I have decided that there is nothing I like better than recreating a favourite dish after a holiday. And when that dish is as interesting as this cake then so much the better.
I left Croatia a couple of weeks ago, having made a new discovery. That discovery was carob. It wasn’t a completely new discovery. When I was in my early teens, my sister made something with carob in. I say something as I have completely forgotten what it was. It could have been a cake, biscuits, whatever, but it’s not important. I asked what carob was and was told it was a substitute for chocolate. Of course, I was imagining some sort of delicious chocolatey dessert and when I tasted it, and it clearly wasn’t chocolate, I was very disappointed, as would any adolescent be. I decided carob was not for me, and I would probably not have tried it again except for that fact that in a lovely Italian restaurant in a suburb of Dubrovnik, I fancied homemade cake for dessert. There were only two types of homemade cakes. As I peered into the glass cabinet trying to work out which to choose, I asked the waiter what the delicious looking chocolate coloured one was. He didn’t know the word for carob in English, but it sounded a bit similar. He showed me a dried pod and told me it grew in Croatia. He had me hooked. A local ingredient, something different. Maybe it was time to try carob again. After all, it looked so good.
When it came, I wasn’t expecting a chocolate cake, and so I wasn’t disappointed. I tasted it to see if I liked it, trying to work out what it tasted of, but I couldn’t really say it tasted like anything else I knew, but it did taste really good. I loved it, but apart from the carob, I couldn’t quite work out what it had in it.
That first night was near the beginning of our holiday, and I kept thinking back to that cake. We ate in lots of places, in the old town of Dubrovnik and near our hotel, but I didn’t have another dessert I liked quite as much, and I was still mulling over what the ingredients were in that carob cake. We decided to go back. Once again we had a lovely meal, with a lovely relaxed atmosphere and at the end of the meal I finished with the carob cake. Just as good as I remembered. But I still couldn’t quite work out what it had in it.
A few days passed, we went home, I looked for carob cake on the internet, but all the cakes seemed to use carob as a substitute for chocolate. I wanted a recipe for a cake that would celebrate carob as an ingredient in its own right. Also, none of the recipes I found sounded quite right. And so, having kept the card, I emailed the restaurant, not even knowing if I would get a response. Then, about 24 hours later, I got a reply. Srdan had very kindly taken the trouble not only to reply but also to translate the basics of the recipe into English. I danced around the living room!
I was a little bit unsure of what was meant by some of the ingredients, but I experimented and followed the basic method. The cake I ended up with didn’t taste exactly the same as in the restaurant, but it was similar. It still had that carob flavour, distinct from chocolate. The texture was also different. Mine was crumblier, not as solid as the restaurant one and the bits of apple were jucier. I also didn’t have any rum so I decided to substitute it with sloe gin. I thought it would go well with the fruitiness of the apple and currants, although my cake guinea pigs said they would like to have it with rum next time. One of my cake guinea pigs thought the apple needed to be cooked more before going in the cake but the other cake guinea pigs liked the little cubes of juicy apple. Overall, there is room for some more experimenting with this cake before I declare it an absolutely final recipe – I would quite happily make it and eat it again as it is but I think I’ll experiment with preparing the apple in different ways. There was also one ingredient that stumped me – flavour. Was it a misspelling of flour? Or was it something else? I could have asked, but I was enjoying the experimental nature of the whole challenge – so I decided to use ground almonds. After all, why not?
If you ever get the chance to go to Dubrovnik, and if your hotel is in Lapad, I would strongly recommend the Konoba Atlantic. There are a lot of hotels in Lapad and a lot of restaurants, many of them on the main pedestrianised road leading to Lapad beach, but this restaurant was a clear step above these. It was on a very quiet residential road, running parallel but behind the main road. Unless you knew it was there, you wouldn’t just wander across it, and because of that the quality and service were of a much higher standard and meant we had a much more enjoyable meal out. Delicious bruschetta, homemade pasta, and of course for me, the star of the meal, the carob cake.
Konoba Atlantic can be found on Kardinala Stepinca 42, Dubrovnik
4 apples, peeled and diced into tiny cubes, about 2mm
100 ml rum, alternative alcohol or fruit juice
100g caster sugar
100g carob powder
60g ground almonds or 100g flour ( as in the real recipe)
120g dark chocolate
How to make Chocolate and Carob Cake
1. Put the currants in a bowl and pour the alcohol on top and leave to stand.
2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whisk till they turn white and begin to form soft peaks.
3. Gradually whist in the sugar, egg yolk, ground almond, oil, milk and carob powder.
4. Mix the apple, currants and alcohol together. Then mix the fruit mixture into the other bowl.
5. Grease the bottom and sides of a springform tin and then add the cake mixture. Bake in the oven at about 180C for 40-45 minutes. Check it is ready with a skewer or cocktail stick.
6. When the cake has cooled, melt the chocolate and spread on the top of the cake.
Update: Srdan has since got back to me and the mystery ingredient, flavor, was actually a typing error for flour. Next time I’ll try it that way and let you know how it turns out. I imagine it will be less crumbly and with a more similar texture to in the restaurant, but the taste should be almost the same.