Well, firstly, thank you all so much for your kind words and thoughtful comments, I just love reading them! It's been a busy few days here at the little Welsh house. I've been working on getting things ready for a production of Macbeth, which I'm directing ready for a performance in June. We also met friends for a meal in Cardiff and then went to see Wicked at the Millenium Centre (which was way better than I expected, I really enjoyed it), rebuilt our hens' run in the back garden which blew down during the storms, and then the last few days I have been endeavouring to get things a bit more under control on the allotment.
Anyway, I promised a recipe for a lovely fellow blogger Joy - a gluten free rich chocolate sponge cake. This is great for celebrations - it is solid enough to ice easily without being stodgy and it keeps well for a good few days. It also freezes well if you like batch baking.
It's one I came up with when two of my friends were diagnosed with coeliac disease - I wanted something easy that I could bake for parties so they didn't feel excluded. I like this recipe because it doesn't require special flour or additives and you can have a bit of a play with the quantities to get your preferred texture without it going horribly wrong.
If you don't like chocolate, you can replace the cocoa with cornstarch, just make sure to use baking powder and add whatever flavour you like - I feel it does need a little something to cut through the richness of the almonds, so I don't personally recommend it plain. Vanilla extract or a few drops orange essence and a couple of pinches allspice are favourites of mine. In fact I sometimes include all three of those flavours in with the cocoa as they add a certain richness.
Rich chocolate cake
4 medium or large eggs
250g/9 oz butter
250g/9 oz muscovado or dark brown soft sugar
150g/5 oz ground almonds
100g/31/2 oz cornflour/cornstarch
2-3 heaped teaspoons good cocoa powder (I use Green & Blacks which is Dutch processed)
level teaspoon (gluten free) bicarb of soda OR (gluten free) baking powder
teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to about 160C. In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric whisk until really light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, then the eggs one by one, whisking each time until the mixture is well combined and looks creamy.
In a separate bowl, mix all the remaining dry ingredients together well. Pour on top of the egg, sugar and butter mix and fold in gently with a metal spoon until well combined.
Grease a loose bottomed cake tin (I use about an 8 inch diameter one) and dust with either cornstarch (fine if you plan to ice the cake) or a little cocoa (if you plan to just dust with icing sugar to serve).
Pour in the batter and spread out well, then pop in the oven for 25 - 40 minutes. The cake is done when it is solid and a sharp knife or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. It isn't as quick to burn as a classic sponge but if it is browning too quickly, just tweak the temperature down a little. It will rise but don't panic if it sinks a little after cooking.
It tends to flatten itself down nicely but it will still have a great crumb inside.
This cake is really good warm with vanilla ice-cream or cold with a good buttercream. For a slightly less naughty topping you could also make an orange drizzle with orange juice and a little brown sugar. It also looks good sprinkled lightly with a little icing sugar while still warm. I got the striped effect on the one above by sprinkling the sugar on through a cooling rack which I thought looked nice.