As a general rule, I don’t do chocolate cake.
It’s nothing to do with calorie-aversion, it’s just… I really don’t like it. Just not a fan. Pass.
However, a number of years ago I discovered something I enjoyed so much that it changed the chocolate cake game for me. A decadent, rich but not overly sweet, moist dark chocolate cake sitting atop a base of red wine poached pears, drizzled with a velvety, glossy red wine syrup that tastes just like spiced mulled wine.
Sounds pretty wicked, am I right?
I think the reason why I enjoy this cake so much is that it’s not just a chocolate cake; it leans towards the pudding side of things.
The intensity of the dark chocolate and slightly bitter cocoa play wonderfully well with the alluring sweetness of the red wine syrup and the hints of firm fruit.
Believe it or not, it took me a while to make a connection between the flavours of the red wine syrup and the unmistakable aroma of mulled wine. Another reason why I love this cake – it transports me to a cold, drizzly day in London, sipping gluhwein, gloved hands wrapped around the steaming mug.
It was a bit inadvertent that I ended up making my own birthday cake this year; I just happened to have two-thirds of a bottle of red wine left after making a beef braise and was wondering how to use it up. I decided not to go down the usual savoury route and made this alluring dessert instead, savouring the lingering aroma of cinnamon, spice and chocolate in the kitchen all day long.
Try this cake – believe me, it’ll change your life.
red wine & chocolate pear cake
3 firm beurre bosc pears
2 cups red wine
½ cup brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
125g dark chocolate, chopped
125g butter, chopped
½ cup castor sugar
¾ cup almond meal
1 tsp arrowroot
2 tbsp cocoa
double cream, to serve
Peel, halve and quarter the pears. Remove the cores with a small sharp knife.
Stir the red wine, castor sugar and two cups of water in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and reduce to a gentle simmer, before adding the cinnamon and pears. Cook for 20 minutes until tender, then remove the pears from the syrup and set aside until cool.
Bring syrup to the boil once more and cook for 20 minutes until reduced, thick and glossy. Set aside to cool.
Preheat your oven to 160°C (320°F).
Line the base and side of a 20 centimetre cake pan. Arrange the pears in a spiral pattern, with the thicker ends toward the outer edge of the pan.
In a small saucepan, stir the dark chocolate, butter and two tablespoons of water over low heat until completely smooth. Beat the eggs and brown sugar until pale and thick, and stir into chocolate mix. Add the almond meal, arrowroot and cocoa to the mixture and gently fold in until just combined.
Spread the cake mixture evenly over pears and bake for 40 – 50 minutes or until crumbs cling to a skewer. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool.
To serve, drizzle slices of cake with the red wine syrup and serve with a generous dollop of double cream.