The last few days have been a bit of a whirl of baking ideas, tips and inspirations, and I suddenly have so much I want to share with you all, that I have actually started seven new blog posts, which I am going to have to ration out over the next few weeks! Not least of all has been the wonderful, albeit short lived return of the Great British Bake Off to our screens this week - my mission this weekend is to attempt at least two of the technical challenges from the week - standby for photos!
This week's run of GBBO has been every bit as entertaining, inspiring, and memorable as the three main series - my personal highlights have to be Warwick Davies goliath of a gateaux, Bob Mortimer's 'Baker St' cake, and Claudia Winkleman's... well just everything.
Let's not forget though that the run has all been about raising awareness and funds for Comic Relief - I for one will be buying an apron this weekend (and definitely will not be prancing around my kitchen pretending I have just been awarded Star Baker!) All the details are here - please take a moment to get involved.
Anyway - back to the main title of this post - I wanted to share my absolute go-to Chocolate Cake recipe - it's one I stumbled upon after years of experimenting and never being totally satisfied, and now I can safely say that this is THE ONE! I'm also going interject a few of my own baking essentials - this is by no way an endorsement or sponsored promotion - just my honest opinion on which products work best for me.
Ingredients (the following quantities make 12 cupcakes or one 8' cake layer - double the batter up to make a two tier cake, or a larger batch of cupcakes)
- 50g dark muscovado sugar
- 25g quality cocoa powder
- 125 ml boiling water
- 62g unsalted butter
- 75g golden caster sugar
- 112g plain flour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
Step One: Weigh out the muscovado sugar and cocoa powder into a medium sized bowl. I always always always use Green and Black's cocoa powder. I find that the flavour is far superior to any other brand I have tried before, and it gives a really rich but not too sweet chocolate flavour to any bake. It is a little pricey, and this recipe calls for quite a high quantity - especially if you are doubling up the mixture for a tiered cake, but it really is worth it. Anyway, pour the boiling water over the sugar and cocoa powder, and whisk until fully combined. Set this bowl to one side.
Step Two: In a larger bowl, add the butter and golden caster sugar and cream together. Most cake recipes specify softened butter, which helps make the creaming process quicker and easier. I stumbled upon the Willow brand of butter when it was on offer once in my local supermarket, and it is wonderfully soft, even straight from the fridge. I have used this ever since, and it saves so much time - especially considering I never remember to take my butter out of the fridge in time and then have to mess with the microwave trying to soften it in 2 second bursts. I also only ever use golden caster sugar in my bakes, it's unrefined, and I really prefer the taste.
Step Three: Add the vanilla extract and the egg to the creamed butter and sugar, and whisk well to combine. It is important here to use vanilla extract rather than essence, as the flavour is far better. You need to whisk the egg in well to combine to a smooth batter (above top right).
Step Four: Add the plain flour, baking powder and bicarb of soda, and mix well again. You will end up with quite a stiff mixture (above bottom right)
Step Five: Add the cocoa and water mixture from step one - use a spatula to get all the mixture out of the bowl, trust me you want every last drop! Mix well, until you achieve a smooth, glossy batter as above. The batter should be of an easy dropping consistency.
Step Six: Divide the mixture into cupcake cases or greased cake tins, and bake at 180 degrees until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. For cupcakes this is about 15 - 20 minutes, and for a cake 30 - 35 mins.
And that's it - my favourite chocolate cake recipe in six easy steps! The cake is light in texture, firm in structure, and incredibly chocolaty without being too sweet, which means it can take a really sweet frosting without being too sickly. For the cupcakes in the picture I chose a Salted Caramel frosting. A dark chocolate ganache works just as well, and you can always add a dash of cherry brandy or orange liqueur for something a little more adult... Just perfect! I've also found that this cake keeps really well for up to a week.
Enjoy! V x