I suppose you could call this a plain cake, in the old fashioned sense of having no butter-cream filling or frosting. It is, in fact, a thoroughly modern cake, not too deep, a light though rich sponge with a slight nutty chewiness to it. The cake is moist enough as it is, but if it was to be a dessert I would want a dollop of crème fraiche with it too.
butter – 250g
golden caster sugar – 250g
shelled hazelnuts – 75g
dark chocolate – 120g
large eggs – 4
self-raising flour – 125g
strong, hot espresso – 4 teaspoons
You will also need a 20-21 cm cake tin with a loose bottom.
Set the oven at 185˚c/Gas 4. Line the base of the cake tin with greaseproof paper. Cut the butter into small chunks and put it with the sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer, then beat till white and fluffy. Toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan over a moderate heat, then rub them in a tea towel until most of the skins have flaked off. There is really no need to be too pernickity about this, you just want most of the skins removed. Grind the nuts to a coarse powder, less finely than ground almonds, but finer than they would be if you chopped them by hand. Chop the chocolate into what looks like coarse gravel.
Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them gently. Slowly add them to the butter and sugar mixture, beating all the time - it may curdle slightly but it doesn’t matter. Stop the machine. Tip in half the
ground nuts and half the flour, beat briefly and at a slow speed, stop the machine again, then add the rest together with the chopped chocolate and mix briefly.
Fold in the espresso, gently, taking care not to knock the air from the mixture then scoop into the lined cake tin. Smooth the top and bake for 45 minutes, covering the cake with tin foil for the last 15 minutes if
the top of the cake is colouring too quickly. Remove the cake from the oven and test with a skewer - you want it to come out clean, without any uncooked cake mixture clinging to it.
Leave the cake to cool a little in its tin before turning out and peeling off the greaseproof paper from its bottom. Let the cake cool almost completely before eating. Serves as it is, or as a dessert with a jug