Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Chocolate and the essential art of sloth

I love working from home. I take phone calls with the Gilmore Girls temporarily on mute, check emails while singing along enthusiastically if tunelessly to 42nd Street and type with a dog to warm my feet and a pair of kittens snoozing in my in tray. My one shiver of envy for office workers comes when we have so much snow, trains don’t run, offices close and they get the day off. Frustratingly - as my office is a gentle 60 second stroll from my bed - it would take quite the snow storm to make it impossible for me to clock in.

IMG_2406 This picture was taken by my friend Stephen Morallee.

Ty Snow1 Ty tastes his first snow.

Stephen 1 Stephen trying to take pictures. Thwarted.

Jess scarf Jess, all wrapped up.

I was thinking about this as I walked Barney in the park, my boots crunching through the dazzling layer of crisp snow. Our usual dog walking number was swelled by a few office refuseniks, excited at the prospect of a day off. So - in the spirit of solidarity - I declared a snow day myself. No work, just pottering. If I’m honest, to the naked eye this wouldn’t have looked very different to a normal day. Show tunes, yes, messing about in the kitchen, certainly, but deadline stress, tricky emails and scaling of the accounts mountain so large its about to be granted its own postcode, were banned.

I’d been sent a bag of Trish Deseine’s new milk chocolate buttons to try. I needed to cook them - what they’re intended for - before I ate the whole bag. I flipped through the pages of Trish’s Best of Chocolat (in French, just so you know) which I bought when we were in Agde in the summer and decided the milk chocolate, date and almond cake was a suitable fate for my precious and rapidly diminishing bounty.


I love Trish Deseine’s food. It’s cosy, sexy, sophisticated and her books are shot through with her natural warmth and humour. She is from Northern Ireland and has lived in France for the past twenty years or so, where she has enjoyed un succès fou showing the French how to create simple and delicious meals which require neither a sous chef nor a trust fund. Luckily for us, she has published several books in English. Try them. You will like.

Chocolate by Trish

Trish’s chocolate is available from Selfridges or by mail order in the UK from Chocolatebytrish.com

Rich chocolate cake with dates and almonds

This flourless chocolate cake has an intense, almost wine-y depth of flavour. It’s grown up, rich, fudgy and, yes, intensely chocolate-y. It keeps very well for a few days too, if you’re the sort of person who can sleep while there’s chocolate cake in a tin on your kitchen shelf.


DSCN3374 Really, how could it not be good?

Serves 8 to 10 people

250g milk chocolate, Trish’s magic buttons are 38%
3 egg yolks
3 eggs
125g light muscovado sugar
175g ground almonds
100g whole almonds, toasted* and finely chopped
175g unsalted butter, plus a little more for greasing
150g Medjool dates, stoned and chopped, if you can’t get hold of Medjool dates, poach ordinary dates for three minutes in a little water and sugar

Lightly grease a 25cm loose-bottomed cake tin, line it with a circle of baking parchment and butter the parchment. Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.

Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and melt in a microwave or over a bowl of barely-simmering water (the bottom of the bowl shouldn’t touch the water). Cool slightly.

DSCN3383 Pretty.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until light and creamy – the beaters should leave a ribbon trail across the surface when you lift them out of the batter. Add the ground and chopped almonds and the dates and stir until well combined. Lightly but thoroughly fold in the melted chocolate and butter with a spatula. Pour into the cake tin and bake for about 50 minutes – the centre should still wobble a bit as it will firm up as it cools. Let it cool in the tin before turning it out.

* Place them in an even layer on a baking sheet and bake them at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for about 6 minutes. Cook them for a minute or two longer if they still look a bit pale but keep checking them as they can burn very easily.

IMG_2434 I took some of the cake to the park the next day – I’m kind like that. This picture was taken by Stephen Morallee.


  1. smitten i am...and typing with one hand hence no caps....i adore trish...along with tommi miers she is quite the most gorgeous thing in tv...discretely stylish with a friendly twinkle....love her.
    i'm going to make this cake....a lot
    i'm also in love with your chocolate cake plate in the top picture...is it something you found in the back of an antique shop, or something i can have if i go to horrids?
    mouthwatering stuff

  2. Keeps for a few days?? Not if I'm in the house!!! OMG, these look Olympian!

    Love, Karen (discreetly wondering if they travel well. Like over the ocean.?)

  3. Laetitia, You're so right about them both - inspiring, stylish, fun, for heaven's sake, which is what it's all about. Do try the cake. It really is terribly good. The plate was 20p from a church fete - thank goodness god is yet to discover vintage mania and hasn't boosted his prices yet.
    Karen, Ha! You might have to come to the source...

  4. lovely! very brownie-like!

  5. How wonderful to revisit an old friend and see that witty, colourful sense of humour still thriving. And the cake ain't half bad either! You seem as knee-deep in snow as we here are in water. I adore your "church fete" plate and your comment; "hasn't boosted his prices yet", nearly made me fall off my chair laughing. Yep. I've been away far too long.
    Mariana xxxx

  6. Mariana, HELLOOOO. I've missed you lady and have thought of you often, wondering how you were on your farm on the other side of the world. How are things with you, apart from wet? I took a break from blogging over the summer too, but I'm so happy to be back. Are you going to restart your blog? Please say yes. Much love, Dxxx

  7. Oh yes. This is my sort of cake. It looks great in your photos.

    (Love the ones of the dogs!)

  8. ps Also meant to say that I have a similar working life (I'm a caterer). When it's 'full on'it's bloody hard work, especially in the heat of the summer, but it's great isn't it?

  9. Stephen Morallee8 December 2010 at 12:42

    Best cake in decades!!!

  10. Oh my goodness: I found myself drooling in the manner of chocolate labrador by the time I got to the 'Pretty' pic. Off I go to amazon, and then to buy some chocs and dates.

  11. The Ample Cook, Thank you. And it is, mostly, great isn't it? I feel very lucky.
    Stephen, Thanks lovely.

  12. Jo, Ha! I knew I had you at 'chocolate lab', so pleased you like the cake too. Dx

  13. Oh wow, this looks like my kinda cake.

  14. Oh dear Debora I fully intend too restart my blog. It's been a strenuous year and thrumykitchenwindow has been off the radar. Having said that, I too, have thought of you often, especially when I hear the word "Arsenal". I'm so happy to see you are alive and thriving and developed a real following too. Good on ya mate!


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