I love a challenge………….. especially a foodie one. Last week I was developing yeast-dairy-gluten-free bread rolls for a friend of mine…………… This week it is baking an ‘inexpensive’………. no………. ‘really cheap’, tasty chocolate cake.
The very talented Choclette over at the Chocolate Log Blog has set us a special chocolatey challenge for May’s We Should Cocoa, to tie in with this month’s Live Below The Line campaign. The campaign invites us all to consider the reality for the 1.2 billion people who live in extreme poverty, day after day around the world and to raise funds to support the crucial initiatives fighting to change this.
Choclette has included her own little twist and is challenging us to try and make a chocolate cake for £1 or less…… Yes…. really! I honestly think this is one of the hardest challenges…….. not because it can’t be done, but because chocolate cakes are extravagant, sumptuous, decadent mouthfuls of spongy, rich deliciousness. That doesn’t fit nicely with ‘really cheap’.
There is a little bit of me that feels a bit uncomfortable about indulging in cake however cheap it is, when so many people are starving, but as with most of the population of this country, I generally push my discomfort into the background and get on with consumption, because I am fortunate enough to be able to do so………..
It is only when you physically opt into this challenge that you realise just how difficult it is. Okay………. I know it is still a far cry from the experience of people who don’t give a monkeys about cake because they are too busy trying to find enough food to survive, but in the UK, the cost of sugar, butter and eggs have spiralled up and up over the last few years. If you have the mis-fortune to also be gluten free, flour costs over-the-odds too. Looking at the posts from others entering this challenge I was quite shocked to see that 7 pence buys me about 25g of gluten free flour compared to the 220g achieved in the gluten-eating world!
So how do you make a light, fluffy, chocolatey gluten free cake with a good depth of flavour for £1?
I considered a flourless cake (on account of the expense of gluten free flours) but the cost of eggs and the corresponding amount of chocolate required meant that the cake would have been either very expensive or very tiny.
I also considered a simple chocolate swiss roll, but the filling, whichever way I looked at it would be a measly, paper-thin spread.
In the end, I decided to seek out cheap ingredients. I figured that’s what I would be doing if I wasn’t fortunate enough to live in a household with a decent income. If I really wanted to check out reality in the UK, then sourcing inexpensive produce was the answer.
‘Cheap’ doesn’t automatically mean ‘lacking quality’ however………… I was amazed at just how cheaply you can pick up a bag of caster sugar (99p per Kg at Aldi), or a bar of chocolate (most of the large supermarkets do a perfectly good (for cake) 100g bar at just 30p). Even eggs with consideration for the welfare of chickens to a reasonable degree can be sourced from Sainsbury at the equivalent of 12.8p per egg. Okay………… I would normally go completely free-range and know as far as I can where my eggs have come from, but some compromises have to be made on a tight budget and Barn Eggs were acceptable within my conscience.
I could have brought the price down further if I had substituted the butter for olive or vegetable oil, but I really wanted to try and keep a little bit of luxury in there and with a bit of savvy, managed to source from Sainsbury’s Basics range at 98 pence for 250g.
We weren’t asked to factor-in the cost of fuelling either the oven to bake the cake or the petrol to get to the supermarket, which would have added a fair few pennies. However, being gluten free, we have to visit most major supermarkets in a month anyway as not one of them stocks everything we want or need. So at least I can be certain that I probably would have been making several trips anyway.
Surprisingly, this cake is pretty good for the money. I added a bit of ginger to give it an extra flavour punch and carefully costed for a little extra drizzle of chocolate and sprinkle of icing sugar at the end (well, a cake needs to be pretty doesn’t it?). Actually, this is where I really noticed the lesser quality of the chocolate….. Would it drizzle without ending up in big clumps? Not on your nelly!
Nonetheless, this cake tastes chocolatey, has a moist texture and is beautifully airy. And I have to say there is serious satisfaction knowing that each slice costs only 10 to 12 pence. Shame the calories don’t shrink as much!
So there you have it………… a gluten free Chocolate-Ginger Loaf Cake for an incredible, amazing, only 97 pence!
Chocolate-Ginger Loaf Cake (gluten free) – challenge for less than £1
25g dark chocolate (value/basics) = 7.5p
sprinkle icing sugar – less than 1g (negligible)
Total Cost = 97 pence
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
- Base line a non-stick 2 lb/900g loaf tin.
- Melt the chocolate with the butter in a small bowl either over a saucepan of steaming water or in the microwave on short bursts, stirring frequently. Set aside
- Separate the eggs and put the whites in a medium sized bowl. Set aside
- In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick.
- Add the chocolate mix and beat again.
- Add the flour, baking powder and ginger and stir thoroughly until well combined.
- Whisk the egg whites until stiff and then fold into the rest of the mixture until evenly mixed.
- Spoon the batter into the loaf tin and spread evenly.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Remove from the tin and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Once cool, sprinkle the cake with a fine covering of icing sugar. Melt the remaining chocolate in a small bowl either in the microwave or over steaming water as before and drizzle over the cake.