Describe the taste of maple syrup.
Research informed me that it depends on the degree of roasting flavour. Typical notes are coffee, chocolate and chicory, and for the strong roasting flavour, you get hints of burnt sugar and smoke. Whatever the degree, there’s something incredibly enticing about this ingredient in particular. I use it several times a week without fail, almost always on toast and always on the occasional Sunday pancake session, yet it only recently occurred to me how deeply embedded it is in my kitchen system. It sits there day after day, use after use, so giving, so heartwarming. I love maple syrup, and there are few things I like more than chocolate and maple syrup. The sophistication of a rich, dark truffle stuck in honey-coloured, maple-flavoured fluffy cake is a welcome picture.
With so many truffles lying around the house, I thought I might as well put them to good use. The sort I use here are 60% cocoa; your standard, powdered, melt-at-room-temperature truffles. My hands were an absolute mess working with them, but the mess only enhanced the pleasure of the whole process, even as I witnessed some smaller bits melt a little into the batter before anything even hit the heat of the oven.
Your fork dives in. Zero resistance as it goes right through the pale, tender, moist body, and then maybe just a little once you hit a pocket of slightly stiffened chocolate goo. Break the cake apart. It’s a mess of black and white, a welcome juxtaposition of soft, fluffy crumbs and dangerous dark hotpockets. Sin trapped in something all too normal, all done before. No truffles? That’s ok, just use broken up bits of your dark chocolate bar. The effect won’t quite be the same with the whimsical shape irregularities and molten middles, but I would think it would be almost as delicious.
Chocolate Truffle Maple Syrup Cake (makes 16 squares, heavily adapted from my cinnamon coffee cake)
165g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
55g (less than 1/4 cup) white sugar
115g unsalted butter at room temperature (or microwave cold butter in 15-second increments until it’s a little warmer and soft to touch)
120ml (1/2 cup) buttermilk, or make your own by putting half a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar into your measuring cup or jug and filling it up to the mark with whole milk (let this mix sit for 5 minutes at room temperature before using).
1 tsp vanilla extract
100ml (1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon) maple syrup, and more for drizzling
9-11 medium-sized (around 2 inches wide) chocolate truffles, a few broken up into smaller pieces, or if you don’t have truffles, just broken up bits of a good quality dark chocolate bar.
Preheat your oven to 177C (350F), and butter and line an 8×8-inch square baking pan. What I like to do is butter the pan liberally, before placing down a piece of parchment that has 2 sides which are 8 inches, and the other 2 slightly longer so that it’s easy to pull out the bars once cool. Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt) except for the sugar in a medium bowl.
Beat together the butter, maple syrup and sugar in a separate bowl. In a smaller bowl (yes there are 3 bowls here, but the washing up is not much pain, promise), whisk or beat together the egg, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Add half of the dry ingredient mix and half of the egg-buttermilk mix to the butter and maple syrup mix, and then beat to mix. Then add the rest and gently mix everything together, starting with a wooden spoon, and then switching to a rubber spatula to make the job easier.
Into your buttered and lined pan, add half of the batter, which should be smooth and slightly thick, and then dot the batter with chocolate truffles. Add the rest of the batter on top and smooth it out. Bake in the preheated oven for 33-35 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the centre emerges clean. The top should be slightly darker than when you first put it in, and brown around the edges. Enjoy this with vanilla ice cream or whipped and sweetened mascarpone (as in the pictures above) and a drizzle more of pure maple syrup.