An elegant, indulgent way to round off a weekend meal - chocolate and cognac cake.
Chocolate and cognac cake
This cake is so moreish. It's an elegant, indulgent way to finish a great meal. All it needs is a dollop of whipped cream. The quality of the chocolate you use is directly proportional to the quality of the cake. This rule also applies to the cognac. This cake rises like a souffle, since that's really what it is. It will fall and set slowly in the oven as it cools, so don't be tempted to take it out too soon. This cake will last for three days, covered, at room temperature. Don't refrigerate it: it will set like a brick!
good-quality dark chocolate (I use Valrhona 53% cocoa solids) 400g, broken up
free-range eggs 6, separated
caster sugar 150g
good-quality cognac 100ml
thin pouring/whipping cream 300 ml
unsweetened cocoa powder or icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. Cut a piece of baking paper to fit a 20cm round cake tin, with a double layer for the side and a single layer for the base. Spray the tin with cooking oil and fit the paper snugly. Don't use a springform tin - it needs to be solid.
Melt the chocolate in a stainless-steel bowl set over a saucepan of hot water ensuring the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Don't let the water boil, as you can scald the chocolate. Remove chocolate from the heat and return to room temperature.
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and 100g of the caster sugar until pale and creamy. Add the cognac and continue to beat until well combined. Add the chocolate and stir until completely incorporated, then slowly stir in half the cream. Set aside.
Whip the remaining cream until soft peaks form. Set aside. Whisk the egg whites in a very clean bowl until soft peaks form, then slowly add the remaining caster sugar and whisk until very firm. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the egg whites.
Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin, place the tin in a deep roasting tin and add enough hot water to come 2.5cm up the side of the tin. Bake for 45 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 150C/gas mark 2 and bake for another 45 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the cake in the oven for 40 minutes, then remove to a wire rack. Run a knife around the inside edge of the tin and turn it on to a plate or a board - the cake should slide out easily but be extremely careful as the cake is so fragile. Sprinkle with cocoa powder or icing sugar. To slice the cake, use a knife dipped in hot water and clean the knife after each cut. You will only want a slither as it's so rich.
Extracted from Easy Weekends by Neil Perry (Murdoch Books, £20). To order for £14, with free UK p&p, click here
Chocolate and cognac cake. Photograph: Earl Carter/Easy Weekend