Fanny reckons that she has the home cook completely sussed. She knows how to make them vulnerable. According to Fanny they are already susceptible enough when it comes to chocolate recipes, so her plan is to make them (or hang on a cotton-picking minute, does she mean me?) doubly defenceless. Fanny can always spot a chocolate obsessed home cook you see, they will tend to read, ponder over and generally sort out any other kind of recipe, but give them an absolute dud with chocolate and they will rush to try it. The solution is of course to give them a good one, one of Fanny's! Fanny says there is not one 'woman in a thousand' who will fail to betray her slimming diet with 'just a slice', 'only one' or 'just a very small portion'. No duds here.
I'm not on a slimming diet, but the flavour combination that makes me go weak is chocolate and pistachio. I just love it. Fanny uses pistachios from time to time, but warns that in the 1970's they were hard to find, and way beyond the already stretched purse for many. I'm not tightening any belts just yet though and was thrilled to find the Lindt Pistachio Delight on sale in my local supermarket - I'd previously discovered it in Paris and fell in love... Chocolate with a pistachio filling, what's not to adore? Perfect for a twist on Fanny's Moist Chocolate Cake, non?
Fanny starts this cake by preparing the tin, naturally. She uses a perfectly ordinary 8" Victoria Sponge tin, buttered, lined with a disc of greaseproof paper, buttered again and then floured. It may seem like a faff, but I find it quite therapeutic really and the cakes always pop out well at the other end. This sponge is genoise in style. Fanny says to whisk up whole eggs and an extra yolk, with caster sugar in a bowl over another bowl of boiling water. Not that I want to cheat or anything, but I've seen recently that using a stand mixer on high speed produces the same results, and is less finicky. After all that tin preparation I need a short cut! Poor Sarah, my mixing assistant, makes light work of it, whipping it up until it is thick, risen and pale in colour. Fanny warns that if you cut down on the whipping you will spoil the cake! Thankfully Poor Sarah just keeps going and going.
This sponge only has a small amount of flour, but it needs to be added carefully so as to not take all the air out of the risen mix. Fanny folds hers in with a plastic spatula before adding softened chocolate chips, which I'm swapping for my pistachio chocolate. The mix is really thick and sticky, so takes a fair bit of folding to incorporate the flour and chocolate before pouring into the prepared tin. Fanny bakes hers for the very exact timing of 24 minutes, but I found mine needed much longer - probably another 20 minutes. Maybe it's because I didn't whisk it over the boiling water which presumably would've started the cooking process? Or maybe Fanny made a mistake? Surely not.
Fanny hides the inevitable crusty cracked top of the cake by flipping it over, then covering it with homemade almond paste. To keep with the pistachio theme, I experiment, switching the almonds for pistachios. I whizz up some gorgeously green and purple nuts and blend them with an egg white, orange blossom water, rose water and icing sugar. Just a quick knead and it's ready to roll. Fanny glues hers on with warmed apricot jelly, but I am using some homemade marmalade, which seems to work well. The pistachio paste is a great colour, natural for once, and covers the bouncy chocolate cake well. Fanny makes chocolate shavings to top hers, I chop up some more pistachio chocolate. You can never have too much. I'm ready to be exposed to a slice or two, it tastes nutty, not too sweet and very light. Surely not too calorific, it must be mostly air. I'll leave the small portions for those vulnerable slenderising home cooks, Fanny is training me in her professional ways, which I am taking to mean eat well, eat often, eat lots. That's my kind of diet.