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02 October 2012

Simple Chocolate Cake

I was (and still am) a chocolate cake fiend when I was a little girl.  Now that I am an adult, I have long abandoned my ideal birthday cake of chocolate goodness for more sophisticated varieties with names that twist the tongue but I still secretly wish for a good old moist chocolate cake all covered with chocolate icing.  I'm still a simple little girl at heart.

So when I asked my son what kind of cake he would like for his 7th birthday, he replied, "una torta di cioccolata! (a chocolate cake).  It took me days searching the web and my cookbooks for the perfect one.  He's a classic food guy so I looked for a simple chocolate cake recipe.  All chocolate and none of my usual tweaks to make it a bit more interesting using additional ingredients that he wouldn't even be able to pronounce.  I bookmarked some wonderful chocolate cake recipes, read and reread them and finally, the day before, I opted for BBC Food Recipes' Easy Chocolate Cake

I tucked away all the other chocolate recipes for future baking and went for this one.  If only I had the time, I would have made all of them!  I was intrigued for the use of water in the batter then it has oil instead of butter which perked my interest more.  If you know me by now, I would rather use extra virgin olive oil instead of butter if I can.  No one has heard of using a cup of water in a cake batter before and neither have I so off I embarked to explore the cake recipe.

I panicked while baking it, if I have to be honest, because as the 25 - 35 minutes of baking time indicated was coming to an end, the cakes (there were two pans for two layers) were still soft and liquid at the center.   I cooked them for about 15 minutes more until the skewer I inserted at the center of the cakes came out clean.  Once out and cooled, I tried them and found them a bit too dry.  I was disappointed.  I ruined a portion of the second layer and decided not to use it anymore.  Sigh.  What else can go on?  Having no choice because it was already late at night, I continued with the cake feeling very down.  I covered it with the chocolate icing I made and left it for the night with the wish that the fairy godmother of chocolate cakes would wave her wand and make a miracle.  

Before serving, I garnished it with shaved dark chocolate, crumbled dark chocolate-orange bar of Lindt (because it's my son's favorite chocolate), white chocolate and some fresh mint leaves.  

I was not too keen in serving it thinking about the dryness of the cake and I indicated that to our guests.  I apologized ahead of serving.  But when I tried it, I was gripped with surprise.  The chocolate icing gave it moisture and trapped it inside.  The choice of dark chocolate-orange garnish with fresh mint leaves gave it a slight taste of both that gave the cake a delicious flavor.  It came out a surprisingly delicious cake!  Everyone was raving about it and asked me what dryness I was speaking about.  In fact, only 3 slices remained for me to take pictures of.  It was eaten more than the ricotta & pear birthday cake I made for my husband.   I wonder if chocolate cake fairy godmothers do exist.  

Have a good week everyone!

Simple Chocolate Cake
Adapted from BBC Food Recipes' Easy Chocolate Cake with slight modifications.

Makes a 20 cm. round cake
  • 225 g. plain flour
  • 350 g. caster sugar
  • 85 g. cocoa powder (I used unsweetened.)
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 250 ml. milk
  • 125 ml. vegetable oil (I substituted it with extra virgin olive oil.)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 250 ml. boiling water
For the chocolate icing:
  • 200 g. plain chocolate (I used dark chocolate.)
  • 200 ml. cream
For the garnishing:
  • dark chocolate shavings
  • 100 g. dark chocolate bar (I used Lindt Intense Orange Bar.), crumbled to small pieces
  • white chocolate, crumbled to small pieces
  • fresh mint leaves
  1. To get a better result, prepare the cake the night before.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.  Grease and line two 20 cm. or 8 in. sandwich tins.
  3. Place all of the cake ingredients, except the boiling water, into a large mixing bowl.  Beat the mixture until smooth and well combined using a wooden spoon or electric whisk.
  4. Add the boiling water to the mixture, a little at a time, until smooth. (The cake mixture will become very liquid.)
  5. Divide the cake batter between the sandwich tins and bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes (I added 15 more minutes to mine. If it's still liquid after 35 minutes like mine, don't panic. Just leave it longer in the over.), or until the top is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  6. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool completely, still in their tins, before icing.
  7. For the chocolate icing, put the chocolate and cream in bain marie over a saucepan with water until the chocolate melts. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk the mixture until smooth, glossy and thickened. Set aside to cool for 1-2 hours, or until thick enough to spread over the cake.
  8. To assemble the cake, run a round-bladed knife around the inside of the cake tins to loosen the cakes. Carefully remove the cakes from the tins.
  9. Spread a little chocolate icing over the top of one of the chocolate cakes, then carefully top with the other cake.
  10. Transfer the cake to a serving plate and ice the cake all over with the chocolate icing, using a palette knife.
  11. Garnish with chocolate shavings and mint.