I am always on the lookout for Master Recipes. And when I say, “Master Recipes”, I do not mean “Fundamental Recipes”.
Fundamental Recipes are good building block recipes: think grilled cheese sambos (sandwiches), American-style pancakes, thick-n-hearty Irish soup. You learn to make them by following a series of step-by-step detailed instructions. And, then, once you’ve perfected the basic recipe, you create endless versions of the original recipe. Cookbooks and the internet are chock-full of these dishes.
Master Recipes, on the other hand, are rare and wonderful. Once you find one, you realise it stands out from all the rest. It is exemplar and you wouldn’t dream of changing a thing about it. A Master Recipe becomes a dish you cook for the rest of your life. And, if you are lucky, you hand a collection of Master Recipes down from one generation to the next. They are what Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, the founders of Food52, call “Genius Recipes”.
My whole life (and I have been cooking since the age of twelve!), I have been collecting Master Recipes. For me they are the recipes that tick the following boxes:
1) They are easy to make.
2) They taste great.
3) They look impressive and can be served to family, friends, and dinner party guests or taken to a special event.
4) Once tasted they almost always elicit a response like “Oh…my…that is delicious! Can I have the recipe?”
A few weeks ago, I found and made my first chocolate cake Master Recipe. I think I may have danced a little jig across the kitchen after taking the first bite of this delicious cake.
The ingredients include pepper, whiskey and cloves…these really play up the chocolate flavour of this cake. It is incredibly decadent but, surprisingly, not heavy. I like that. And, oh is it moist! (That word cracks my kids up…”moist”.) So many homemade cakes are dry and need cream, ice cream, or icing to make them palatable…not so with this cake. Truly, a dusting of powdered sugar is all that is needed: though, if you really wanted to go all out, some Irish Whiskey caramel sauce might be nice or some sugared red berries.
In the weeks that have passed since I found this recipe, I have made the cake for family, friends, and even taken it to a board meeting. Everyone has loved it. So…get out your springform pan and your Magimix (food processor)…and get baking! I’m sure after trying it, you’ll add this recipe to your collection of Master Recipes too.
Chocolate Whiskey Cake
Serves Eight to Ten
174g/12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, more for pan
85 grams/about 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
12oz/1 ½ cups brewed strong coffee
4 oz/½ cup Irish whiskey
200 grams/about 1 cup granulated sugar
156 grams/about 1 cup light brown sugar
240 grams/about 2 cups all-purpose flour
8 grams/2 level teaspoons baking soda
3 grams/about 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
172g/1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
Powdered sugar, for serving (optional)
1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C/325°F. Butter a 10-inch spring form pan. Dust with 2 tablespoons cocoa powder.
2. In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm coffee, Irish Whiskey, 12 tablespoons butter and remaining cocoa powder, whiskey occasionally, until butter is melted. Whisk in sugars until dissolved. Remove from heat and cool completely.
3. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, pepper and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Slowly whisk egg mixture into chocolate mixture. Add dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Fold in chocolate chips.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Transfer to oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, then remove sides of pan. Dust with powdered sugar before serving, if you like.
Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:
* The New York Times is my go-to place when I’m looking for really great recipes to try. Here is a list of 30 Fundamental recipes, courtesy of The New York Times, everyone should have in their recipe folder.
** I found today’s recipe (where else?) over at the New York Times. They got it from Marti Buckley Kilpatrick, who adapted it from Dol Miles, the pastry chef at Frank Stitt’s Bottega restaurant in Birmingham, Ala.