This apricot, hazelnut, and dark chocolate cake was one of the very first cakes I made for local literary event Short Stories Aloud, which means I must have been making it for a few years now. Which is frightening, because I feel like I only discovered it a couple of months ago. Time seems like it’s rushing by in disconcertingly huge dollops these days.
The joy (well, one of many joys) of Stories Aloud is that if you bring a cake then you get in for free. This almost feels like cheating to me, because I bring cake pretty much everywhere, whether or not it is wanted, so being given entry to an event in return feels pretty jammy, not going to lie. This is typical of the Stories Aloud mentality though. It’s an event quite unlike any other that I’ve attended, full of intelligent, warm, generous, funny people. It helps that it was founded by the wonderful Sarah Franklin, who is a totally top human being. Making cake for them each month has forced me to get my act together and produce something on more than one occasion. Everyone is always unfailingly polite and appreciative of my efforts.
This cake certainly didn’t look quite like this when I first started making it though. I fiddled and embellished and mucked around and was inspired by a Victoria sponge (which was also made for Stories Aloud, funnily enough). Now, suddenly, we’re at this odd hybrid of a cake. It’s studded with rich dark chocolate and sharp, fresh apricots, and stuffed with toasty chunks of hazelnut to give it a bit of satisfying crunch. We’re in apricot season round these parts and my are they glorious. Apricots are one of my favourite fruits when you catch them at their best.
This cake is simple enough to whip up with relative ease, but probably pretty enough for a birthday or a special gathering if you cover it in a loads of miscellaneous bits and pieces, like I did. It is robust, and keeps well, and is unusual enough to be a nice change from a standard recipe, if you’re into that sort of thing.
In short, I would thoroughly recommend it.
Adapted from the chocolate, pistachio, and apricot cake in Anne Shooter’s excellent Sesame & Spice.
Obviously I have covered this cake in all manner of stuff, because I am in the habit of gilding the lily. Here, the cake is topped with buttercream, raspberries, apricot slices, pomegranate seeds, chopped hazelnuts, and edible flowers. Related: they have started selling edible flowers in Sainsbury’s! I am overjoyed about this. If I need a large or specialist order of edible blooms then I buy from Maddocks Farm Organics, but only for special occasions. Since I don’t have a garden and can’t grow anything myself, I am very pleased that I can get edible flowers cheaply and easily at Sainsbury’s for more casual cake-decorating needs.
Anyway, do of course feel free to skip all this rubbish and simply leave the top of the cake plain, or dust it with some icing sugar. It will still be delicious. I’m just a crazy person.
200g dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)
100g whole blanched and toasted hazelnuts (or take the skins off yourself, if you prefer, but who has time for that really?)
150g softened butter
150g golden caster sugar
around 10-15 cardamom pods
150g plain flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
5 ripe apricots, stoned and diced
for the filling
100g softened butter
250g icing sugar
1/2 jar of apricot jam
- Heat your oven to 180C/160C fan/ gas 4. Grease and line two 18cm (or thereabouts) cake tins. Either blitz your chocolate and nuts in a food processor until they are rubble, or chop them together fairly finely.
- I do this next stage in a Kitchen Aid, but it would be fine with a hand whisk or simply a wooden spoon if you prefer. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Crack open your cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar, then remove the seeds and grind them until fairly fine. Beat the cardamom into butter and sugar. Beat your eggs together then add them gradually to the butter and sugar mix, beating all the while. Finally, beat in your flour, salt, and baking powder, then fold in your diced apricots, chocolate, and nuts.
- Divide the mixture as evenly as you can between your two tins, then bake for 30-35 minutes, or until firm and passing the skewer test. Let your cakes cool completely while you make your filling.
- For the filling, beat the butter until very soft, then gradually beat in the icing sugar until you have a smooth, fluffy buttercream. Beat in 2 tbsp of the apricot jam (or more, to taste). When your cakes are totally cold, cover one with remaining apricot jam, then either pipe buttercream on top of the jam or simply spread it onto the other cake and sandwich them together. Leave plain, or decorate however you like with fruits and nuts.