Here’s something I learned this past December: in Victorian England, the end of Christmas celebrations actually fell on January 5th, or Twelfth Night, aka the last evening of the Christmas season. The celebration included a very specific cake, called everything from Twelfth Night Cake to Plum Cake. I would love to say that I picked up this bit of info due to a revisiting of Whistler’s works, a favorite artist who worked during the Victorian Era. Alas, the info was gleaned last month from my annual (and first digital) advent calendar, produced by Jacquie Lawson, the creator of digital cards you may already know. Her 2015 advent calendar was Victorian themed, and each day a fact about Victorian life during Christmas time was discovered. So weird that of all the interesting facts I learned, the one I most clearly remember is about eating cake.
Anyway, on Twelfth Night, many Victorians threw one last party to end Christmas celebrations. I like that! I went on the prowl for the traditional cake recipe and learned that it has lots of raisins (not my bag) and is topped with copious Marzipan (not quite right for early January at this point in history). Rather than try to find an acceptable version the original cake, I opted to simply use Twelfth Night as an excuse for cake in general.
Enter this chocolate number, which hails from the Guittard Chocolate Cookbook. I’ve had my eye on it since September, and finally put chocolate bar to bundt pan yesterday, in honor of our first Twelfth Night. The recipe in the book is a Guittard family original, hailing back to the 1800’s when Mr. Guittard first set up his chocolate shop during the Gold Rush in San Francisco. (Another fun historical fact, Guittard had come from France with chocolate to trade for gold mining supplies, but soon found that his confections had a market all their own. He returned to France for his equipment, set up shop in SF, and over 100 years later the family is still turning out some of the best chocolate, esp chocolate for baking, in the country.) I made a few updates in the kitchen lab, the key being substituting olive oil for butter. The results are tremendous, with a moist, fluffy cake and helpful olive oil benefits (like reduced inflammation) to boot. I haven’t noticed an actual olive oil flavor, the chocolate remains center stage.
To that end, the other key substitution I made was to use chocolate shavings in place of chocolate chips. My goal was to have the shavings melt into the cake crumb, which they did perfectly. I used a cheese tool (what is that actually called) to make the shavings.
For the recipe makeover success I’ve had with this recipe so far, it occurred to me to try to reduce the sugar some. But I’m not sure how said reduction would affect the perfect moisture and texture this recipe accomplishes. So I considered that in addition to the olive oil, there are several other healthy ingredients – whole wheat flour, pumpkin puree and yogurt. I’m happy with the balance this cake provides, and will rely on it as a responsible enough dessert for special occasions, including many Twelfth Nights to come!
Chocolate Cake Recipe Makeover
Hands-On Time: 20 Minutes
Special Equipment: 6-cup bundt cake mold or cake pan.
- 1/2 Cup Whole-Wheat Flour
- 1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
- 6 Tbsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (Dutch-processed if available)
- 2 Tsp Baking Soda
- 1/2 Tsp Salt
- 1 Tsp Cinnamon
- 1/2 Tsp Ground Cloves
- 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
- 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
- 2 Large Eggs
- 1/2 Cup Plain Yogurt (I used non-fat. If you only have Greek yogurt on hand, fill measuring cup 2/3 full with Greek yogurt, then the remainder milk.)
- 1 & 1/2 Cups Unsweetened Pumpkin Puree
- 1/2 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Shavings
- Pre-heat oven to 375 F and prepare bundt cake mold with a light coating of butter or non-stick spray.
- Add the dry ingredients, flours – ground cloves, in the smaller of the mixing bowls and whisk throughly to incorporate.
- In the larger mixing bowl, add the olive oil and sugars. Mix with the hand-held mixer 2-3 minutes.
- Add the eggs and beat with the hand-held mixer another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the pumpkin and repeat.
- Add the dry ingredients in two – three segments, using the electric mixer to incorporate each time.
- Finally, fold in the chocolate shavings using a large mixing spoon or the spatula and pour the batter into the prepared mold.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with unquestionably baked crumbs (not perfectly clean: it will be dried out by then).
- Let the cake cool at least 15 minutes before tasting, and serve at room temperature.