Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mrs Cake's ultimate easy crowd-pleasing chocolate cake

This is like the little black dress of recipes. I know it off by heart and it's such a great basic chocolate cake. It's no chocolate nemesis torte, but it works consistently and is easy and inexpensive to make.

All dressed up for my sister's 21st

It's ideal for parties, because you can dress it up as much as you like and you can easily double the recipe and feed screeds of people. It was the staple birthday cake in our house growing up (I believe 21 years ago today it became a Bananas in Pajamas cake for my sister - happy birthday Cathie!) and despite being fed to hordes of sugar-hungry kids at parties or our enormous extended family at Sunday Tea there would always be leftovers for the next day.

In fact, there's a fair bit of photographic evidence of this cake in my life - because in the olden days before digital cameras people usually only got the camera out for milestones, like, say birthdays. Oh look, cake! The photos above show my christening, 1st birthday and 4th birthday (I guess the party wasn't rocking enough for our liking?).

The recipe has three stages - creaming the butter and sugar, which is a technique I'll cover in more detail later in the week, is the first. I recommend using a bowl with a shield if you have one, or if not use the biggest bowl you have!

Then the dry ingredients get added, and then the milk and baking soda get warmed to activate the raising agent and beaten in to the mix. Easy!

It makes a pretty runny batter but cooks up beautifully... Although I *may* have gotten slightly distracted in the last five minutes of cooking so this is slightly more cooked than I'd like.

Usually I trim the top to flatten it out, which has the added bonus of being able to taste-test (especially good if you're, say, giving it to your neighbour to thank them for helping sort out a flat car battery and want to make sure it tastes good, hypothetically speaking of course). Then I flip it over and ice it upside-down.

This time I used ganache, which I whipped up to make lighter and fluffier. I then sprinkled a few crumbled freeze-dried raspberries on top and voila! Cake time.

Does your family have any special celebration recipes?

Chocolate Cake
1 cup/285g sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp golden syrup
125g butter
2 cups/300g flour
4 Tbsp/20g cocoa
2 tsp/8g baking powder
300ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp/5g baking soda

Preheat oven to 160 C. Grease a 22cm cake tin.

Cream butter, sugar, golden syrup and eggs together. Add flour, cocoa and baking powder and mix briefly to combine (it doesn't have to be fully mixed, and will look crumbly).

Warm milk, vanilla essence and baking soda in microwave for about 2 minutes, and then gradually beat into the rest of the mix just until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the cake tin. Bake for about 40 minutes until the cake springs back if gently pressed or a knife or skewer comes out without goo (it doesn't have to be clean - so long as any crumbs that come out are cooked).

Ice using ganache, cream cheese icing or whatever suits.

Note: this recipe can easily be doubled - in fact I've halved it because the original makes such a big cake. If you do, I recommend using two 26cm tins and baking in layers, with cook time of around 30-35 minutes. You can do the layers one after the other if you only have one tin - just remember to regrease it in between. 

If you cook it in one layer it will take a lot longer to cook - around an hour - and the edges will likely end up a little dry, which can be overcome by drizzling with sugar syrup or just by ensuring lashings of icing. 

You can also use different size tins but cooking time will vary and a larger tin will make a flatter cake. It also makes great cupcakes; the recipe above makes 18 cupcakes, which take 15-18 minutes at 180 C to bake. 


  1. The recipe originally came from Audrie McKenzie and was used often because it had ingredients we already had - and only two eggs for a very large cake. Tinted whipped cream was sometimes used for 'icing' if I could be fairly confident it would be consumed speedily. Having a microwave oven to heat the milk also helped - sometime between the christening cake and your 2nd birthday.

    1. Yep, and it stands the test of time because it's a bare pantry day if we don't have these ingredients on hand... Except for cream for ganache, which is definitely my preferred icing these days. ;-)

      I can see that having to heat the milk on the stove would be a pain - I don't think I've ever made this cake without a microwave handy!

  2. I believe I didn't actually eat the Bananas in Pajamas cake. I think I got very upset because I thought it was a banana cake and I didn't like cakes with fruit in them. The logic of a four year old: if it looks like a banana, then it must be a banana cake.

    1. Haha, brilliant. Do you like banana cake now?

      (pretty sound kid logic, though...)

    2. Ha - we went to Macetown in October and were told we would have fruit cake for afternoon tea - then we were given banana cake!

    3. Technically true, but not what you'd expect...

  3. and the cake didnt have any pyjamas it it either...


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