Annie Bell's Chocolate Chequer Cake

Part pudding, part playtime...


Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas 4. Butter a 22cm square cake tin (or a brownie tin), line the base with baking paper and butter this too.

To make the cake, first grind the hazelnuts as finely as possible. This is easiest in an electric coffee grinder (if you use a food processor please be careful not to turn them into a paste).

Separate the eggs. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until stiff. Whisk the yolks and sugar in another large bowl until creamy and blended. Fold the egg whites into the yolk and sugar mixture in two goes, then fold in the ground hazelnuts, again half at a time, and finally sift in the baking powder.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, give it a tap to bring up any large bubbles and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and springy in the middle and shrinking from the sides.

Run a knife around the edge, leave to cool for 5 minutes and then turn out by placing a wire rack on top of the cake and inverting the tin. Leave to cool base upwards with the paper on.

To make the filling, break up the chocolate and gently melt in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water, then leave to cool to room temperature.

Bring the butter up to room temperature then whisk in a bowl for several minutes using a handheld electric whisk until moussey and almost white.

Whisk the custard into the butter a couple of tbsp at a time, whisking well with each addition. Don’t worry if the mixture looks grainy at this point. Whisk in the melted chocolate: you should have a smooth, light moussey cream.

To assemble, peel the paper off the cake and place it base up on a serving plate or board. Spread the chocolate cream over the top and sides using a palette knife.

Arrange the chocolate squares in a chequerboard pattern on top, leaving a little space between them. (It’s a good idea to line them up beside the cake to work out the spacing before actually laying them in place.) Any squares left over can be placed along the sides, if you like. Cover and chill for several hours.

The cake should keep well for a day or two, remove it from the fridge 15-30 minutes before serving.

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