Valentine’s Day is coming up, and if you’re going to bake something to show your loved ones some affection, it’s time to get down to business. There are two days (maybe more like one and a half) left to decide what to make, so there is plenty of time to get started on a fancy, complex recipe. But if you’re like me, you want to make something delicious that’s not too complicated and is also a bit different than the ordinary chocolate chip cookies, brownies, or– dare I say it?–store-bought chocolates.
I actually want to talk about chocolate shops for a moment, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a couple of months (this is going to be pretty Triangle-specific). There really aren’t any chocolate shops in Durham or Chapel Hill. A Southern Season has chocolates, but it’s not the sort of place I’m thinking about. When I think of a chocolate shop, I think of a pretty small store with a mom and pop feel. In my hometown, I can name four local chocolate shops, and one of the stores has three locations. Is this out of the ordinary? Where do people in this area buy good candies (besides A Southern Season)? Or do people in North Carolina not love chocolates as much as people in Kentucky? These are questions to which I may never know the answer.
Back on track to hearts and roses and pink, I think that chocolate spice cake is a perfect treat for your Valentine. It is chocolatey. It can be dressed up with fresh whipped cream and poached pears or served simply as a wedge (which also makes a great lunchtime dessert to take to work throughout the week). And since it does need to rest a day for the flavors to meld, you could make this tomorrow to serve on Saturday or you could make this Saturday morning or afternoon and gift it to your sweetheart to supply them with sweet thoughts of you all week long. Plus, then you can order dessert without any guilt of knowing that you also have dessert at home. Either way, this light but dense, flavorful cake that’s chocolatey and warm with cinnamon, ginger and clove is sure to please.
*I just realized that spinach and ricotta pasta with chocolate spice cake would make a lovely dinner.
Chocolate spice cake
from The Sweet Life in Paris
makes 1 9-inch round cake
Note: You can also use chocolate chips if you have a brand that melts well. Ghirardelli chips melt well.
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks
¼ cup honey
⅔ cup sugar
1. Line a 9-inch round pan with parchment (just trace the pan and cut the circle out, then stick it in the bottom of the pan).
2. In a medium-sized heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt together the butter and chocolate, stirring occasionally until smooth. Once completely melted, let the chocolate cool to room temperature.
3. In another bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Preheat the oven to 375F.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, whip the eggs and egg yolks, honey and sugar until thick and mousselike, about 5 minutes on high speed (8 on a stand-mixer).
5. Fold half of the egg mixture into the cooled chocolate. Then fold the egg and chocolate mixture into the remaining egg mixture in the large bowl.
6.In thirds, add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture, sprinkling the flour over the chocolate and folding until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake is just set in the center. Be careful to not overbake.
7. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the cake from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Wrap in plastic and let the cake rest at room temperature for 24 hours, allowing the flavors to meld.
8. After a day, serve the cake. The cake can be stored for five days well-wrapped in plastic at room temperature.