Do you have an old faithful recipe? Something you know is guaranteed to work out, a crowd pleaser that always gets you compliments?
Tonight I have a dinner with friends and have been charged with bringing dessert. The added complication was that there is no time to prepare something after work today and due to the busy nature of the week I had to be able to make it a few days in advance which ruled out lots of my recipes with fresh pastry or fruit.
After a bit of serious thinking I suddenly thought of my old faithful Tia Maria cake. It looks impressive, is rich and decadent and best of all, actually improves after sitting quietly in the fridge for a couple of days.
I haven't made it in ages, goodness knows why because everyone loves it. It has such a reputation that recently I ran into someone I went to high school with (now a considerably long time ago) and she asked if we still make it because she remembers it so fondly. There are lots of funny stories associated with it. Like the time a half eaten one slid off the box it was resting on, crashing into me bending below it, depositing the cream onto my lap but managing to stay on the plate so that we could finish eating it. Or serving it to my teenage friends who got "drunk" from the tiny bit of alcohol in it. Or making an orange flavoured version of it in my friend's tiny kitchen for their housewarming. So many memories.
So it is sitting in the fridge ready to go and tonight it will make its triumphant (I hope) return. Here is the recipe, I think it was from a Family Circle or Women's Weekly cookbook originally.
Fudge-mint Torte (also known as the Tia Maria cake)
300g (10oz) cooking chocolate, chopped
250g (8oz) butter chopped
1 ½ cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 ½ cups sifted plain flour
2 cups thickened cream
¼ cup green Crème-de-Menthe liqueur (or Tia Maria, or any other flavoured spirit you like)
2 tablespoons icing sugar
grated chocolate to decorate.
Grease two 23cm (11”) round cake tines, line bottoms with greaseproof paper, then grease paper lightly.
In a small saucepan, combine chocolate and butter. Stir over very low heat just until melted and combined. Remove form heat.
Transfer chocolate mixture to large mixing bowl; beat in the brown sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined, then beat in flour until well blended. Divide batter equally into tins.
Bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes.
In a medium bowl, beat together cream, liqueur and icing sugar until very stiff. Stack and fill cake layers on serving plate. Decorate with grated chocolate. Refrigerate until required.
Note: You can use any liqueur in it. While the original recipe specified Creme-de-Menthe, we have never made that version, we usually use Tia Maria. I've also used cointreau for a choc-orange version which was delicious and equally think Frangellico for hazelnut would be great but you can really choose any flavour you like.
Make sure you have a long knife or something to smooth the top because it looks really professional like something you get in a cake shop all smoothed. The cakes are quite thin, so be careful when getting them from tin to plate, but don't be fooled and serve large slices, it is extremely rich.
It is definitely better after being left in the fridge for 24 hours as the cake absorbs some of the moisture from the cream and goes deliciously fudgy as well as it all sticking together better.