I've been wanting to develop my own reliable chocolate cake recipe for some time, and I think this is it! It's a fairly traditional, all-purpose chocolate cake, just with a couple of twists in the form of dark brown sugar and honey in place of the usual white sugar. It's made extra delectable by the addition of a luscious chocolate buttercream that is sandwiched in the middle and slathered on top. What more could you want?
Note: For gluten-freen, substitute an all-purpose gluten-free flour for the plain flour.
for the cake:
200g unsalted butter, softened + 1 t extra
200g (1 cup, firmly packed) dark brown sugar
90ml (just under 1/4 cup) honey
1 t vanilla extract
200g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour, sifted (or all-purpose gluten-free flour)
55g (3/4 cup) cocoa, sifted + 1 t extra
1/2 t baking powder
125ml (1/2 cup) milk
100ml hot water
for the icing:
250g unsalted butter, softened
500g (3 1/2 cups) soft icing sugar mixture, sifted
55g (3/4 cup) cocoa, sifted
100ml (just over 1/3 cup) milk
1 t vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 160°C and prepare a 20cm cake tin. To do this, cut a circle of non-stick baking paper to fit the base of the tin, then thoroughly coat the inside walls with a teaspoon of softened butter, before dusting with a teaspoon of cocoa, making sure it is evenly coated and tapping out any excess (do this over the sink).
In a large mixing bowl using a handheld beater or the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, honey and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Combine sifted cocoa, flour and baking powder. Add to the butter and sugar mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk and mixing on the lowest speed to just combine. Occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl. Still on a low speed, mix in the hot water. Do not overmix. With a large spoon or spatula, give the batter a final few stirs to ensure there are no dry pockets of flour and the batter is of an even texture. It should have a mousse-like consistency.
Spoon into the prepared tin, smoothing the top as much as possible, and bake for 60min or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out (mostly) clean. A couple of moist crumbs are fine. Leave to cool in the tin for 10min before turning onto a wire cake rack to cool completely. Don't be concerned if a few cracks appear, they will close up slightly as the cake cools and sinks, and they will be covered with icing later anyway.
While the cake is in the oven, make the icing. Again using a handheld or stand mixer, beat butter until light and creamy. Gradually add icing sugar and mix on a low speed to combine. Add cocoa powder, milk and vanilla and beat again, gradually increasing the speed and mixing until the icing is silky and voluminous. Add a dash more milk if the icing is too stiff.
When the cake is completely cold, place on a cake stand or turntable if you have one and split into two halves. To do this, use a long-bladed serrated knife and position it horizontally at the half-way point on the side of the cake. While applying gentle pressure but keeping the knife still, slowly turn the cake. Keep gently pushing into the cake as you turn until you have cut all the way through. Remove the top half of the cake to a clean board or plate.
Dollop half the buttercream onto the bottom cake layer and gently spread out with an offset spatula or other wide, flat knife to within a centimetre or so of the edge. Carefully position the top layer over the bottom, pressing down gently, and dollop on the remaining portion of buttercream. Spread icing to the edges, making large swirls as you go. Serve.
This cake will serve for any celebratory occasion, (though I'm posting it now in time for Father's Day), and can easily be fancied up with berries, flowers, or even doubled, cooked in two tins and stacked to make an impressive towering cake (though I haven't done this, so proceed at your own risk!). You could also substitute white or light brown sugar for the dark if that's what you have, but the dark brown sugar does add a seductive, molasses-mood, and the honey adds a subtle floral complexity (please use a good, raw honey if you can). What I like about this recipe is that while it's indulgent, it's very accessible. By only using cocoa powder it is easy to make with store-cupboard basics, and less expensive too. Nothing is lost by this approach, however, as this cake is intensely chocolatey and fudgey, but not heavy. I did test this with a gluten-free flour and it worked just the same, so go ahead and substitute the wheat flour for a gluten-free alternative if required.
I hope you enjoy it, whatever the occasion, or even if there is not occasion at all. Sometimes you just need chocolate cake. I know I do.
About The Daughter's Table
The Daughter's Table is a living archive of recipes and stories. It is inspired by my daughter, and the desire to create a food legacy that connects us to what we eat and why.