Spark some joy with chocolate cake
Winter can sure put a big ol’ dampener on your mood. Less exposure to sunlight means lower levels of the “happy hormone” serotonin, while the chilly weather and shorter days make it decidedly less appealing to head outside for some mood-boosting exercise or socialising. For those of us stuck in Sydney, grey days combined with an extended lockdown mean that there’s probably a lot of people feeling really flat right now. But weep not, for we have a solution. It’s totally COVID-safe, it’s 100 percent weather-proof and it’s guaranteed to make even Gladys Berejiklian smile… possibly. We’re talking chocolate, people.
If scientific research is anything to go by, it seems that dark chocolate is the way to go if you’re after a happiness hit. One recent UK study found that eating dark chocolate can improve mood and relieve depressive symptoms, while a US study found that dark choc can have positive effects on mood and stress levels. Here in Australia, Swinburne University of Technology researchers found that people who drank a dark chocolate drink every day felt more calm and contented than those who were given a placebo drink.
The reason behind chocolate’s magical mood-lifting powers potentially lies in the compounds it contains, including one called phenylethylamine – a natural antidepressant and one of the chemicals your brain produces when you fall in love. Cocoa is also rich in polyphenols, plant compounds that offer innumerable health benefits, including a positive mood. But it’s also all likely tied to the simple fact that when you eat chocolate, its decadent velvety sweetness releases feel-good endorphins in your brain.
So, are you ready to feel some joy? Just in case you’re really feeling low, we’ve doubled down on the bliss factor by combining mood-boosting dark choc with the other happiest food on Earth: cake. Check out this recipe for black velvet cake from Thomas Schnetzler, Lindt Master Chocolatier, using Lindt Excellence dark chocolate.
Black velvet cake
Recipe by Thomas Schnetzler
For the cake:
240g Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa
230g brown sugar
50g good-quality cocoa powder
220g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
100ml canola oil
200g sour cream
Few drops black food colouring (optional)
For the icing (prepare a day in advance):
100g Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa
100g Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa
For the basting syrup:
100g Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa
100g golden syrup
1. For the icing, bring the cream and buttermilk to the boil. Melt chocolate in a metal or glass bowl over simmering water and pour over cream mix. Blitz until smooth with a stick blender. Allow to rest overnight, covered with cling film, at room temperature.
2. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 170°C. Gently melt the chocolate and butter together and allow to cool. Place sugar into a large bowl and sift in the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and baking soda. Whisk the eggs until light and pale and mix into the dry ingredients. Stir in the cooled chocolate mixture, oil, buttermilk, sour cream and food colouring (if using). Divide mixture into two round greased 18cm cake tins and bake for about 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Set aside to cool.
3. For the basting syrup, combine the chocolate, golden syrup and water in a saucepan and gently heat until just melted. Cut each cake in half horizontally. Baste and add about a quarter of the icing. Repeat with the remaining layers, saving some icing for the outside.
4. To finish, ice the layered cake and generously cover with chocolate shavings.
Pro choc tip: a great way to make chocolate shavings is to slightly warm the back of the chocolate by rubbing it with the palm of your hand and then, using the back of a chef’s knife, scrape off the shavings.