Long ago in my school girl days we all went on camp at the end of our fourth form year and because our class was big we got to choose which camp we attended. I chose – can you guess? – Chocolate Camp! While others in our class were off abseiling, kayaking, mountain biking, and engaging in general awesomeness, my chocoholic buddies and I went into school each day and delved into all the mysterious wonders the cooking room had to offer. My memories of that far-distant time are faint but there’s something about a pasta making machine (what that had to do with chocolate I have no idea), muffins and, of course, chocolate cake.
This recipe was one we were introduced to during those decadent days and ever since then it has been my failsafe mainstay. It produces a cake which is rich, fluffy, moist, light and delicious. Some of the ingredients aren’t regulars in my pantry so, though I have made it according to the exact instructions, I usually just go the easy route and use what I have on hand. The cake always turns out ah-ma-zing and is a hit with all my tasters. The only problem I’ve ever had with it is when I take it out of the oven too early (patience, patience!), and that dark time when my oven was actually broken without me realising why everything was turning out flat. Fool-proof – I promise. So, chocolate-loving friends: enjoy!
125g butter, softened
1c sugar (the recipe asks for caster sugar, but regular works just fine)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1tsp vanilla essence
1c plain flour
1tsp baking soda
⅓c self-raising flour (I don’t have this so use ⅓c extra plain flour and ⅓tsp baking powder)
½c cocoa powder
1c buttermilk (the recipe says ¾c, but I find it to be fluffier and lighter with 1c – and I just use regular milk. I didn’t notice a major difference when I was using buttermilk and it’s expensive)
1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush a 20cm round cake tin with melted butter or oil and line the base and sides with baking paper. I just use a non-stick spring-form tin, though I do line the bottom of it with baking paper to make removal super easy.
2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This usually takes me 2-3 minutes of beating and it’s worth doing properly to get a delicious cake.
3. Add eggs gradually, beating continuously. I don’t have one of these babies (mixer above) and I hate having extra bowls to clean so I just cheat and crack the eggs into the cream. I then “pre-beat” the eggs while they’re in with the creamed mixture – trying not to get any cream in – then gradually mix more of the butter-sugar cream into it as well. Counterproductive? Probably. But it works for me.
4. Add essence and beat well. I usually just chuck this in the other side of the bowl when I’m adding the eggs and then beat it all together when I’m mixing the eggs in.
5. “Transfer mixture to bowl. Using a metal spoon, fol…” blah blah blah that’s way too much effort and too many dishes. I’ve tried it this way and noticed approximately zero difference in the finished product. Perhaps it’ll work for you and that’s great, but I just keep using the bowl I softened the butter in at the beginning and carry on with the egg beater. I do try to mix as little as possible with the beater though.
6. Put the flours, baking powder/soda, and cocoa into a sieve* and sift about ⅓ of it into the creamed mixture. Mix until just combined. Add about ⅓ of the milk. Mix. Repeat and repeat. Done! Note: There have been times when I just chucked these all in together and it seems to work fine. I’m not really sure why I do it this way other than because that’s what the recipe says to do. I won’t judge you if you choose the quick and easy option.
* I only do this because the cocoa I use, while wonderful, is quite chunky and really does need to be sieved. You can tell it’s really bad because I’m advocating using another utensil-which-needs-to-be-washed. So because I’m using it, I might as well use it as a vessel to contain all the ingredients which are being added together. And because of my abhorrence of superfluous dishes, I don’t sieve the flour mix into any bowl except the one I’m mixing everything together in. What’s the point of using an unnecessary extra bowl when none will do?
7. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake. I’d be cautious of taking it out early – as I said in the introduction, there have been many instances when I thought it needed an extra 10 minutes but the skewer came out clean earlier. I went against my judgement and took it out, ending up with a cake that deflated as it was cooling, or had a dense not-quite-fully-cooked section in the centre. Beware the clean skewer before the timer goes off.
8. Allow to cool in the tin for a bit then turn onto a wire rack until cold. I have ants challenging me for control of my kitchen at the moment so this is how I chose to cool my cake.. covered with a tea towel. In the bedroom. With the door closed. Because: flies.
And enjoy! Sorry about all my random notes. These are sort of for myself for future reference, and sort of for you. You’re welcome to ignore every single one of them and make cake in record time by using the simplest method possible and I’m sure it’ll still be delicious. Go forth and bake!
Oh I just realised I should say that I usually ice this using a thick version of the icing found here, but was going for a different look today. I quite recommend the icing on this cake, it is really rather delicious.