I couldn’t let Mother’s Day pass without making my Mum’s favourite cake. Rich chocolate sponge with delicious whipped ganache.
I’ve been making this cake for my mum for years, this is a recipe I’m pretty sure I once took from the BBC and I’ve made it so many times I know it by heart – which is handy given my handwritten recipe is covered in grease and partly obscured by flecks of what was once molten chocolate. I’ve tried to find the original again over the years but I’ve never been able to.
This cake also gave me my most memorable baking disaster. I was making it in a rush for my mum’s 50th birthday and I followed the recipe the same way I always have done but the cake may have been slightly warm when I started to ice it. The result was a volcano of a cake: a constant eruption of liquid chocolate followed by a landslide of cake. I frantically tried to hold it together as best as I could before putting it into the fridge and hoping it would set. It didn’t. My mum ended up with a mudslide of chocolate and two very unstable number candles in her 50th birthday cake – not my finest hour!
The icing was a bit of an accidental find but once I started making it this way I could never go back to the original which is a dark and glossy ganache; instead I make this icing using the same method as you would a ganache and then I whisk it until it becomes pale, fluffy and takes on a mousse like quality. With the rich and dense texture of the cake, the lightness of the icing really makes it something special.
Makes: one two-layer 8 inch cake
Prep time: 10 minutes for the cake, 15 for the icing
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Ingredients – for the cake
225g plain flour
350g caster sugar
85g good quality cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
2 large eggs
250ml whole milk
125ml oil (I like vegetable)
2 tsp good quality vanilla extract
250ml boiling water
Ingredients – for the icing
200g milk chocolate
200ml double cream
1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees and grease and line two 8-inch sandwich tins. The cake mix is very runny so don’t use springform tins unless you want to be scraping cake mix off the floor of your oven for weeks.
2. Place all of the ingredients, except the boiling water, into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on a low speed until smooth and well combined. If you don’t have a stand mixer you can use a large bowl and a wooden spoon or an electric whisk.
3. Slowly add the boiling water in small amounts, making sure to mix well after each addition. It’s really important you scrap down the sides and bottom of the bowl to avoid lumps.
4. Ladle your mixture into your cake tins, I find 6 ladles per tin is usually the right amount. The tins should be 3/4 full each.
5. Carefully place your tins on the middle shelf of the oven and cook for 30 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean. The cakes should spring back when pressed.
6. Allow to cool completely in the tins before removing and levelling off any peaked tops.
7. In a small bowl over a saucepan of simmering water heat the cream and chocolate mixture until the chocolate melts. Remove immediately from the heat and tip into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk at medium to high speed for 10 minutes or so until the mixture is pale in colour and mousse like in texture.
8. Place one cake onto a cake board and spread a thin layer of icing on top – this is quite a small cake so don’t layer the icing on too thick. Top with the remaining cake and cover the whole thing in icing.
The cake will keep for 3-5 days in an airtight container but is best eaten on the day you make it.
I swear by both Food Thoughts and Nielsen-Massey when I’m baking cakes. You can pick them both up in the supermarket and a little goes a long way.
One of the things I love most about making this cake is that it’s great washing up after making it. Just one dirty bowl is absolute heaven!
The cake mix should hold a drip when it’s ready. It will mostly run off the whisk quickly but the last few drips should settle.
Fill the tins 3/4 full and be careful when putting them in the oven, the mixture is very runny and it’s easy to spill.
My top secret to making this icing is to use cheap chocolate. I know, usually I would advocate using the best ingredients you can afford but I have tried everything for this cake and Sainsbury’s basic milk chocolate is my favourite, and my Mum’s too and at just 50p it’s a fraction of the price of more expensive brands.
Keep the temperature low when making the ganache, it will take longer but you don’t want to scold the cream or the chocolate.
Once the chocolate is melted pour the ganache straight into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for 10 minutes.
You would never believe that was once a glossy, runny ganache but you have to try it. It’s one of my favourite cake fillings.
I mean just look at those folds and peaks. I definitely don’t eat this straight from the bowl with a spoon until I feel sick. No, definitely not…
As always I use a large flat palette knife for speed and spreading and a smaller cranked palette knife for covering the cake, especially when they’re not very deep like this one.
Fancy cakes are great but sometimes a small, simple cake is all you need.
I like to go for a rustic, semi-naked cake look by scraping away at the sides to let some cake show through.