When I'm in doubt over what to make for dessert, I often turn to chocolate: it's so versatile and can be made into puddings that range from heavy and intense (as in the first recipe) to light and delicate (the second).
Chocolate raspberry truffle cake
This is a very dense, rich cake that should be served well chilled in thin wedges.
500 grams unsalted butter
500 grams bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
400 grams granulated sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
8 large eggs, at room temperature
300 grams frozen raspberries, thawed
For the ganache and garnishes:
50 grams sliced skinless almonds, toasted
275 grams bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
200ml hot water
30 grams corn syrup
Fresh raspberries and mint leaves
Raspberry sauce and double cream (optional)
Preheat the oven to 130 degrees Celsius. Spray a 25cm spring-form pan with pan coating then line the bottom of it with a circle of parchment paper. Wrap the base of the pan tightly with aluminium foil so it comes about 3cm up the sides (this is to make it leak-proof when it's in the water bath in the oven).
Purée the frozen raspberries, then strain out the seeds by putting the purée through a food mill fitted with the finest disc (if you don't have a food mill, strain it through a sieve). Measure out 190ml of the purée (the remainder can be sweetened with granulated sugar to taste, then used as a sauce when serving the cake).
Melt the butter, pour it over the chocolate and whisk until the mixture has melted and is smooth. Add the sugar and salt, stir until smooth, then whisk in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the 190ml of strained raspberry purée then scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Put the pan into a larger baking tray that's about 5cm deep. Pour water into the tray so it comes about 2cm up the sides of the spring-form pan, then put the tray in the oven. Bake at 130 degrees for about 90 minutes, or until the cake is set - it will be firm on the surface, with a soft part at the very centre about 1cm in diameter. If the water in the baking tray evaporates too much, add more hot water. When the cake is ready, remove it from the tray and peel away the foil from the pan. Cool the cake to room temperature then refrigerate for at least four hours. Remove the pan, leaving the cake on the base. Invert the cake onto a large, flat platter, take off the base, peel off the parchment paper then place the base back on the cake and turn it right side up again.
To make the ganache, put the chocolate in a bowl and microwave it, stirring every 30 seconds, until it is 80 per cent melted. Remove from microwave and stir until it's completely melted. Add in the water slowly, whisking constantly and letting each addition incorporate fully before mixing in more. The mixture will stiffen at first, then will smooth out as you add more water. Whisk in the corn syrup, then add the kirsch. If the ganache is too stiff, microwave it briefly so it's thick but runny. Put the cake (on its base) on a rack placed over a clean, dry tray. Pour the ganache over the cake, letting it drip down the sides to cover it completely - if necessary, use a metal spatula to spread the ganache smoothly over the surface but don't overwork it - just use a quick, back-and-forth motion. Carefully lift the cake (still on its base) from the rack and scrape the excess ganache from the lower edge. Press the toasted almonds over the sides of the cake then place it on a serving platter. Decorate the cake with raspberries and mint leaves, then chill until the ganache is set. Slice the cake with a thin-bladed hot knife (run the knife under hot water, then dry it). Rinse the knife and dry it between each slice. If you like, serve the cake with raspberry sauce (made from the leftover raspberry purée) and double cream.
Chocolate soufflé cake
This is the cake I make most often because it's so easy and fast. It's not the prettiest cake because it collapses as it cools, but the texture is very light, as long as it's not refrigerated. If it is, the texture becomes dense and fudgy - it's still good, but it's not nearly as delicate as when it's fresh.
120 grams unsalted butter
240 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 large eggs, at room temperature
120 grams granulated sugar, divided
¼ tsp fine sea salt
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Spray a 23cm spring-form pan with pan coating.
Melt the butter, pour it over the chocolate then stir until melted and smooth.
Separate the eggs, putting the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another. Use an electric mixer to whip the yolks with half the sugar un-til thick and pale yellow. Stir in the chocolate/butter mixture.
Remove the beaters from the electric mixer and wash them thoroughly in hot, soapy water, then dry them. Whip the egg whites with the salt until foamy, then add the remaining sugar in a slow, steady stream. Whip the whites until they form soft peaks. Add about one-third of the whites into the chocolate mixture and mix thoroughly. Gently fold in the remaining whites in two additions, trying to maintain as much volume as possible. Scrape the mixture into the pan and bake at 180 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and fragrant, and the surface is matte and firm to the touch. Leave to cool (it will collapse) then remove the spring-form pan (but leave the cake on the base). Dust the cake with icing sugar then serve with a dollop of double cream.