Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sourdough Lavender Chocolate Cake

This cake has only been in my production line for roughly two weeks and it's already my biggest hit to date. Within the first day of offering it, I already had to quadruple my production of it in anticipation of the future sales. Quite possibly one of the easier cakes to make as well; if you have sourdough starter on hand, that is.

First, you do need to have a sourdough starter for this cake, which is what makes it so moist and fluffy and really brings out the chocolate flavour. Making sourdough is, I will admit, both way more difficult and way more easy than people make it out to be. It's difficult in the sense that if you don't know what you're doing - you think you've failed when you haven't. Seeing that layer of water on top of your starter is enough to scare the pants off any new baker - but trust me when I say that doesn't mean it's dead! It just means it's cold or needs a touch more flour in it.

Sourdough starters are easily enough made but the first two weeks are crucial. You can begin making bread after a week but the truth is, the older your sourdough, the better the bread (and cake, and pancake). This cake REQUIRES at least a 3 week old sourdough to create the effect of crumb, texture and flavour you want. I will post a recipe on how to make sourdough starter in the very near future but until then here's a link.

The reason sourdough needs to be a bit agey for this recipe is simple. A good starter will react to the bicarb in the recipe and create a fluffy but moist cake and provide a great deal of rise when the cake bakes. Sometimes it's risen to 2 or 3 times it's size! The older your starter, the less batter you'll need to pour into your prepared tin. I've gotten four cakes out of a triple batch before instead of the expected three!

Sourdough Lavender Chocolate Cake


1 cup sourdough starter (fed one hour prior to baking, make sure it's gotten lots of volume in the jar before beginning)
1c milk
2c flour
1c sugar (I actually infuse my sugar with lavender for this cake so I get a double hit of lavender-y goodness without having to over-use the buds themselves. If you do not have infused sugar, double the lavender)
2tbs lavender buds
1tsp vanilla bean paste
1c vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
3/4c cocoa powder
2 large farm free range eggs

Combine starter, milk, flour, sugar and lavender into a bowl and allow to sit for about an hour or until a good reaction starts bubbling away. I put the lavender in early so it infuses with the sourdough and makes the taste strong but not bath-tubby as lavender can sometimes be. You can let it sit for up to 8 hours before the reaction stops, which infuses the lavender flavour even more. It really depends on how strong you want it, or how thrifty you're feeling with your lavender, which can be a tricky ingredient to get if you don't grow your own. I've gotten away with one tablespoon lavender (and lavender sugar) for two cakes letting it infuse for 5 hours.

Preheat oven to 160c fan forced, 180c regular, 320f fan forced or 350F regular. Gas mark people can take care of themselves, damnit.

In a mixer (or with a bowl and wooden spoon if you're not as lazy as me) with the bubbling 'sponge', as bakers call it, add the last of the ingredients except for the bicarbonate and salt.

Sift the bicarb and salt in a small bowl and set aside while you prepare your pans. The reason for doing this is sourdough grows from bicarbonate and expands immediately and salt kills yeast so you do not want to put it in before this if you want your cake to rise nicely. If you're going for a denser cake, put the salt in sooner.

This recipe should be held in a 23cm (or a 9.05511811 inch pan for you Imperialists) nicely but if your sourdough is older you're going to want to line the pan with parchment up the sides to prevent overspill (alternatively: use two pans and make a double layer cake). The pan itself does not need parchment and I find that it sticks a little more than just regular ol' oil spray (but really really don't use the cheap supermarket brand. That creates so much watery moisture it kills the cake - find a decent spray or, better, put a few drops of oil in the pan and swish around. The cake shrinks a little from the edges when fully baked so it doesn't need too much help here.)

When everything is prepared, mix in the last two reserved ingredients well and place in the oven for about 35 minutes. When you stick a cake tester in it and it comes out clean and the edges have started to pull away from the sides of the pan, you know you're done. Wait until mostly cool (because, honestly, can anyone wait until 'completely cool'?), cut the top flat and invert onto a pan so the bottom becomes the top.

Frost. I used a combination of sugar, butter and honey for this frosting - and I find the honey accents the lavender and chocolate excellently, but you do what you want and like best. Admittedly, I'm not a frosting fan and I will eat the cake as-is. But the majority of people fill ripped off if they don't get a giant dollop of frosting on their cake.

Now what to do with all those cake-tops I keep cutting off......

At the markets:

1 slice - $6
1 slice + coffee - $8
Whole cake - $35

1 comment:

  1. I made this cake on Saturday night. It really rose! I sliced off the top using dental floss as I am horrific with a cake knife. (I ate the cake top!) I wish to say that this cake stumped my friends - they thought I had used a very expensive chocolate, they said it stayed moist for three days. I did not frost the cake but served it with a sprinkling of powdered (icing) sugar.
    This cake is full of WIN!!!!