I love any excuse to bake a cake (though who needs an excuse). My first blog post, 2 years ago, was E’s birthday cake so it now happens that my blog anniversary coincides with E’s birthday. Before I tell you about the cake I baked to celebrate, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on the blog.
The fact that I started hand writing this post on the back of a doctor’s bill while waiting for 8 week old Sylvia to have her first immunisation shots is a sign of how my life has changed since my first post when it was just Ewan and me in our household. Now our little unit feels full with Sylvia, Zinc (our cat) and the memory of our twin boys, Alex and Ian. Lately, I have been enjoying lots of cooking and baking when Sylvia sleeps (or when E soothes her) and I have quite a backlog of posts. So I hope this blog will continue to be a place for sharing more foodie swooning and ranting, although I make no promises as who knows what else life will serve up for me.
On this blog I have almost 400 posts (this is number 397), including 19 chocolate cakes and 11 nut roasts. I have held one blog event (a Neb at Nut Roast) and participated in numerous blog events. I have been inspired in making smoothies, chutneys, breads, fruit salads and curries that I might not have attempted if not for my blog. And when E doesn’t appreciate my cakes, I have others who do (even if, unfortunately, I can’t give my dear readers a piece to taste). So thank you to everyone who reads, enjoys and supports me in my posts. Which brings me back to the birthday cake.
The past two years I have baked novelty cakes for E’s birthday (a vampire and a green giraffe). This year, with a new baby, such a cake seemed beyond my capability. So I settled for an old favourite – the Paragon Chocolate Orange Cake. This cake was still rather ambitious. My memories of making it are of copious amounts of grating and fingers covered with melted chocolate. And a delicious cake.
I first encountered this cake in the Paragon Café in North Carlton when I lived locally. In those days it was a short stroll to a strip of funky cafes where we could eat dinner or just have a cuppa and a slab of cake. This cake was one of my favourites that the Paragon served. I loved the variegated appearance of crumb with grated chocolate mixed through the orange butter cake and more curls of chocolate on top.
I was delighted to find the recipe in a newspaper many years ago and have made this cake on a few occasions but not for some time. The recipe is for a 28cm round cake tin but this is too large for us so I have halved the quantities. Last week I managed to make it in the afternoon with the invaluable help of my mum who grated, did dishes and held Sylvia (but not all at once).
Unfortunately I couldn’t remember exactly what I did last time and so this was not my finest version. I cooked it a bit less than the specified time because it was smaller and it was getting brown on top but it could have been cooked a bit more. There was a little dip in the middle that hinted at it needing a bit more time so I wasn’t so surprised to find it a bit too moist in the middle when we cut it. I also put the grated chocolate on when it came out of the oven and it melted very quickly (see photo) rather than just getting warm and having little chocolate curls sitting on top of it. So I waited an hour or two and then grated more chocolate on because I like the look of the grated chocolate (also photographed).
We went out for dinner (Hellenic Republic review coming up) and had the cake when we got home. The house was filled with wonderful chocolate orange aromas and the cake was pleasingly soft and moist but not at all fudgy. It tasted as good as I remember. E had half a piece and told me it was quite rich. I had thought he would like it because it is a butter cake but I guess it is a butter cake with a lot of chocolate. I was not at all concerned that he wasn’t so keen on it – all the more for me.
Strangely enough, he does not find the mars bar slice too rich. I had promised to make it on his birthday but was too caught up in making the chocolate orange cake to remember. So I made the slice for him on the weekend. I would have preferred the Paragon Chocolate Orange Cake but unfortunately it didn't last that long!
Paragon Chocolate Orange Cake
1 cup caster sugar
zest of 2 oranges
½ tsp vanilla essence
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp baking powder
1¾ cup plain flour
250ml orange juice (2 cups – juice of about 2 large oranges)
62g grated dark chocolate
extra ¾ cup (62g?) grated dark chocolate
Cream the butter, sugar and orange zest. Add remaining ingredients (apart from grated chocolate) and mix well. Fold in 62g grated chocolate.
Pour mixture into 20cm round cake tin and bake at 175 C for about 1¼ hours (I only did 55 minutes and it wasn’t enough despite this cake being half the size of the cake in the original recipe). Test cake with a skewer and it is done when skewer comes out cleanly.
Turn cake onto wire rack and cool for 1-2 hours. While it is still warm, place on serving plate and sprinkle with ¾ cup grated chocolate. If chocolate melts immediately, the cake is still too hot. It should soften but not completely melt.
On the Stereo:
The Wonderful World of Nursery Rhymes: Vera Lynn and Kenneth McKellar