Rich chocolate and salted caramel cake

Salted caramel

I detest dry chocolate cake. The sugary sponge desserts found in some supermarkets or school canteens would put anyone off it for life. Yet chocolate mousse and elegant souffles are difficult to make, and often require lots of equipment. I found this recipe to be a perfect middle ground: it incorporates some of the stickiness of a Swedish kladdkaka, yet with all the richness of French chocolate creations. For all this, it’s still very easy to make.

Crushed chocolate

The ingredient list is rather simple, although the golden rule with chocolate-based desserts mustn’t be forgotten: the better the chocolate in the base, the richer the cake. Having the luxury of living in Brussels, I brought several slabs of almost smoky dark, as well as milk chocolate with me home to Sweden this winter (or, they were a gift for my stepmother, but she didn’t mind them being used this way… at least not once she got to try the result). I used light and nutty milk chocolate for the cake itself, and a dark, almost bitter chocolate for the topping.

Chocolate cake ingredients

For the cake, you’ll need:

  • 6 eggs
  • 250 g unsalted butter
  • 2,5 dl Sugar
  • 60 g flour
  • 250 g milk or dark chocolate, depending on taste

For the dark chocolate cover:

  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 50 g honey
  • 100 g dark chocolate

And for the salted caramel topping:

  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • 1 dl Muscovado/brown sugar
  • 100 ml double cream
  • 50 g unsalted butter

Melting butter and chocolateStarting with the cake ingredients, melt the butter, and mix it with the chocolate until the chocolate has melted entirely and you have a smooth mix. Put the oven to 200 degrees, and use some of the butter to grease the spring form tin.

Chocolate and whisked eggsIn a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until fluffy (you can use an electric whisk if needed), and then fold it into the chocolate-butter mixture.

Sifted flourFinish making the base for the chocolate cake by sifting the flour into the chocolate mixture, folding it carefully so not to lose the fluffiness.

Cake in tin

Pour the mixture into the spring form, and bake in the oven at 200 degrees for about 30 minutes, but be careful not to overbake it. The cake should have just started to settle when you take it out, and sway lightly if you move the tin around. Leave it to cool uncovered. Once it has cooled to room temperature, put it into the freezer for a couple of hours, but remember to remove it from the freezer at least two hours before you plan on serving it.

Making caramel

When the cake is in the freezer, you can start making the chocolate topping, which is pretty easy: melt the butter and pour it into the dark chocolate, and mix around until you have a smooth cream. Add the honey into the mix, and put to the side to cool.

Then start making the salted caramel.

Melt the muscovado sugar in a dash of water on the stove. Be careful: just swirl it with large sweeps of the pan, and don’t use any tools in the pan with the sugar. Add the butter, and let it melt, again just swirling the pan. Once the butter has melted, add the cream, and let it bubble away for 5 minutes until it has thickened slightly. It will thicken more once it cools down, so you don’t want to thin it down too much. Finish by adding half a teaspoon of sea salt into it. Put to the side to cool.

Salted caramel sauce

Just before serving, spread the dark chocolate sauce evenly across the cake. Then add the caramel in long streaks across the cake, spreading it as elegantly as you can (as you can see below, artistry is not my strong side). Top off with a small dusting of sea salt flakes. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. It will be dark, creamy and deliciously over-the-top, with a perfectly balanced saltiness in the topping.

Salted caramel cake

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Toffee soaked rhubarb and apple crumble

Crumble is in many ways the best dessert ever, for it’s so easy to make and you usually have the necessary stuff for it at home. Most fruits or berries will do, and then you just need butter, flour and sugar in the base recipe (and oats if you fancy a bit of crunch). This is a slightly fancier version, called smulpaj in Swedish, with a toffee sauce in the base and rhubarb mixed in with the apple. It is sweet, sticky and very, very scrumptious. If you’ve planned to spoil someone with dinner this is a good dessert – you can prepare it hours before, and just leave it in the fridge for when you want to bake it. It is of course very unhealthy, but it doesn’t feel too heavy since the apple and rhubarb gives some freshness to it all. Served really hot with ice cream is the best, but this is also nice cold as the toffee gets a bit chewy then.

You need:

  • 2 large sticks of rhubarb
  • 1 large bramley apple
  • 2 decilitres light brown sugar
  • 1 decilitre light sirup
  • 125g sugar, at room temperature
  • 2 decilitres plain flour
  • 1 decilitre oats
  • 2 tsp vanilla sugar

Start by peeling your rhubarb (carefully unpick the thin skin off from bottom and pull it down in slithers) and cut it in smaller bits. Also peel and cut your apple. If you were given an incredibly unnecessary apple peeler for christmas present a few years back, this is the time to get it out.

Set your oven to 220 degrees. Place the fruit in the bottom of an oven-proof dish, and make the crumble through mixing half of the sugar, all the flour, the oats and the butter in a bowl. If the butter is at room temperature you can just tear it off bit by bit into the dough mixture. If it’s still a bit hard then cut into little squares with a knife and rub into the dough mixture until you’ve got a grainy mixture.

Then make the toffee sauce in a pan: melt a small knob of butter, and mix in the sirup together with the rest of the sugar and well as the vanilla sugar. Bring to the boil carefully and then pour it over the apple and rhubarb. Be careful with tasting the toffee – it’s delicious at this stage, but it may also burn your finger terribly (…speaking from experience).

Apple the grainy mixture evenly on top of the toffeed apple and rhubarb, and place in the middle of the oven (at 220 degrees) for about 25 minutes or until the top layer has gone golden and stiffened up a little. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream. Indulge and await sugar rush.



Caramelised almond cake (toscatårta)

Me and my brother had a joint 25 and 30 year old birthday party this weekend and I was responsible for desserts. Panicking over what to make – desserts aren’t my strong side – I decided on toscatårta, because it’s delicious and not too hard to make. Essentially toscatårta is a creamy Swedish sponge cake with a divine topping of caramelised almond. It’s one of my gran’s classics and I’ve finally learnt how to make it. (or, at least this variation of it got her approval, and since she’s known as queen of the cakes in my village, I’m more than pleased with that verdict.)

For the sponge you need:

  • 2 decilitres plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 decilitres white sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 decilitre double cream (this is the secret to the creaminess of the sponge)
  • 50 grams butter

For the topping:

  • 50 gram almond flakes
  • 50 grams butter
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 decilitre sugar 

You also need a round cake tin with detachable sides, and butter and fine bread crumbs to make it non-stick. Start by putting your oven to 175 degrees and butter the tin on the inside (the best way of doing this is through putting a small knob of butter on some kitchen towel and grease it all over). Add fine bread crumbs by pouring some in the middle and then moving the tin around until it is all covered in them. This is the Swedish way of greasing a tin for any cake, but I suppose you could also line the tin with baking paper.

Then melt the butter on the stove and let cool whilst you whisk together the eggs and the sugar for a fluffy mix. You can do this by hand, but your cake rises better if you can fluff it up with an electric whisk.

Fold in the butter, flour, baking powder and cream, and pour the mixture into your greased tin. Put in the oven for 25 minutes whilst you make the almond topping.

Making the almond topping is simple. Just mix the butter, milk, flour, sugar and almonds in a pan on the stove, and let melt slowly whilst the cake is in the oven. The butter should become completely liquid and the sugar should dissolve, but it doesn’t need more heat once that’s done.

Pardon all the instagrammed photos… left my camera in London.

Once the cake has had its 25 minutes in the oven, take it out and apply the topping carefully all over the cake. Just make sure it doesn’t collect in one hole in the middle. Put back into the oven for another 20 minutes, or until the topping has gone a light golden brown.

Once your beautiful cake is done, the almond should have caramelised at the top, and the sponge gone a light brown at the bottom. Carefully separate the upper edges of the cake from the form with a knife, as they become difficult to separate once the sugar has stiffened. Let rest for a few minutes, and then carefully move the cake from the form to a plate. Decorate with berries and mint, and serve with strong, sweet coffee.


Salted caramel brownies

This recipe comes from a Guardian fashion+food piece, optimistically announcing the time for picnics in British parks. Current gale winds and rainy temperatures sadly suggest otherwise. But this recipe looked amazing, so I made these little beauties inside, in the cold. Completely agreeing with Nigella, I think salted caramel is about the best thing to have come out of chocolate invention… basically, ever. The saltyness and the rich, creamy caramel added with sweet chocolate is just bliss. Even if you think you don’t like mixing sweet and salty, I bet you will enjoy this. And whenever picnic time actually comes along, they will be on top of the list together with sweet white wine, blankets and good books. Just be very, very careful not to overdo the salt, because that will definitely spoil them.

For the caramel, you’ll need:

  • 90 g caster sugar (original recipe says golden caster sugar but that would have involved me buying three different kinds of sugar for this recipe so I just went with normal caster. I think it will taste nuttier and more flavoursome with golden, so go for that if you want to do it proper. But normal caster seemed to work just fine)
  • 60 ml double cream
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 60g unsalted butter, in cubes

For the brownie mix:

  • 200g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 250 g unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 150 light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 120 g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 20 g cocoa powder

Start by making the caramel by melting the caster sugar in two tablespoons of water. Stir until it dissolves, but then be careful to let it bubble away and make a sirup completely undisturbed, moving the pan in swirly moves rather than stirring. Do this until it has bubbled together to a thick, golden brown and reduced a bit. Then add the butter, and let melt, then stir in the cream and butter. Let cool at the side.

Prepare for the brownies by lining a tin with butter and baking paper, and put the oven to 190 degrees. Melt the chocolate and butter. I did this in the microwave, together, but letting it in for 20 second stints and then stirring before continuing. Towards the end the butter is so hot that it melts the last of the chocolate outside of the microwave, and you are therefore safe from burning it by mistake. Then beat together the eggs, vanilla and sugars until they’ve turned fluffy. You can do this by hand (as I did) but it is best done by a electric whisk. It is quite tough on your arms by hand.

When this is done, sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa, add the salt, and then fold in the melted chocolate and butter. Pour half of the mixture into the tin, and dot it with spoonfuls of salted caramel. Then add the second half of the mix, and top off with more sated caramel. You can stir through the whole thing with a spon or something to make sure the caramel swirl reaches all round the cake. But be very careful not to mix too much, of course, for the joy lies in the contrast.

Put this into the oven, and, depending on how deep or wide your dish is let it stay in there for 40 mins to 1 hour. Mine took an hour because it’s a deep dish, but I also think I left it in a little bit too long. It should be only almost firm in the middle when you take it out, so don’t worry if it looks a little wobbly.

Once you’ve let it rest and cool down, cut it into about 18 brownie-sized bits. If you feel like being overly lush, and of course you do, serve with some whipped cream (for what else are you going to do with the rest of the double cream you used to make them…?)


Traditional New York style cheesecake with wild raspberries

One of my favourite things about Sweden is going foraging. But since foraging season has barely started, this past month back in Sweden I’ve had to go foraging in the freezer box instead (where last seasons foraging finds are kept) which then led to this mix of traditional New York-style baked cheesecake and wild raspberries. If you’ve ever tried wild raspberries you will know that they are incredibly different from commercially grown ones, and have one of the most floral and sweet yet full-bodied flavours of the forest (indeed so strong that my mum won’t eat them because she finds them over-powering). So they really add something to a voluptuous and creamy New York cheesecake. But you can, of course, melt any berries you like on top of this cake, it will still taste divine. Just be prepared – this cake doesn’t take up much of your time, but it takes a long time to make, and it HAS to be given its time in the fridge or you will be sorely disappointed.

I kind of followed Nigella’s recipe for this cake, and for the base, you’ll need:

  • 250 g digestive biscuits (guess it’s meant to be Graham crackers but they’re impossible to get a hold of in Sweden)
  • 150 butter (melted)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
For the filling:
  • 3 1/2 dl sugar (225 g)
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 600 g cream cheese
  • 6 eggs yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 3 heaped teaspoons vanilla sugar, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 150 ml full fat cream
  • 150 ml sour cream (I used Swedish gräddfil, it worked just as well)
  • the zest and peel of one lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
For the topping
  • Wild raspberries
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/1 tbsp cornflour
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+ Patience. The cake is best the day after you made it. A springform will be helpful, but I made it in a clay one.
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Start by crushing the digestive biscuits and mixing them with the sugar and butter. This is probably done easiest by using a food processor, but you can also crush the biscuits by hand (I did). It just takes some time. Then add it to the bottom of the form you are using (pre-greased with butter), and press it out evenly and hard. Put in the fridge to rest for an hour. When the base has been in the fridge for a while, put the sugar and cornflour together, then mix in the cream cheese. Don’t be fooled by my whisk below, at this early stage you’re better helped by something spatula-like (as I quickly discovered…).

After this is mixed together, add the cream, the sour cream, the egg yolks and the lemon zest & peel. Stir constantly whilst mixing these things together. Put your oven to 170 degrees.
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In a separate bowl, with a separate whisk (this is important or the eggs whites will react to the traces of other ingredients), whisk together the egg whites with that half teaspoon of salt. You need your whites to turn into stiff peaks, which takes a while since there is no sugar in this mix. Whisk, whisk, whisk until it look something like the thing below. You may also, as below, need some assistance in doing this, for it really does tire out you arms (I was up sawing birchwood on the morning of making this cake, and that seemed easier somehow…) .
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Then, very gently, fold in the egg whites into the cream cheese mix.
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Take out your base from the fridge, and fill it with the cream cheese mix. Smooth off the top with a spatula or something else flat.
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Bake in the oven for about one hour or a bit more, depending on your oven and the tin you are using. Mine ended up being a little over-baked in the edges so for beauty-reasons I cut off some of the upper ends before applying the melted berries. Once your cake has turned golden at the top, yet hasn’t settled properly in the middle, turn the oven off and leave your cake in there for another two hours without opening. Then open the oven and leave the cake in there for another hour with the door open. Towards the end of that hour, melt your berries on the stove with the sugar until they are all half-crushed. Then stir in the the cornflour, and when it is time to finally take the cake out of the oven, apply the melted berries evenly at the top, and put into your fridge to set for a few hours. Note that it REALLY needs a few hours in there or it won’t be smooth.
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It takes some time, but in the end you will have something as smooth, dreamy and beautiful as this to look at, and most importantly, to eat! And it’s really, really worth the trouble.
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