I was in the mood for chocolate rum-raisin cake, but none of the recipes I found online or in my books sounded delicious enough. So I adapted my mother's recipe for sour cream cake by adding cocoa, melted chocolate, rum and raisins, and by slightly increasing the amount of sugar and leavening. My first attempt was pretty successful, my second attempt - where I doubled the amount of rum and raisins - was even better. Be warned: it's potent.
Chocolate rum-raisin cake
This is currently my favourite cake - and it's proving popular with friends, too. I like it because it's moist, strong (it contains a lot of rum), delicious and easy to make. You do need to plan ahead, though: let the raisins soak in the rum for at least a day, and take the butter, eggs and sour cream out of the fridge about 45 minutes (or less, if it's warmer than 30 degrees Celsius) before starting to mix the ingredients. While you can eat the cake as soon as it's cooled, it's much better after it has rested for a few hours and the syrup has had time to soak in. Really, it's best the next day.
If you're making this cake for children or teetotallers, soak the raisins in tea, rather than rum.
This cake is baked in a round, fluted tube pan that holds two litres. If you want to bake it in a layer cake pan, decrease the amount of baking soda to half a teaspoon.
200 grams raisins
250 grams unsalted butter, slightly softened
225 grams granulated sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
10 grams cocoa powder
100 grams bittersweet chocolate (I use Valrhona with 85 per cent cacao or Lindt with 90 per cent cacao), chopped
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
235 grams sour cream, at room temperature
225 grams plain (all-purpose) flour, divided
For the soaking syrup:
60 grams granulated sugar
Icing sugar, for sprinkling
Put the raisins in a bowl and pour 200ml of rum on top. Stir briefly, then cover the bowl with cling-film and leave the raisins to soak for a day.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Use pan coating to evenly spray a fluted tube pan that holds two litres.
Pour the raisins/rum into a sieve set over a bowl, to strain out the excess rum. Set aside the rum. Add five grams of flour to the raisins (still in the sieve) and mix them together. Shake the sieve to remove any excess flour from the raisins.
Put the butter into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar, salt and baking powder. Use a small sieve to sift the baking soda and cocoa powder into the bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat the ingredients until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl and beaters several times with a rubber spatula.
Put the chocolate into a medium-sized bowl and melt it. You can do this in the microwave - stir it every 30 seconds until it's 80 per cent melted, then stir to let the residual heat melt the remainder, or by stirring the chocolate almost constantly over a double boiler. When the chocolate is melted and still slightly warm, use a small whisk to stir in the eggs one at a time. Whisk in the vanilla extract and the rum from soaking the raisins. Add this mixture into the bowl containing the butter/sugar and beat to combine thoroughly, scraping the bowl and beaters as needed. Add the sour cream and stir to combine, then mix in 220 grams of flour. Remove the beaters and scrape off any batter clinging to them. Finish mixing the batter by stirring it with a rubber spatula. Add the raisins and stir to combine so they are evenly distributed through the batter. Scrape half the mixture into the prepared tube pan. Use the rubber spatula to press the batter into the contours of the pan. Add the remaining batter, making sure it's evenly distributed into the pan, and press again.
Put the cake into the oven and bake at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees then lay a sheet of aluminium foil loosely over it (to prevent the cake surface from burning). Continue baking for about 15 more minutes, until the cake is firm to the touch and fragrant; if you insert a thin bamboo skewer, moist crumbs will cling to it when you remove it (it shouldn't come out covered with sticky batter).
While the cake is in the oven, make the syrup. Pour 60ml of boiling water over the granulated sugar in a heat-proof measuring cup. Stir to dissolve then cool to room temperature. Stir in the rum.
When the cake is baked, leave at room temperature for 10 minutes. Use a bamboo skewer to poke many holes into the cake, poking all the way down until the skewer reaches the pan. Use a pastry brush to spread roughly one-quarter of the syrup evenly over the cake. Leave for 10 minutes for the syrup to soak in, then brush again. Leave for 20 minutes, then carefully invert the cake onto a serving plate, so the decorative side is up. Brush half the remaining syrup over the cake (no need to poke holes in the surface), wait for 10 minutes, then brush again, using up all the syrup.
Cool the cake to room temperature then cover it tightly with cling-film and leave for at least four hours.
Just before serving, lightly dust icing sugar over the cake.
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