface, this is absolutely okay.
The coconut-coffee crème
Coconut milk Espresso powder (instant) Sugar
The coconut milk can be substituted with whipping-cream. I have tested my way around 8 brands of coconut milk so far, only two were successful. In choosing your milk, make sure to avoid brands using stabilisers. For this cake I used 800 ml of coconut milk.
The day before you plan to make the cake, put the canned milk into the fridge. The cold will help to separate the watery liquid from the more solid contents of the milk.
Open the cans and scoop out the more solid coconut milk (which has the consistency of sour cream). Add a tablespoon of crystal sugar to the scooped out milk and beat the milk with a hand mixer until it is stiff and thicked a lot. You will eventually reach the consistency of whipped cream. Add about a tablespoon of espresso powder and fold it into the whipped coconut cream.
Bringing everything together
The cake needs to have cooled down completly, coconut cream disintegrates if it comes into contact with a heat source (including your fingers). Half the spong ecake. I usually used the cracked top-half as my bottom. Spoon over some of the cream and put the second sponge half on top. Spoon the remaining cream on top and spread evenly both on the top and the sides. If you plan on serving the cake later, storing it in a fridge will assure, that the crème doesn’t disintegrate.