It may be apparent from this blog that Headliners are quite fond of baking cakes, but what might not be apparent is that we’re even better at eating the end result. Usain Bolt would be quaking in his trainers if he saw how quickly people move when an email goes round about leftover cake in the kitchen.
A few pages in to Sasha Wagstaff’s latest novel Recipe For Love (out this week) I was literally salivating over the description of a Sicilian Nut and Chocolate Cake. The novel tells the story of food journalist Cassia who travels to Sorrento to interview reclusive chef Rocco Disanti, although Rocco isn’t terribly keen on being interviewed and Cassia has her own wedding plans to attend to, cue lots of resulting drama and romance with an enticing cast of characters in London and Italy.
Sasha is obviously hugely passionate about both Italy and food, and when I’d read the following description of this cake on the tube home I promptly sent her an email to see if it was a real recipe:
‘Torta alla noce e cioccolato is a deliciously rich Sicilian cake with nuts and chocolate, it has a luscious, buttery pastry base that melts in the mouth and a fluffy, vanilla-drenched sponge layer that oozes flavour. But the real surprise is the unctuous, wickedly indulgent chocolate sauce layer sandwiched cheekily between the cake and the pie shell…the rich sauce simply oozes decadence and its scrummy, bitter-sweet taste combination is utterly, utterly sinful. Trust me, readers; this is a sensual experience not to be missed.’
Anyway, I was super-pleased to discover from Sasha that it is a real recipe, one that she has adapted over the years to make her own. I’m going to post it here because I’m a rubbish baker, and I’m really hoping that someone will make this and send me a sample. If you keep an eye on Headline’s women’s fiction Facebook site In My Handbag I’ve asked for suggestions of other people’s ‘recipes for love’ that might also fit the bill (although they will have to do very well to match this).
Sicilian Nut and Chocolate Cake Recipe (Torta Siciliana alla Noce e Cioccolato)
• 350 g/12 oz plain flour
• 100 g/4 oz unsalted butter
• 3 tbsp cold water
• 1 tsp salt
The Chocolate sauce:
• 50 g/2 oz dark chocolate
• 100 g/4 oz caster sugar
• 50 g/2 oz unsalted butter
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 120 ml water
• 275 g/10 oz self-raising flour (sieved)
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 120 ml/4 fl oz milk
• 1 egg
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 150 g/5 oz unsalted butter
• 150 g/5 oz caster sugar
• 100 g/4 oz chopped nuts of your choice (almonds work well)
Make the pastry by placing the flour and salt in a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the butter in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water to form a firm dough.
1. Gently knead into a ball. Wrap the dough in greaseproof paper and chill for at least 15-20 minutes.
2. In the meantime, make the sauce. Place a saucepan on a gentle heat and add the chocolate and water. Stir until the chocolate has melted.
3. Add the sugar, stirring constantly, and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat immediately, add the butter and vanilla and stir until well blended. Set aside to cool.
4. Roll the pastry on a lightly floured board to fit a 23 cm/9 in pie dish. Line the dish with the pastry, letting it hang 2.5 cm/1 in over the rim.
5. Turn the edge of the pastry under to make a high, fluted rim. Make the cake by placing the butter in a mixing bowl with the sugar and beat together until light and fluffy.
6. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, milk, egg and vanilla essence and beat thoroughly. Transfer to the pastry-lined pie dish.
7. Pour over the chocolate sauce and sprinkle with the chopped nuts. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 for 50-55 minutes.
8. When the cake is cooked the sauce will form a crisp layer between the cake and pie shell.
Posted by Helena Towers, Publicity