We go to England once a year to visit my husband’s parents who live deep in the rolling green countryside of Herefordshire. Their neighbors are a bunch of sheep who live a quiet life in an apple orchard. And like the sheep, we spend much of our holiday outside, eating a lot. Every year I promise to bake my in-laws a cake; the solid English kind that goes so nicely with tea. My in-laws, who grew up during World War II, still react to sweets as if rationing were still on and glorm them up with such gusto and delight it’s tempting to make them a cake every day.
This year I opted for a chocolate cake. A good, old-fashioned chocolate cake. The kind I imagine saftig grannies made on a daily basis, back in the day when people had a proper dessert each dinnertime. The first cake I ever made was indeed a chocolate cake, with my Grandma Jenni at my side.
Cooking in another person’s kitchen always poses a challenge, and cooking in my mother-in-law’s (bless her cotton socks), was such an experience. To find “sandwich tins” (there was much head-scratching when I asked for layer-cake pans, until I remembered the lovely British term for a two-layer cake), involved taking apart a cupboard that smelled so much of rising damp (aka mold) I really wondered if I could overcome the odor to bake in them. Then there was the question of ingredients. Dear M-i-L doesn’t do a lot of baking these days, so that involved further head-scratching and yet her squirrel-like tendencies were rewarded and all was found.
I am pleased to say my cake earned me a kiss on the cheek from my otherwise non-effusive father-in-law.
This cake is simple to make. It’s ideal if you plan on sitting down with a grandma to make your first cake, or sitting down with your grandma to eat it. It also stays moist for days, just plopped happily on the counter with a bowl over it to keep the flies off.
Perfectly Simple Chocolate Fudge Cake
What You’ll Need:
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
- 6 Tbsp boiling water
- 3 large eggs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 1/2 cups SELF-RAISING flour **
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
What You’ll Do:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Butter 2 8-inch cake pans and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. (You can butter and flour these if you prefer.) (Or make cupcakes…)
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend the cocoa and boiling water together to create a smooth paste. I recommend you do this by hand to make sure it’s not all lumpy, as then it won’t blend well with the other ingredients. I know this from firsthand experience. I was too lazy to do it this way, used the stand mixer and feh.
4. Add the rest of the ingredients. All of ‘em. That’s right. All at once. (I told you this was easy). Beat the mixture on low speed until just blended. Then raise the speed to medium and continue to mix for a few more minutes until a smooth batter has formed.
5. Divide the mixture between the two cake pans, smoothing the batter to the edge.
6. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the center springs back when pressed lightly with your finger.
7. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes, then invert and remove pans. Let cool.
Very Fudgy Frosting
What You’ll Need:
- 1 stick (4 oz) butter, softened
- 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar (sifted)
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 Tbsp vanilla
- 1-2 Tbsp milk
What You’ll Do:
1. Beat the butter until soft and creamy. Add the sugar, and cocoa and vanilla and mix well. The mixture will get sludgy looking. Add 1 Tbsp of milk, blend and add more if necessary to achieve a creamy, frosting-like consistency.
Note: I have never been a big fan of confectioners’ sugar-based frostings, always finding them too sweet and and unpleasantly gritty. Not this one! Upon first taste this one seems sort of okay, not great. Wait an hour, or a day. The chocolate flavor blooms with age. I like to think I am like that chocolate flavor.
This makes enough icing to fill the middle and frost the top of the cakes. It doesn’t make enough to ice around the sides if you want to make it look like a proper American layer cake. This is a proper English sandwich cake, after all. If you want enough icing for the sides, merely double the recipe.
**Self-raising flour can be found at nice stores like Target. It’s worth having around. Makes things a cinch to bake. I will include a recipe for making your own shortly. If you need it urgently, contact me below!!