“That” Essential Chocolate Cake

Serves 8-10 14 May 2020 Vegetarian Friendly
I have called this the “Essential Chocolate Cake”, because this is just that recipe that you need in your armoury for an easy birthday cake, light enough to take icing, but decadent enough to enjoy with a dusting of icing sugar and a cup of something hot for an afternoon pick me up.

Today’s cake is a sweet tribute to the woman who infused my love of baking, cooking, gatherings and sharing. I am posting it here, in the middle of lockdown, as the best way to celebrate while we are all isolating. Mum, thanks for showing me the baking way and handing down all your cookbook classics for me to delve into at times like these.

This one bowl chocolate cake, reminiscent of the quintessential All American soured cream cake of my youth has had a next generation upgrade with a twist of coffee, dark brown sugar for a molasses-y kick and olive oil instead of the butter for more intense flavour undertones.  

I like to ice this with a simple yet decadent ganache which is a very handy trick to have up your sleeve for those “I can’t be bothered with buttercream” occasions.  However, for fancier occasions, a rich, well whipped buttercream works a treat.

A note on replacements:  If you can’t find sour cream, please don’t fret.  Full fat, preferably Greek yoghurt works just as well for the cake.  I love to use dark muscovado sugar here for added  depth, but dark brown sugar works just as well.  And if all else fails, go back to the original 1970’s version of good ol’ all white sugar. 

For a single layer slightly higher cake, I make this in a 24cm (9 inch) cake tin with a removable base.  If I am going all out for a filled and fully iced version, I make this in two 22cm cake tins and reduce the cooking time to 30-35 minutes allowing for equal layers without the stress of precision cake division.  This also makes great cupcakes for easy sharing. They will take 20-23 minutes to cook depending on size.

I hope this is recipe is one that  will become part of your repertoire to use for celebrations and birthdays or just to share with friends for tea.

For the Cake

  • butter for greasing the cake tin
  • 85g (3 oz) dark chocolate (preferably 70% or over)
  • 50g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder
  • 250ml (1 cup) freshly brewed, hot coffee
  • 210g (1 3/4 cups) plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 300g (1 1/2 cups) caster sugar (granulated)
  • 50g (1/4 cup) dark muscovado sugar (or dark brown soft sugar)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 115g (1/2 cup) sour cream

For the Ganache Icing

  • 230g (8oz) dark 70% chocolate
  • 230ml (1 cup) double (heavy) cream

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F)

  • Butter your cake tin (or tins) and line with parchment paper, making sure that it goes right into the crease of the tin to ensure crisp edges.
  • Break up the chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl with the cocoa powder.  Pour over the hot coffee and stir until everything is melted together and set aside to cool slightly while you get on with the rest of the cake.
  • In another medium sized bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and whisk together with a fork to combine and remove any lumps.
  • In a large mixing bowl, start with the sugars and whisk or mix together with your fingertips until there are no lumps (muscovado and brown sugar can sometimes clump together).
  • Add the eggs and olive oil to the sugars and whisk together until pale, thick and completely emulsified. Add the vanilla and give it another stir or two.
  • Pour in the slightly cooled chocolate mixture into the sugar mixture and incorporate fully before adding the sour cream and mixing again.  I usually switch to my rubber spatula at this point in the game.
  • Add the flour mixture making sure you stir in the same direction the whole time. this ensures a lump free cake batter.  Careful not to over-mix as this will keep the cake lighter.  This is quite a wet mixture so do not worry.
  • Pour in to the prepared tin or tins and pop straight into the hot oven.  
  • Bake for 45 minutes, but check after 40 minutes to make sure you do not overtake (every oven is slightly different).  It will be done when the cake has started to pull away from the sides of the tin ever so slightly, it’s spongy to the touch, a cake tester comes out clean and if you listen carefully, you should not hear too much bubbling from the centre of the cake.  
  • Run a knife around the edge of the cake when it comes out of the oven and allow to cool in the tin  on a rack for 10-15 minutes before removing from the tin and allowing to cool completely.  
  • While the cake is cooling, make the ganache icing.
  • Break up the chocolate into pieces and place in a medium sized heatproof bowl.
  • Pour the cream into a small saucepan and place over a low- medium heat until it reaches scalding point (just before a simmer).  
  • Remove from the heat and immediately pour over the chopped chocolate.  Allow to sit for 2-3 minutes without touching the mixture before mixing together until thick and glossy.  Allow to thicken back up for a few more minutes if you want to before pouring over the top of the cake and easing it slowly to the edge, allowing it drip down the sides. 


Have you made this dish?

Let me know what you think, share your efforts and any tweaks you made to the recipe on Instagram, don’t forget to tag #BuildingFeasts or email me on info@buildingfeasts.com