Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chocolate Pisco Cake (otherwise known as heaven on a plate)

If somebody told me they were going to Iquitos (a Peruvian city planted smack bang in the Amazon, only accessible by boat or plane) the one piece of advice I'd have for them would be to go to the Dawn on the Amazon cafe and try the Chocolate Pisco cake. I did. Twice. Biting into that slice of heavenly goodness and taking a sip from an ice cold glass of sauvignon blanc is a food memory that will never leave me. Thinking about it puts me back in that moment, sitting in a comfy chair on the malecon watching tourists amble past, hawkers trying to flog off cigarettes,t-shirts or tours, a couple of ladies across the street selling juanes and coconuts and hippies sitting next to their pop up jewellery stands. I can hear the roar of mototaxis (tuk tuks) going past the square and the heat hangs heavily on me, my skin glistening with a constant layer of sweat. I'd spent 4 nights sleeping in a hammock on a rust bucket of a ferry to get here. Spent another couple of days exploring the faded grandeur of this city and the nearby zoos and butterfly farms (even being groomed by monkeys) and had sat on a white sand beach in the middle of the river chatting to the local kids.

Then I'd ventured out into the jungle for a 4 day tour with a lovely Slovenian girl and a rather creepy, dolphin-obsessed (and not in a oh dolphins are so cute way but dolphins as sexual objects way) guide, caught a piranha and eaten it, had a shaman blowing smoke and chanting over me to cure my vomiting bug, and held a pet sloth who was so lazy he didn't seem to notice he had huge lice-like creatures swarming over him. I had sweated profusely non-stop for at least a week in the opressive humitity and drunken so much juice (the choice of tropical fruits!) to counteract that that a child hawker knew me as the lady who really, really loves juice.

Iquitos was an absolutely magical place. And the bite I took of that straight-from-the-refrigerator Chocolate Pisco cake washed down with an actually cold glass of wine was beyond magical. It is one of my top food memories in a trip full of 'em. It's definately right up there with the first bite of a steak fresh off the barbie in Uruguay, sinking my teeth into a trout empanada to die for in Bariloche, the faina (chickpea bread) on top of a simple margerita pizza in La Boca, or a sip of Torrontes from Vistandes vineyard in Mendoza.
Since then, I've wanted to replicate it but couldn't find a recipe for Chocolate pisco cake anywhere online. How could this be?

So I've used my favourite chocolate cake recipe gleaned from my mother who in turn gleaned it from some unknown (to me) source. Instead of 1 cup of hot coffee I used 3/4 cup coffee and 1/4 of pisco (Peruvian/Chilean white wine brandy) - possibly it doesn't taste quite pisco-y enough, but still a worthy first attempt.

Here's the recipe.
In a food processor combine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk or plain yoghurt
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 200g softened butter
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups self-raising flour
  • 3/4 cup boiling hot coffee
  • 1/4 cup pisco

Cook for 1 hour in a 160 degree oven, although mine is taking longer than that - possibly due to the pisco?
I also had enough mixture for 6 cupcakes made from the mixture. 3 of which I totally have not eaten while writing this post :-)

 Just for fun, here's a couple of other pics of food in Iquitos. Peru really is foodie heaven.

Dinner in the jungle
Palmito salad hit the spot after 4 days of chicken/fish, rice and banana 3x a day

Caiman (alligator) in garlic sauce. Note the huge jug of juice

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