CHOCOLATE! Yes, I thought that would get your attention.

This week it’s all about the luxurious, sensual delights of the humble cocoa bean.

What an amazing thing chocolate is, when you start to think about it. It has a completely unique taste, and a completely unique texture. It’s solid, yet melts at the faintest whisper of heat. But, magically, it doesn’t melt quickly away into nothing. Instead, it relaxes and oozes its way across the palate.

It’s like lowering yourself into a warm, bubble-filled bath. And if it’s good chocolate, it lasts. It lingers, it coats. Lovely stuff. Or, almost all of it is.

There’s a lot of hyperbole when it comes to chocolate. We see it all over the TV and in the supermarkets. Everything has to be the darkest, the richest, the ultimate.

Sadly, most of what is billed as ‘Death By Chocolate’ should really read ‘Death OF Chocolate’. Pale-flavoured cakes covered with lumpy, insipid icing or nasty, grainy chocolate which tastes greasy or powdery. It’s so very important that we choose the right chocolate for cooking with, just as much as we carefully select the chocolate we eat.

For a start, let’s kick the Cadbury’s into touch. This is most definitely not a cooking chocolate. I like a Crunchie as much as the next man, and a bar of Fruit & Nut sparks a Proustian rush; childhood memories of long drives out to Robin Hood’s Bay, sharing a purple-paper-wrapped bar with Mum and Dad, savouring the crunch of the nuts and the sweet, melting chocolate. But it’s in chocolate bars that Cadbury’s belongs, not our bain-marie, for we are after something with a little more pedigree. We can forget cooking chocolate too. That’s something that belongs back in the 70s. I’m not even sure if one can find it these days! No, what we’re after is good artisan chocolate, and it shouldn’t be hard to find.

The shelves wobble under the weight of fine chocolate products these days, so we really have no excuse. Close to home, we have Thornton’s and Hotel Chocolat, both producing good chocolate of all shades and strengths. Green & Blacks make truly excellent cooking chocolate – their milk chocolate bar is especially brilliant, being a touch darker than most.

In London, Artisan du Chocolat and The Chocolate Society are really at the forefront of great chocolaterie – single estate bars, bespoke blends, FairTrade of course, and all with incredible, complex flavours. Don’t leave it too long to try an Artisan du Chocolat salted caramel – they are mindblowing.

From Europe we have the traditional big hitters, such as Italy’s Amadei, Germany’s Schokinag, Spain’s Chocovic, and from France we get Callebaut and the world-famous Valrhona, the Ferrari of the chocolate world, with prices to match! All the aforementioned companies all make chocolate worthy of cooking with, as well as nibbling and savouring.

According to Chantal Coady of the Chocolate Society, there is a definite art to appreciating proper chocolate. We should take only small bites, and allow them to melt completely on the tongue before enjoying the full flavours. All I can say is she’s got a much stronger will than I have!

So this week, to showcase the brilliance of really good chocolate, we’re going to make one of my favourite cakes, a rich, squidgy, split-level torte. It’s a brilliant dessert – perfect served in thin slices with a good dollop of ice-cold half-whipped cream.

This is one you’ll be making again and again. Aprons on!

For the torte:

240g unsalted butter cut into cubes

240g really good dark chocolate cut into small pieces

120g really good milk chocolate cut into small pieces

290g unrefined light muscovado sugar

4 tablespoons water

5 large fresh free-range eggs, separated

Maldon salt


An 8-inch cake tin, ideally non-stick and with a removable base

Whipping cream, to serve

Good quality cocoa for dusting


Preheat the oven to 170°C / Gas 3.

If it’s not non-stick, grease the cake tin with a little butter, and line the base and sides with baking parchment.

Put the butter and both chocolates in a very large metal or glass bowl.

Heat the muscovado sugar and water in a small saucepan until completely dissolved, then bring it to the boil over a medium heat.

Pour the boiling syrup over the butter and chocolate and whisk until the whole mixture is smooth.

Allow to cool a little. Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time.

Put the egg whites and a pinch of salt in a large bowl and whisk to a firm peak.

Using a rubber spatula or a large metal spoon, gently fold the egg white into the chocolate mixture a third at a time, making sure the mixture is incorporated completely each time.

Pour about two-thirds of the mixture into the prepared cake tin and smooth out by shaking gently or with a small palette knife.

Leave the rest of the batter at room temperature for later.

Place the cake in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out almost clean.

Leave the cake to cool completely. Then, pour the rest of the mixture on top and level the surface again.

Return to the oven and bake for a further 20 to 25 minutes.

Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin.

When the cake is cold, dust generously with cocoa powder and serve.

The cake will keep for 4-5 days, but I can pretty much guarantee that it won’t hang around that long.