Chocolate orange cake with orange blossom cream, A Secret Dinner dessert
What to serve for dessert for 30 people? Even the most kitchen and food challenged amongst us could guess that a souffle was out. Simple classics like tiramisu were ruled out too as they ranked too high on the boring scale. It was a no as well to creme brulee, traditional pannacotta and other sweet treats that required ramekins, moulds or 30 containers that were the same size and shape.
Other constraints required that the components be pre-prepared (I mean, who wants to make the dessert for 30 people from scratch in an unfamiliar kitchen after a few glasses of wine, a stressful day, and plating and sending out 4 savoury courses?). On top of all of that there was a budget and theme to stick to. Ideas flitted through my head, flashes of custard, flicks of ice cream, fruit, caramel or chocolate? It all whirled around for a few weeks, and an exploratory trip to Zumbo was sugary delicious but no help at all (though it did make me think alot about jelly, for some reason).
I banished the idea of jelly (too many childhood memories), and soon enough though I got stuck on oranges and pairing them with orange blossom water. It fit in with the Mediterranean theme, sure enough, but the bitter tart orange and almond cake that I dreamed about was demolished by my tractor of an oven. The density and thickness that I desired was all burnt bottoms and raw gooey centres in that poorly heated box. Those shattered dreams were quickly swept away when this thick tile of rich chocolate cake was whipped into existence. A few test runs later, and the cake was finalised, right about the same time as I decided I never wanted to ever see another chocolate and orange cake ever again. ever.
Now the cooked cream topping that heavy dark chocolate tile was another story altogether. I knew I wanted a wibbly wobbly pannacotta, heady with orange blossom with the slightly bitter undertone of orange zest oil, but light and airy. So I made a pannacotta and folded whipped cream through at the end, with the intent of topping each cake with a rough quenelle. On the night though, Matt from element bistro pulled out an ice-cream scoop. A perfect scoop.
Top the whole lot off with a sprinkle of crunchy pine nut praline, pine nuts courtesy of Fouad, (from his family estate) and a splatter here and there of ruby red candied orange blossom. This dessert ticked all the boxes, and hit all the right notes, I think.
Chocolate orange tile with orange blossom cream.
Chocolate and orange cake
adapted from David Lebovitz’s Idiot Cake.
150g dark chocolate (I used lindt 70 – 80% and callebaut dark, and I actually liked the lindt 80% best)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon plain flour
finely grated orange zest
1 – 2 Tablespoons orange juice.
Melt butter and chocolate together. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and sugar together, then add slightly cooled melted chocolate, orange zest and juice. Mix until smooth, then fold flour through. Pour batter into a greased and lined pan. You could use a springform one, but I just used a well lined rectangular tin. Place in a water bath (you may need to wrap the bottom of your springform pan in foil to prevent leaks), ensuring that the water comes about halfway up the sides of the pan.
Bake at 180C, for about an hour until the cake is set. Cool completely.
Orange blossom cream
150 ml cream + 80ml cream extra
2 Tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
1 Tablespoon orange zest
2 gelatine leaves
Heat 150ml cream, the milk, sugar and zest in a small pan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for up to 10 mins until flavours combine and the dairy is cooked, set aside. Soften gelatine in cold water and mix through the hot dairy. Set aside to cool, if necessary refrigerate, but be careful because you don’t want this mixture to set just yet.
Meanwhile, whip the extra 80ml of cream.
When the cooked dairy mixture has cooled, strain, and then fold the whipped cream and orange blossom water into the strained mixture. Strain again, and pour into a container and refrigerate until just set. This should be wobbly and light.
Serve with pine nut praline and candied orange blossoms.