Monday 29 September 2014

The Birthday Cake

The first chocolate cake recipe I ever followed involved simply adding cocoa powder to standard sponge. I was scandalised and thought there must be a mistake, but was assured that this is how it's most commonly done. Years later, when I'd adopted the Tohellwiththat method of cooking, I just added a tonne of melted, high quality chocolate. No-brainer, really. It still rises perfectly, but it's much richer and not nearly as dry.

You don't, as a matter of fact, have to wait for a birthday to make this awesomely chocolatey, cream filled cake. A cake is its own reward. But for general health reasons, restricting intake to once a year might actually be quite advisable. Especially if you plan on eating the entire thing yourself. Which you will. I mean, if it's your birthday and you're making your own cake...

Teach me how to cake! I want to, uh... make it for a friend...

     Cream warm butter with sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk some eggs with a little milk. Gradually add it to the sugar butter, beating well. Then sieve in flour and give it a gentle beating (as opposed to a fatal beating).

     Halve a large handful of raspberries and softly mix them in. Melt a mix of dark and milk chocolate and half-heartedly stir it into the batter, leaving it a little swirly. Pour into two greased cake tins and bake at a medium heat until cooked through. Let cool in the tins for 10 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack until totally cool. And not "totally cool" like you insisted it was when Gavin asked if it was cool with you if he asked out Sarah, even though you'd been crushing on her for the past year and he knew that goddamn it! Actually cool.

     Whip cream and spoon it over one of the cakes, then liberally sprinkle with chopped chocolate. Rest the second cake on top, cover with more cream, dot with whole raspberries and shave dark chocolate over the whole thing. ♪ Haaaappy Cakeday to you... ♪

The only thing I could make with that recipe is a mess

Have a little faith. A basic sponge cake is insultingly easy to throw together, and all it takes to make it look fanshy-shmanshy is a few spoons of cream, some bits of fruit and a chocolate bar. Have a go and surprise yourself.

Ingredients (makes a big-ass cake) - €10

For the Sponge
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 120g castor sugar
  • 175g butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 50ml milk
  • 80g milk chocolate
  • 80g dark chocolate

For the Topping
  • 250ml cream
  • ~150g of fresh raspberries
  • a bar of your favourite chocolate
  • 20g dark chocolate, for sprinkling

Equipment-wise, you’ll need a couple of circular cake tins, about 18cm in diameter. If you only have one, you can always bake the sponges one at a time, reusing the tin. It just slows things down. An electric beater will also make life easier, although it’s definitely possible to do without.

     Preheat the oven to 170°C. Warm the butter (or just leave it out for a while before using it) and beat it with the sugar in a large mixing bowl until you get a pale, whitish mixture. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs with the milk. For best results, the eggs should be room temperature.

     Slowly add the egg mix to the butter mix, about a quarter at a time, beating well. At this point, the mixture might curdle, resulting in a lumpy consistency. If the eggs are cold, this is more likely to happen. If you overbeat them, this is more likely to happen. If you haven’t sacrificed your annual lamb to the baking gods, this is more likely to happen. It pretty much always happens for me (which probably doesn’t inspire much confidence…). Adding a spoon of the flour along with each dose of egg can go a long way towards preventing it, but the bottom line is that curdled or not, the end result tastes just as awesome, so don’t stress it. The only difference will be how fluffy it rises in the oven. So whatever happens, after the egg has been added, sieve in the flour and gently mix the whole thing together.

     Pick out half a dozen of the best looking raspberries and leave them aside. They’ll go on top at the end. Sorry, turns out cooking is just as shallow as the fashion industry. As for the rest, cut them in half and toss them into the mixing bowl. It’s a cruel world. Don’t even bother stirring them in yet. Just leave them to wallow in cake batter and self-loathing.

     Now melt the chocolate. You can do this by setting up a bain-marie (fancy name for a bowl sitting on top of a pot of simmering water) and waiting 10 minutes… or you can just break up the chocolate, cram it in a mug, add a splash of milk and bung it in the microwave for ten seconds, stir, and repeat until melted. I’ll leave it up to you. Using the microwave method runs the risk of overheating and drying out the chocolate if you’re not careful, but adding a little more milk will sort that right out.

     Pour the melted chocolate into the cake batter. Half-heartedly stir it in (along with the raspberries) leaving it swirly. Lazy or artistic? You decide! Grease your two cake tins with a little butter, or line them with greaseproof paper. The butter is easier, lining circular tins is a pain. Now pour in the mix, dividing it evenly. Depress the centres slightly to stop them from peaking in the middle when they rise. (Top-tip: Using a spoon is more effective than telling them about global inequality). Place them in the oven for about 25-30 minutes. When it’s done, if you slide a knife into the middle and pull it out, the blade should be almost clean, not covered in gooey batter.

     Remove them from the oven and leave in their tins to cool for 10 minutes. This makes sure they set fully and don’t fall to pieces when you take them out. Loosen the edges with a knife, then flip them over onto a wire rack, knock the base to pop them out and leave to cool fully. Trim the edges if they’re a little burnt. No one will ever know.

     Whip the cream with the electric beater until it just starts to hold its shape, and when the cakes are cool, spoon half of it over one of them. Chop up the bar of your favourite chocolate and sprinkle it over the cream. Aero works well, Crunchie is definitely interesting, and chocolate biscuits give a great texture but you can use anything you want, even if it’s simply more milk chocolate. Top it with the second cake, cover that one with cream too, pop on the raspberries and grate or shave the last of the dark chocolate over it. Done! Celebrate your success with a slice of cake!

(If you’re eating the cake straight away, and you want to try something different, skip the part where you leave it to cool after taking it out of the cake tins. The warm sponge will melt the cream and soak it up, making it super rich and moist. It won’t look as good, and it’ll likely collapse or even fall apart, but who cares when it’s that decadent?)


  1. Mmm, mmm, mmmm! Can't wait for you to come back and bake me a cake! Just have to try doing one myself........

    1. I like that. "try doing one myself...". As if you aren't the cake master!

  2. When you are back Colin and baking that cake, make sure Deirdre invites me over :D

  3. Haha, oh I'm long back now! Currently experimenting on cookies, so there's plenty of those filling up the kitchen now ;)