I don’t believe in horoscopes. It’s the one page of a magazine I literally turn over without even a scan. And I will read anything – even takeaway menus, so that’s saying something. However, it did occur to me recently, whilst chatting with my Nanna (or Great Nan Nan – as she’s known to the under 3s in the family) that a lot of our family are born in October. Now this could mean one of two things. Either that we as a family feel the cold more than most in January and retire to bed early and need to, ahem, keep warm. Or that something is written in the stars – a family destined to be a collective of Librans, diplomatic, indecisive and flirtatious. Which of course brings me back to the first theory.
So this has been the month of birthday parties and for me, birthday cakes should be chocolate. The decoration is neither here nor there. What’s required is a dense chocolate cake; a cake that makes you work for it as you push the knife through. The kind of cake that can only be eaten in small quantities save you feel a bit, well, nauseous. This is that very cake.
(NB: The lovely people at Dr. Oetker very kindly sent me some bits and bobs to try out. They didn’t pay me, though I wish they had of course. I’m telling you this in case you’re alarmed by the number of Dr. Oetker products.)
For the cake:
- 4 large eggs
- 265g plain flour
- 265g Stork margarine
- 265g demerera sugar
- 65g cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1tbsp glycerine
- 3 tbsp milk
For the icing and filling:
- 250g soft, unsalted butter
- 500g icing sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp milk
- 85g fudge chunks like these or I believe Asda and Sainsbos do some own brand ones too
- Use whatever you like but we (and by that, I mean myself and my eldest son) liked Dr Oetkers Choco Beans
Set your oven to Gas 5 and make sure you have two racks in the middle two rungs of the oven. Then grease and line your baking tins. The tins I used are quite small, only 20cm ish wide. They do not have loose bottoms so proper greasing and lining is essential. Now, I did try this lovely spray which, if I’m honest, I didn’t think would work. Well it did. I am going to use it again soon just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. And if it does work then sales of greaseproof paper in Leicester will go down. (Oh how I hate lining cake tins, it’s up there with ironing for me.)
This is a throw it all into the bowl and whizz together cake. So do just that with all the cake ingredients and mix with a handheld electric mixer until smooth and creamy in consistency. Took about 4 minutes with my mixer. Then pour into the sprayed or lined cake tins – about half in each tin. Bake in the oven for around 25 minutes until a cocktail stick comes out of the centre clean. Now the size of your tins will affect this. If they’re larger then the cake will take less time, smaller then they may take longer to bake. Use your cocktail stick to gauge readiness.
Once out of the oven, flip onto a wire rack to cool. (I put the rack on top of the tin with the cake in it and use oven gloves to turn the two upside down, thus releasing the cake from the tin onto the rack – you need a rack for each cake though.)
In the meantime make the buttercream. I use my trusty freestanding mixer for this and simply pop the butter, icing sugar, vanilla essence and milk into it and beat on a low setting at first (about 1 minute) and then on a high setting for another 5 minutes until really light and fluffy. You can of course beat by hand, just be careful to add the icing sugar in small amounts so as not to end up covered in a sugar snow storm. If this cake had been for my sons then I’d have coloured the buttercream a garish hue but given the recipients birthday was a double digit job which began with a 6 it didn’t seem dignified.
Finish the cake using buttercream and fudge pieces to fill, then the rest of the buttercream to ice the sides and the top. I use a regular butter spreading knife rather than a palate knife. Less unwieldy in my book. Decorate with anything that takes your fancy. Baa Baa, AKA Grandad really likes multi coloured chocolate beans. Or at least he does now.
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