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Tannie Maria’s Love Advice and Recipe Column: Venus Cake

Sally Andrews, on her bench with a view. Image: Andrea Nixon

Sally Andrew is the author of a series of Tannie Maria murder mysteries set in the Klein Karoo. In this monthly column, Daily Maverick collaborates with the (fictional) Karoo Gazette to share some of Tannie Maria’s stories, letters and recipes.

Dear Tannie Maria,

My boyfriend wants to have sex with me, but I don’t know if I’m ready. I am 17, and I really smaak him. It’s just that emotionally I don’t think I’m ready. But I am scared he will leave me if I don’t.

What should I do?

Janine

Dear Janine,

If he cares about you, he will wait until you are ready. If you care about him, you will move gently in the direction of getting ready. It’s not something you must force yourself to do. Your heart and your body must both be happy.

In the meantime, you can make him the Venus Cake. Made with coffee and peanut butter and melted chocolate. It is very satisfying and will keep him interested for quite a while. If the waiting goes on a long time, let me know and I will think of something else. Though you can’t get much better than this cake.

As I wrote out the recipe, I wondered if a teenager was ready for the responsibility of an out-of-this-world cake. Should I make that same cake for Henk tonight? I hoped we wouldn’t be needing it.

*** 

Venus Cake by Verushka Louw. Image: Sean Brown

VENUS CAKE
(Serves 10-12)

  • 1½ cups freshly brewed, hot, strong coffee
  • 3 cups (380g) all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups white sugar
  • 4 t bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ t salt
  • 1 cup (110g) Dutch cocoa powder
  • 11⁄3 cups sunflower oil
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • Approx. 9 T crunchy peanut butter
  • Approx. 3 T apricot jam
  • Coffee-chocolate icing
  • 1½ t instant coffee granules
  • 180g dark baking chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 60g butter
  • 3 T milk

Topping
1 t instant coffee granules, crushed to a fine powder

Venus cake creators Tova Luck, Sally Andrew and Verushka Louw. Image: Andrea Nixon

***

Get your coffee started. Make it lekker strong. Preheat a convection oven on the fan setting to 180ºC. Grease two 20cm cake tins and line the bottoms with baking paper.

Sift the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cocoa into a large bowl and whisk thoroughly by hand or with an electric mixer. This mixes them together and lets in air.

Gently add the oil, followed by the buttermilk and then the eggs, one at a time, mixing thor­oughly after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Put the hot coffee in a jug and add it to the mixture, pouring it down the side of the bowl.

Divide the batter between the two tins and bake for 20 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 160ºC and bake for a further 25-35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the centre of a cake comes out clean.

Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from the tins, then let the cakes cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, if the tops of the cakes are bumpy and crusty, you can use a bread knife to cut them flat. (It is impor­tant that the cake that will form the bottom layer is flat.)

Spread a generous layer of peanut butter on the bottom cake layer and top it with a comfortable layer of apricot jam. Put the second layer of cake on top.

To make the icing, melt the ingredients – except the teaspoon of crushed coffee – together in a double boiler. (You can also melt them in a mug inside a bowl of boiling water.) Use a fork to mix the ingredients thoroughly.

Allow to cool and thicken, then spread the icing on the top and sides of the cake.

Allow to cool some more (you can even pop the cake in the fridge for a while), then sprinkle over the teaspoon of coffee powder.

Sally with Tova doing Venus Cake experiments. Image: Peter van Straten

Tips

Dutch (or Dutched or Dutch-processed) cocoa is more alkaline than plain (it has a pH of 8; normal cocoa has a pH of 5) and has a different texture and flavour. But if you use plain cocoa the cake is still delicious.

Your dark chocolate should be about 40% cocoa; 70% will be too dry and bitter.

If you like a neat cake, you can cut the upper crust off both layers, then turn the top layer upside down, so it has a very flat top. If you like a pretty cake, garnish with apricot slices or cherries, in the shape of a heart.

For the best texture, it is important to let the cake layers cool completely before icing. I know this is hard to do, because you will be impatient to gobble up this amazing cake. DM/ML

A note from the author, Sally Andrew: One of the reasons I incarnated on this planet was to help create the divine Venus Cake. Verushka Louw and Tova Luck aided me with this task. Tova did at least five experiments in the process of perfecting the cake. While she was baking, she was also creating this song:

Song by Tova Luck. Mias Lots on drums and bass. Benjy de Kock on keys and harmonies. Recorded at Concept Records.

This letter and Tannie Maria’s recipe are an excerpt from Tannie Maria and the Satanic Mechanic. You can buy Sally Andrew’s books here.

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