One egg chocolate cake

Haven’t had a ‘grump’ for a while but yesterday gave me cause to live up to my name. Up and down the UK yesterday there were ‘celebrations’ for the centenary of women being given the vote in Britain. Celebration? Surely it’s a day of shame that 100 years after passing of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, allowing women (but only those aged 30 and above who owned property) to vote, women are still treated unequally in so many areas, not least in equal pay for the same job. Then of course there’s the ‘glass ceiling’ preventing women taking so many top jobs. And abuse of women is still rife in the workplace and other places. Young women are still being forced to marry men they have never met and millions still suffer female circumcision.

I’ve batted on about this so much in the past that, having made the point, I will not continue here but to say that yes, things are getting better but we’re still a long way from a reason to celebrate. Let’s make 6 February a British ‘Day of Shame’, starting in 2019, until such practices are cleared completely, at least from the UK.

My celebration

I did, however, have something to celebrate. On the 6 February 1999 I went to a birthday party, so did the young woman who was to become my wife a year and a half later. Both of us identify this occasion as that at which things ‘became serious’. So, we don’t celebrate St Valentine’s Day, which sadly has become yet another commercial nonsense, but we do remember this day.

I wanted to make a chocolate cake but I had a busy day so needed something simple, something taking less than an hour to make and, as we had only one egg in the fridge, requiring only one egg. I found this:

The cake itself is good but the simple chocolate icing makes it too sweet for our taste (and American icing sugar must be different to ours as 2tbsp of water does not make that amount of icing sugar ‘spreadable’). It would be better for me with a ganache made with high cocoa chilli chocolate.

Daniel’s cafe/bistro Ilkley is not run by Daniel but by his daughter Miruna and her husband. The name is a tribute to Miruna’s father who runs a hotel in our other favourite place, the Romanian Bucovina, specifically in the spa town (a bit like Harrogate) of Vatra Dornei.

We decided to visit this small but cosy coffee shop by day, a ‘bistro’ in the evening, yesterday afternoon. The cakes are ‘interesting’, yesterday’s were with butternut squash or pumpkin, but neither is ‘my cup of tea’ as we say so I opted for the Romanian sponge with apple and plums, the only truly Romanian cake on offer. With the first taste it took me back to my ‘honorary grandmother’s’ house near Câmpulung Moldovenesc, about 30km from the spa town, where we twice stayed for a while during our summer break. She makes an identical ‘cake’ (in fact it’s more like a pudding).

If a new visitor to Ilkley don’t stop at the Cow & Calf rocks and a walk on Ilkley moor but continue on the moorland road for some wonderful views. Here’s as we decend into our village

Romanian chocolate cakes

Unfortunately, not liking anything with fruit Petronela settled for just one of the excellent coffees. It’s a pity there are not more Romanian cakes, particularly chocolate cakes of which there are many: chec negru (black cake), amandine, mascota and others. All excellent and any one of them would have suited Petronela. There had been brownies, sold out, but for me the Romanian version is better: boema, chocolate cake soaked in a caramel syrup and topped with a ganache and ‘frișcă’ – sweetened whipped cream. It’s certainly more indulgent for any chocoholic.

But the main reason for a visit to Daniel’s if you are in Ilkley is the Romanian (more exactly Bucovinian) welcome. You will not find a more hospitable, friendly people anywhere and it hasn’t been diminished at all by being transplanted in Yorkshire.

Something I particularly like is Miruna’s tribute to her father, posted on a window. That also is very typically Romanian. Having been lucky enough to meet him on a previous visit, we can confirm he’s a great guy.

Daniel’s cafe/bistro has a website:

Don’t miss it (not open every day – see website) if you visit this lovely small Yorkshire town. If you’re lucky Miruna will have taken my hint and have more Romanian chocolate cakes!

When I asked for suggestions for a cake to enter in the village show I commented that my favourite cake, Reine de Saba, would not likely be a good choice as it has an unusual texture. The same is true of the two suggestions I chose to make so it was no surprise to me that neither got into the prizes, but it was fun to ‘compete’.

I made the ‘Beetroot cake with mascarpone and raspberries’, suggested by blogger Georgina at The Fresh Princess of Bel Air, original recipe by Lily Vanilli, a couple of days before. The chocolate cake, suggested by Tracey at ‘foodandforagehebrides‘, original recipe from Delia Smith, was made on the morning of the show. I won’t give the recipes here; just follow the previous links to go to them. (more…)

A few days ago, when summarising my promised major ‘grump’, I half promised something about a chocolate cake and onion soup from one of my favourite food blogs. I’ve made the cake; so far I have only bought the onions. My excuse is the ‘snap’ of cold weather – it’s stew and dumplings time, yippee, but more of that later, below.

Some time ago I gave the recipe for what has been my favourite chocolate cake, called Reine de Saba, but this one from My French Heaven promised to be equally delicious and a bit simpler to make.

Stephane's own picture of his cake, a 'grab' from his blog 'My French Heaven'

Stephane’s own picture of his cake, a ‘grab’ from his blog ‘My French Heaven’

I didn’t get it quite right, mainly because Stephane the author said bake it in a “pie pan” and not knowing quite what that meant I used the only square cake tin I have (about 20.5cm square) and it clearly wasn’t big enough, so the cake came out much deeper than in the picture. This meant it didn’t bake in the 20-25 mins suggested and it could probably have benefited from a rather lower oven temperature, which would have given the centre time to cook before the outside overcooked (The Reine de Saba is deliberately left with the centre undercooked).

All the same, even my attempt is a delicious cake (my wife, my partner chocoholic, agrees) and I’ll get it right next time. Stephane suggests you eat it with ice-cream, but this cake merits a superb ice-cream and that, as far as I’m concerned, means home made. No time for that so with a cup of (Yorkshire) tea as I write this I’m eating it alone; as a ‘pudding’ this evening it’ll be with double cream.

I have to admit, when I first thought about writing about this cake I fantasized about winning Stephane’s prize for the blogger bringing most people to his blog – a few days in his “B&B”, which I’m certain really is a French Heaven. But seeing all those foodie bloggers with hundreds, even thousands, of followers I knew that really was just a fantasy.

However, if you don’t know it already, do go to his blog for a real Frenchman (who writes real English!) writing about real French food, with some great photography too (so it was a debate whether to follow him from this blog or from my ‘photography’ blog).

Now to stew and dumplings and another of my favourite food blogs. I was really surprised to find that the author of ‘homemadewithmess‘, writing about stew and dumplings, said she had never made dumplings and didn’t have any suet in the cupboard.

Beef stew and dumplings, my answer to Thursday's frosty weather

Beef stew and dumplings, my answer to Thursday’s frosty weather

If you’re thinking that mixing something as British as stew and dumplings with a French cake is odd, think again. In the UK, if we think suet, we think Atora. This was developed by a Frenchman in Manchester in 1893. It is said that he developed it having seen his wife struggling to cut up blocks of suet; I know the feeling – there was no Atora in Romania when I was there so, to introduce Romanians to the light, fluffy balls which we know as ‘dumplings’, I too struggled to grate lumps of suet from the market.

I’m not going to give a recipe for stew – just brown the meat, add onion, carrot, parsnip, swede, pearl barley and lentils by the handful, cover with stock and cook till the meat is 20 minutes from done before adding the dumplings (in fact, in this one I chucked half a bottle of the beer I was drinking at the time, but it could have been red wine if that’s what I had in my hand – not drinking while cooking is a sin). The basic dumpling recipe is still on the Atora packet – I generally add some sage, fresh-ground black pepper and a handful of rolled oats. This week we had it with steamed Savoy cabbage and the wonderful ‘Anya’ potatoes which I’ve only ever found in Sainsbury’s.

This meal is one of the abiding memories from my childhood. Struggling up the long hill from primary school, perhaps up to my shoulders in snow, opening the door of the one up, one down back-to-back cottage in which we lived, to smell and see a large enamel bowl in the hearth of the cast-iron range, full of stew with big, puffy floating dumplings.

The stew might have been beef or lamb, but most often rabbit as then it was the cheapest. My mother, a war widow with three young boys to feed, often did not know where the next meal was coming from, but it was always there.

Much as I would like it, I cannot make the lamb stew described by homemadewithmess as my wife will not eat lamb, but beef stew with dumplings is one of her favourite meals since I introduced her to it. Romanians, in fact east Europeans in general, do have dumplings but they are a much heavier concoction of semolina and egg – in Romania they’re known as galuste (the ‘u’ and the ‘s’ are other Romanian letters so it’s pronounced gu-loosh-tay).

For what promises to be a heavenly French onion soup, watch this space.