It’s moist, sticky, irresistibly chocolaty, ridiculously easy to bake and is even yummier the next day!
August is the month where all those Christmas party conceptions come to bear. Nearly every day we seem to be celebrating the birthday of a family member or close friend. We don’t go much on gift giving excesses but we do like to celebrate these special days with food and more specifically Mum’s chocolate birthday cake.
She baked it, not only for birthdays, but as her contribution to the many bake sales for the charities and community groups she was (is) involved with. It was always a production line, bowls of batter, tins lined up and the oven going continuously until mum was satisfied she’d made enough. It was torture, coming home from school to smell that delicious aroma wafting through the house, with strict instructions not to touch. Sometimes we’d manage to lick the last of the mixture from the final batch, but even then mum would scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula so that there was only the faintest smear left. I remember, when I first left home, mixing up a bowl of the yummy batter and eating the whole lot. Not a drop made it into the oven and honestly I felt so sick it was a wonder I ever made the cake again!
But I did and was so loved that it made it into my temporary recipe book, an ancient student diary that was never filled with timetables but loaded with recipes instead…I was a very slack student and it was a wonder I even passed. In fact one of my first jobs after finishing was as a cook, not as the designer I’d trained to be! I still have that ‘temporary’ book and it’s become one of the most valued tools in my kitchen arsenal.
Originally I’d named the cake in honour of the woman who passed the recipe onto mum, a dear family friend, Mabel Renfry… although in all honesty I doubt whether Mabel ever baked the quantity of chocolate cakes my mother churned out of our tiny kitchen.
Mums chocolate cakes were always the first to go. In fact she was such a good woman that any of the cakes that failed to sell she’d purchase and bring home to her very disappointed children. You may know the type of rejects I’m talking about…the dried overcooked fruit cake, the fake looking packet cake or the experimental cake using ingredients like potato or pumpkin…healthy but not a kids idea of a delicious treat! She did this because she didn’t want any of the other baking volunteers to feel their contributions weren’t welcome…we kids weren’t quite so charitable.
So today I am formally changing the name to honour the woman who passed the recipe on to me and who still bakes these cakes whenever a birthday or a fundraiser requires a good bit of baking…sorry Mabel but you just didn’t make the grade!
MUM’S LEGENDARY CHOCOLATE CAKE
(set oven at 180 c or 350 f)
1/2 cup water
125 gms butter (approx 4 1/2 ozs or 1 stick)
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I prefer dutch cocoa for its richness but any unsweetened cocoa powder will do)
1 cup milk
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups of S.R. flour (add 5 level teaspoons of baking powder to convert plain or all-purpose flour to self-raising flour)
Begin by spraying cake tins with non-stick cooking oil, line base of pans with silicon paper then spray again to ensure paper is covered.
In my case I use 2 x 21 cm (8.5 inch) hollow round cake tins. The advantage of the hollow is that the cake cooks quickly and doesn’t dry out at the edges while you’re waiting for the centre to bake. You can use whatever you have at hand, 2 loaf tins or 1 large round, but remember the cake will at least double in size so make sure your tin is deep enough.
Start by placing the butter and water in a large microwave proof mixing bowl.
Put bowl in microwave and zap until butter melts and water is hot. Remove from microwave.
This is my favorite brand of dutch cocoa powder.
Add cocoa to butter and mix until combined.
Next add milk.
Next add sugar and mix until crystals are dissolved.
Cook for 30 minutes and test to see if cake is done by inserting skewer that comes out clean. You may have to increase cooking time depending on your oven or if you are making one larger cake.
COOKING TIP- If you are making one large cake using the entire mixture, it will take much longer to cook. To prevent edges from drying out cover cake with aluminium foil. You can add the foil once the cake has risen but is still gooey in the center. If you are worried about the foil sticking to top of cake add a layer of silicon paper between the foil and cake.
Turn cakes out onto plate, remove baking paper and allow to cool before adding icing (frosting).
I usually ice the single layers and have 2 cakes but because this is a birthday cake I’ve joined the 2 rounds… wanting to produce something more spectacular. But honestly cake decorating is not my specialty so I apologise for the rather unspectacular upcoming result!
Because of the high ratio of sugar to flour this cake is incredibly moist and keeps well, covered, for days.
CHOCOLATE ICING (FROSTING)
75 gms butter (2.5 ozs, 5 tablespoons)
1/4 cup cocoa
2 cups icing sugar (confectioners sugar)
3+ tablespoons milk (approx.)… start with a few drops at a time!
METHOD In a microwave proof bowl melt butter.
Add cocoa powder.
And mix till all lumps of cocoa dissolved.
Next add all icing (confectioners) sugar and mix. It will be a dry lumpy mess but wait…
Gradually add milk, a few drops at a time, and mix until a soft paste is formed. BE CAREFUL too much milk will turn this into an unusable runny mess so add milk very slowly!
With your spatula press mix against side of bowl to ensure all lumps of icing sugar are dissolved.
Add enough drops of milk to form a smooth paste.
Make sure cake has completely cooled or your icing will melt. Spread icing over cake and add the appropriate number of candles…in this case it was my sons 21st birthday. But before we ate we had some celebrating to do…
We walked the short distance down Brunswick Street to the gorgeous retro/kitsch/asian restaurant Rice Queen. Ordered the banquet, poured the wine and…
Toasted twenty-one years…again and again!
Then stumbled home, unwrapped the presents, lit the candles, sang Happy Birthday, ate till we were utterly stuffed and… opened just one more bottle of champagne!
This morning I had cake for breakfast (it was that last champagne!!!) and as mentioned it was even better than the night before.
And so to Mum, Dad, H, R, C, J, L and all you August babies…
And happy baking… cheers Anna x
P.S. What cakes do you bake? Love to hear how you celebrate.
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