Chocolate cake is hardly in tune with the January zeitgeist of post-Christmas-indulgence detox. But you have to be very careful with this clean living stuff, you could easily do yourself a terrific injury. Like dying of boredom what with all that salad and steamed fish. And that’s why chocolate cake to the rescue.
Yes it would have been more appropriate to post this in December, but I only got to taste this chocolate cake over Christmas when my 75-year-old aunt (I think of her as the Mary Berry of Pretoria) whipped it up. It’s rich, thanks to four egg yolks; has a lovely light crumbly texture, thanks to four egg whites whisked to stiff peaks. But above all it is moist, thanks to the oil it contains.
Dry sponge cake is a bit of a horror for me, and this one certainly isn’t. My aunt just schmeared it with tinned caramel (aka cooked condensed milk), which was fabulous. It really doesn’t need anything else, but in case you want to go the icing route, I’m also giving you a recipe for a gorgeous chocolate buttercream icing that contains no less than half a cup of 70% cocoa chocolate. Here’s to a 2018 filled with joy, peace and fabulous things to eat!
All you need is…
For the chocolate cake
⅓ cup cocoa
¾ cup boiling water
1¾ cups cake flour
1½ cups sugar
3 tsp baking powder
½ cup neutral cooking oil like canola
4 extra large free range eggs, separated
½ cup lukewarm water
For the chocolate buttercream icing
1 x 100g stick of lightly salted butter (I used Lurpak), at room temperature so it is relatively soft
1½ cups icing sugar
3 heaped tbs cocoa
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup (70g) chopped 70% cocoa chocolate (I used Lindt), melted and cooled a bit
milk or cream to loosen the mixture
To make the chocolate cake: Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (this is the temperature for the normal setting, not thermo fan). Prepare two 20cm springform cake tins by lining the bottoms with baking paper circles cut out to fit the bottoms exactly then spray the entire pan with non-stick cooking/baking spray.
Pour the ¾ cup boiling water onto the cocoa and stir to dissolve. Set aside to cool down. Pour the sugar into a large mixing bowl and sift in the flour and baking powder. Make an indent in the middle of this flour mix and pour in the cocoa and water mixture, the oil, the four egg yolks and the ½ cup of lukewarm water. Mix well with a handheld electric mixer or a large balloon whisk.
In a large clean stainless steel or glass bowl whisk the four egg whites until they are fluffy and hold a stiff peak. Use a large metal spoon to gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate batter. Take care when you do this, you want to retain as much air as possible. Divide between the prepared cake tins and bake for 25 minutes. Do NOT open the oven before 25 minutes have passed. At this point you can test it by inserting a thin skewer. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.
To make the chocolate buttercream icing: Cut the butter into small blocks and sift in the cocoa and icing. Use an electric whisk to cream together the butter, icing sugar and cocoa. (It will initially look very dry, but just keep on going.) Once it is creamy, add the vanilla paste and the cooled melted chocolate and continue whisking. Loosen then icing a bit as needed with 3-4 tablespoons of milk or butter. Keep at it and this buttercream icing will become light, fluffy, smooth and ultra creamy. Perfect for spreading onto this moist oil chocolate cake. Obviously the cake needs to be cool before it gets iced!
- Melt a few tablespoons of apricot jam and paint the sponges with that before you pile on the chocolate buttercream icing. A tablespoon of brandy added to the jam doesn’t hurt either.
- Do the same with lovely cherry jam instead of apricot jam. Then pile fresh or bottled cherries high on top of the iced cake.
- Do a quick take on a sort of Black Forest by whipping some cream with castor sugar and a generous drop of kirsch if you’re so inclined. Splodge it thickly onto the chocolate sponge bases, then top with fresh berries like blackcurrants, raspberries and sliced strawberries. If you prefer you can macerate the berries in a spoonful or two of sugar and a splash of kirsch so you have a lovely boozy-berry sauciness to drizzle over the cream as well!