lessons in chocolate cake

chocolate cakechocolate cake

When the lovely Mariana posted her family recipe for chocolate cake recently I decided I needed to give it a crack. Me and chocolate cake still aren’t particularly firm friends. I had fiddled about last year with my sourdough starter chocolate cake (Number Five Chocolate Cake.) I had also mentioned in this post my head start into baking a dry old chocolate cake recipe as a teen.

Being more of a Lemon Meringue Pie kinda gal, it’s hard to get good perspective in such very important matters such as chocolate cake. However, for the sake of my chocolate cake inhaling young family I would do it. I would make the cake, (as everyone needs to have a chocolate cake recipe up there sleeves right?)

Lessons learnt in Chocolate Cake

1. Chocolate cake baked in a square tin sounded like a good idea at the time but when it came time to present it on a plate I slowly realised- out of all my missed matched plates, not one of them were square. Round tin it is next time.

2. Fold that flour into the mixture, don’t over beat it. I know this, and yet I still have moments of forgetting. This was one of those moments.

3. Chocolate cake doesn’t need to have 250g of dark chocolate in it to be a chocolate cake, (hooray for that actually!)

4. When making a stove top icing, ensure the tea towel being used in order not to burn yourself doesn’t catch fire as it rests casually in the flames. (For the record, burnt tea towel smells a bit funny.)

5. When the recipe says “move fairly quickly” when pouring on the icing, do so. It’s said for a reason. If you don’t, it leads to an unsatisfying ‘scratchy’ looking top. Followed by a little high pitched squeal, tiny foot stomp and mutterings of…oh please be smoooooth again.

6. Plopping small squares of chocolate in the middle doesn’t really hide the unsatisfying scratchy looking icing.

7. And finally, really… Not a single other person really cares whether- a) the icing was smooth, b) the cake mixture slightly over beaten, and c) that there wasn’t an appropriate square plate to go with the square cake*. It was gobbled up and declared the best chocolate cake ever. So dear Mariana, I think it’s a hit.

* There was however a slight voiced concerned and furrowed brow with the burnt tea towel incident, (for safety reasons of course.) But I say, who doesn’t like a little excitement in the kitchen now and then.

Mariana’s Forever Chocolate Cake Recipe 

chocolate cake

number 5 chocolate cake

Me and the word perfection is not usually a word that goes hand in hand.

I don’t usually strive for it, happy enough just to sit with the word content. So why was I trying to perfect a chocolate cake? To be honest I don’t really know. I started the challenge and apparently I would be unrelenting until I perfected the bugger.

Everyone needs a chocolate cake recipe up their sleeves. A go to recipe that was tried and true. Unfailing in its taste and you know it will turn out each time. I didn’t have that recipe. Sure I had made countless chocolate cakes in the past, but none of them were quite what I was after. Not too chocolatey, not too rich, not too dry, not too fancy pancy and not a pain to put together.

Shouldn’t be too hard right?

There are probably a few chocolate cake recipes on the internet, Mr Chocolate helpfully suggested.

Yes. Yes there probably is… but they aren’t the righhhht ones.

So I set forth. The chocolate cake challenge was on.

Cake one, no. Cake two…no. Cake three….still no. Cake four, it’s getting closer. Cake five?

Cake five might just have it. Not being particularly enamored of chocolate cake I did wonder why I was putting myself through this. These unhelpful thoughts were pushed to the side however. I’d come this far, surely that chocolate cake was just around the corner?

Chocolate Cake

150g softened butter

150g brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla

4 beaten eggs

150g sourdough starter/ sour cream*

150g melted chocolate (50%)

60mls espresso coffee (1/4 cup)

225g s/r flour (1 1/2 cups)

cocoa powder (1/3 cup)

2 tbls amaretto

In a mixer, cream butter and sugar until changes colour to a white shade, then add vanilla, eggs, cocoa, melted chocolate, amaretto and sourdough starter/sour cream. Fold through flour.

Bake at 180C for approximately 45 minutes in a greased springform pan or greased and lined square pan (approx 21cm). Or until skewer comes out clean.


1 tbls softened butter

1 1/2-ish  cups icing sugar

5og melted chocolate

* if you don’t have a sourdough starter, substitute sour cream.


So does Number 5 cake cut it? It’s certainly not a bad cake. The flavours are complex enough to keep me happy with the addition of the amaretto, coffee and the starter. It’s moist. It’s chocolatey, without being intense and it was easy to put together.

So will chocolate cake and I ever become firm friends?

It’s quite doubtful. but I’ll make it to keep the rest of the family happy, and they are certainly happy enough with Number 5 Chocolate Cake.