Pressed chocolate cake

This classic River Cafe chocolate cake is fun to make, and delicious to eat

Young home cooks, as well as those young at heart, will love making this pressed chocolate cake

Most of us don’t look over the River Cafe’s menu and think, ‘I could do that’. This beloved London restaurant was founded by Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray in 1987, and has helped introduce generations of Brits to sophisticated, yet informal Italian cuisine, not only through the kitchen at Thames Wharf in West London, but also via the many famous chefs who’ve worked there, including including Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to name just two.

Nevertheless, our new title, The River Cafe Look Book, shows readers just how straightforward and achievable many of the restaurant’s dishes really are. Subtitled Recipes for Kids Of All Ages, this book sets out to educate both adult and child home cooks, with recipes as well suited to children as they are to grown-up beginners.

The title is also filled with crisp images of the featured dishes, alongside bright, surprising, inspirational imagery by the London photographer Matthew Donaldson. These incidental photos aren’t just beautiful. They are, as the authors Ruth Rogers, and the River Cafe’s current co-head chefs Sian Wyn Owen and Joseph Trivelli, put it, “images which speak to the recipes, whether in shape, colour or texture.”

Indeed, next to the book’s photograph of a Pressed Chocolate Cake readers will see an image of a hand, stained with some kind of chocolatey dye, offering some insight into the key to this dish.

“It sounds eccentric, but pressing the cake down is what makes this cake special,” explain the chefs, adding that the dish is. "delicious with vanilla ice cream.”

To make it you’ll need 300g (2 ½ sticks plus 1 tablespoon/generous 1 ¼ cups) of butter, plus extra for greasing; some plain (all-purpose) flour, for dusting; 400g (14 oz) of chocolate; 80g (⅔ cup) of cocoa powder, sifted; 10 medium (large) eggs, separated; 225g (1 cup plus 1 ½ tablespoons) of caster (superfine) sugar (divided).

First preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 (350°F). Then butter and flour a 30-cm (12-inch) round cake tin (pan), about 7.5cm (3 inches) deep. Bring a saucepan filled halfway with water to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Set a heatproof bowl over the saucepan; the water should not touch the bowl. Add the butter, chocolate and cocoa to the bowl and mix until melted. Carefully place the bowl on the work counter and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with half the sugar until pale and thick. Stir this gently into the cooled chocolate mixture with a metal spoon. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites with the other half of the sugar until they form soft peaks. One-third at a time, fold the egg whites gently into the chocolate mixture with the spoon.

This classic River Cafe chocolate cake is fun to make, and delicious to eat

The River Cafe Look Book

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes until the cake has risen. Carefully remove from the oven. Immediately top with a square of baking (parchment) paper and a plate that fits 1 cm (½ inch) inside the rim. Press down firmly, then put a weight on top to squash the cake a little. Allow the cake to cool fully before turning it out.

For more tasty recipes like this one order a copy of The River Cafe Look Book here.