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Heartache Chocolate Cake + Giveaway

by Kristina Gill

I started thinking about what my last recipe post would be in January when Grace told the team that Design*Sponge would be closing this summer. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted it to be representative of the work we do on the site, my most used recipe from the archives (Lena Corwin’s Pumpkin Bread, btw), or something personal…

Twelve years ago, Grace entrusted me with the In the Kitchen With column that I pitched to her. She gave me carte blanche to do what I wanted with it. The landscape of blogs was very different then. There were behemoths and there was Design*Sponge, run by one person. With each State of the Blog Union and significant external “shock,” I asked Grace about her business decisions. Her answers always started with her integrity and her readers. She would compromise neither in order to cover expenses. Her vision and ironclad character, her ability to apologize when wrong, to learn and grow in the face of adversity, to take care of her team and to be out there defending us (every day) are most of the reasons I knew I would stay until the end. The rest was about the friendships. Not just my friendship with Grace which predated the column, but with our team and the people featured in the column over the years who made it also a joy to edit.

We transformed In the Kitchen With from being a column focused on very personal, mostly carb-focused, recipes from our favorite indie designers to diverse recipes from everyone who pitched good food. I’ve eaten our featured recipes at home and served them at parties. Some of the people we’ve featured have moved from e-life to real life and have become my family. It’s always hard to name names because you don’t want to leave anyone out, but I can say that I’ve had turning points in my life thanks to Matt Armendariz, Nicole Taylor, Bryant Terry, Matt Lewis. My life is much richer for the time I’ve spent with Klancy Miller, Katie Quinn, Leela Cyd, Yossy Arefi, Anissa Helou, Y. Lee, Kerrin Rousset, Felicity Cloake, Gaby Dalkin, Shannon MustipherPrairie Rose, Emily Arden Wells. I can feel the smiles even over the long distances when I exchange messages with Vallery Lomas,  Jocelyn Delk Adams, Cheryl Day, Yvette van Boven, Aran Goyoaga, and Julia Turshen, whose first recipe idea for the column I didn’t accept!! (But things turned out for the best in the end and hopefully she doesn’t even remember!) Actually, the list is 12 years long of special, indelible memories. I cherish and am grateful daily for what being a part of the Design*Sponge team has brought me, and when all of us editors showed up one by one for our farewell retreat, made the road trip from Brooklyn to Terrain in Philadelphia and back, and spent the weekend together, I felt like I was with family. And though it was sad for me to realize it was ending, I’ve learned over the years to be happy I had the good times and great memories rather than pining for them to continue.

So I decided on a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache by British chef and cookbook author, Harry Eastwood. Harry’s recipe for Heartache Chocolate Cake is how I have decided to end the column because I think Harry’s eloquent description of the cake is how my heart feels as I write this. Thanks to everyone who has followed over the years, who has pitched a recipe, who has helped get images and text to me for a recipe, who has reached out just to say they love the column, who has let me know they follow my work, and even those three cranky people who let me hear about it when I didn’t cross my t’s and dot all my i’s on their posts, I remember you all and it has been a pleasure. —@KristinaGillFood

Harry Eastwood is an international television host, New York Times best-selling author and culinary master. She first co-presented a popular prime-time television series, Cook Yourself Thin in 2007 and co-authored a book of the same title which debuted number one on the New York Times Bestseller List. Since her first cookbook in 2007, she has authored numerous best-sellers including Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache, The Skinny French KitchenA Salad For All Seasons and her most recent, Carneval.  Find Harry on Instagram at @harryeatsfood.

For a chance to win a copy of Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache, respond in the comments section below by August 29, 5PM EST to the following question: What recipe have you tried from our archives/what is your favorite recipe from our archivesWe will announce the winner in the comments section, so be sure to check back!

Image above: Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache; Food photography by Jean Cazals

Image above: Harry Eastwood, portrait by Laura Edwards

Image above: Heartache Chocolate Cake

Heartache Chocolate Cake

THIS CAKE IS SAD. It’s dark and drizzling down the window panes. She puffs her chest in hope when she goes into the oven; she then breaks, like a chest heaving a sob. This is why Aubergine (the Eeyore of the vegetable world) is the right kind of friend to hold your hand.


  • 2 small whole aubergines (weighing roughly 400g/14 oz)
  • 300g (10.5 ounces) best dark chocolate you can find (minimum 70% cocoa solids essential), broken into squares
  • 50g ( 1/2 cup) good-quality cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
  • 60g (2 ounces) ground almonds
  • 3 medium free-range eggs
  • 200g (2/3 cup) clear honey
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1⁄4 tsp salt (or some tears, if you have them in the kitchen)
  • 1 tbsp brandy (for moral support)



You will need:

– a 23cm-diameter x 7cm-deep (9×3 inch) loose-bottomed tin
– a skewer
– a microwave
– a blender

Make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Line the tin with baking parchment and lightly brush the base and sides with a little oil.

Cook the aubergines by puncturing their skins erratically here and there with a skewer, then placing them in a bowl covered with cling film. Microwave on high for 8 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and limp. Discard any water at the bottom. Leave the aubergines to stand in the bowl until they are cool enough to handle.

Next, skin (I find that the tip of a knife does the job) and purée the aubergines in the blender. Once the warm aubergine is puréed and smooth, add the chocolate, which will mingle and melt slowly. Set aside, covered once again in cling film, until all the chocolate has melted.

In a large bowl, whisk up all the other ingredients for a minute until well introduced to each other and slightly tipsy (bubbly). Fold the melted chocolate and aubergine mixture into the bowl with all the other ingredients. Don’t be afraid of being a little brutal with the spatula – they will get on and fuse.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and place it in the bottom of the oven for 30 minutes, by which time your kitchen will just sing with the smell of hot chocolate.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in its tin for 15 minutes before turning it out on to a wire rack and peeling off the parchment. Quickly turn it the right way up again and sit it on a plate to avoid any scars from the rack.

Sieve a little cocoa powder over the top of the cake before cutting yourself a slice and letting the medicine work its magic.


– If you don’t have a microwave, peel and cube the aubergines and cook them with a tiny splash of water on top of the hob until they are soft and squidgy, taking great care neither to burn them nor to drown them with too much water. Discard the water before blitzing.

– Make sure that the aubergine has definitely melted the chocolate – this is not an instance where chunks of chocolate are wanted, I’m afraid. If the aubergine is too cool, simply blitz it in the microwave for another 2 minutes before adding the chocolate chunks.

– Be very careful to unmould the cake when it is cool rather than warm – it is terribly delicate (just as you are) and could smash easily. A little time to cool down helps make it more robust.

– On particularly sad days, this cake will crack on the surface when it’s cooking. Don’t be upset by this – it’s just the heart of the cake breaking too and trying to make you feel less alone.

Recipe taken from Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood, published by Bantam Press (2009). Reprinted with permission from Penguin Random House.


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  • I love this blog, and I love the recipe posts! I’ve tried so many delicious recipes from Design*Sponge, but the one I’ve come back to again and again is from 2012: Autumn Grilled Cheese 3 Ways (/2012/09/small-measures-autumn-grilled-cheese-3-ways.html). I love how it’s simple and familiar, yet still feels special. I’ve made it for kids, for my parents, and for visiting friends. People love the ability to customize and tailor to their own tastes, plus the simplicity means more time to enjoy the experience of creating something together. On top of that, it’s delicious! Thanks for years of style and deliciousness, and I wish each of you at Design*Sponge a wonderful, rewarding future.

  • My heart squeezed reading this. A week left…what a joy and gift it has been to be a reader.

  • I am so sad you’re leaving but also very envious of you as I could not leave my present job due to what I do !! I love the white chocolate cheesecake that’s been my go too !!!

  • I like making the spiced milk tea on cold days when I crave something comforting and warm!

  • This recipe sounds amazing and I hope to try it this weekend!
    I’ve made several of the recipes on the site over the years, but my favorite recipe, the one I’ve made over and over, is sabra krock’s Apricot Tea Cakes. They are so lovely and delicious!

  • Thank you. I love that this recipe says this: ‘1⁄4 tsp salt (or some tears, if you have them in the kitchen)’

  • there is an apple pie filled with onions and cheeses somewhere in your archives that is just the best thing ever come fall… since i always had a hard time finding it each year the apples on my tree get ready i wrote it down and it´s one of my favorite recipies ever. AND it uses up a lot of apples!

  • It’s been such a joy to read your blog all these years. I may not own a chic loft or have au courant style but I could work a little magic in the kitchen. My most utilized recipe Anne Baer’s whiskey cider. It is the cashmere throw of drinks. And with that said, I raise a final toast to a blog well written and loved.

  • Hi,
    I really liked this: Mussakhan / Roast Chicken with Sumac and Red Onions

    I even bought the book Zaitoun… It’s such a beauty!
    Thank you so much for discovering me this great woman!

    And thank you for all these years of blogging… I’ll miss you all ❤️

  • You will be very missed in this kitchen! The Tandori Spiced Cauliflower from Anjum Anand and the Quinoa and Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers are go-to’s on my pin board. Thank you for introducing us all to delicious food and its beautiful creators.

  • I love the recipe for Cenk Sönmezsoy’s Devil’s Food Cake. It’s the best chocolate cake.

  • Am about to run out to buy some dark chocolate squares to make this. The raspberry rose water cheesecake that you featured a few years ago has become a regular go to when I want to impress… Or just to eat on my own.

  • I’ve tried a lot of random recipes from here and mostly loved them all but the chocolate mint patties recipe is one I’ve used over and over for kid treats and gifts. The food and drink section provided so many different ideas to try and I appreciated the exposure to new blogs. Thank you.

  • I love the way you describe things!! I can’t wait to try this cake but I have to do it when my husband isn’t here. If he sees an eggplant ( aubergine) he would not even try it!! What he doesn’t know……!,

  • This cake looks amazing. I can’t wait to try it. I’m so sad that the blog is ending but am excited for the future and whatever you have planned. Thanks for the eye candy and much, much more. ❤️

  • Eager to try this recipe, but back when I was tasked with the job of making a birthday cake for my brother, I found the Citrus Lover’s Sheet Cake from Quin Liburd, which was perfect for that lemon cake lover. Thank you!

  • Pecan caramel tart that you posted in the round up of most popular recipes. I couldn’t get the caramel to set right, but it was still delicious

  • Ugh this is so bittersweet to see this end! My favorite that I’ve tried were Julia’s meatballs from her Healthy Lunch series!

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  • Thank you for all the recipes and writing over the years!

    My favorite recipe I’ve tried from this column is definitely Matt Armendariz’s gorgeous and delicious Sauteed Beet Greens with Sundried Tomatoes and Pancetta. It was one of my first pins on Pinterest, and I make it regularly. It’s comforting and tasty and uses something I’d never even thought to cook with before… beet greens. (Now I buy beets MOSTLY for the greens and try to figure out what to do with the beets!)

  • SORRY everyone I was so sad about closing I forgot that we needed to pick a winner– Gloria, you have won the copy and I hope the book brings you as much happiness as the beet relish! -Kristina