There’s an Italian deli where I work in Parsons Green and the other day I discovered some very indulgent looking dark chocolate powder. It was the inspiration for this chocolate and olive oil cake. I was a bit worried about the dark chocolate making the cake a bit too bitter and so set about thinking of possible combinations – orange, salted caramel and mint were all possibilities but in the end I decided to go for lavender, straight out of the garden. I was really pleased with my choice as the lavender is a very subtle floral taste and not overpowering at all, allowing the luxurious dark chocolate powder to really show its quality off. If you can, infuse the lavender in the boiling water the night before baking for a more intense flavour. Olive oil makes for a much lighter, moister sponge than butter does and is widely used in a lot of European countries. I also used Nigella’s recipe as a guideline for the amounts of basic ingredients.
22cm/9inch cake tin
50g good quality dark cocoa powder
A handful fresh lavender sprigs
150ml boiling water
150ml good quality olive oil (plus extra for greasing)
200g caster sugar
125g plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
A pinch of salt
1. The night before baking, pour the boiling water over the lavender and leave to infuse.
2. When you’re starting to bake, preheat the oven to Gas mark 4/175C. Gently heat the lavender water (making sure not to do it too harshly as otherwise it will evaporate – I did it in the microwave). Slowly add the lavender water to the chocolate powder, mixing well. You may not need to use all of the water – keep adding until you have a thick, glossy paste. Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and oil. If you have an electric mixer this will be a lot easier, otherwise you may end up with quite sore arms like I did!
4. Keep whisking until you have an airy, pale yellow mixture.
5. Add the chocolate paste, using a spatula to ensure all of it is used.
6. Whisk again until everything has combined, and then add the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda.
7. Pour the mixture into a well greased cake tin (mine was 22cm/9inches)/
8. Bake in the preheated oven on the middle shelf for around 45 minutes, checking the middle with a skewer to check if it is done. If the skewer comes out almost clean, remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Otherwise, return the cake to the oven, checking again every few minutes.
Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and try not to eat too much at once!