Monday, 21 June 2010

The "art" of baking - part 2. The Helen Chocolate Cake!

If you read my other post at the weekend, you'll know I'm on a bit of a mission to convince you that baking is not difficult. This post is about the other cake I made at the weekend for the school summer fair (which, incidentally, raised over £1200 for the school, which is excellent). It's chocolate cake.

Now, I always thought that chocolate cake was difficult, until I met my friend Helen, that is. Helen is a mum that joined our local NCT branch and one day turned up at a fundraising event with the most amazing looking chocolate cake. It looked gorgeous and it disappeared really quickly. Helen's cake soon became a fixture of our fundraisers when we were providing cakes. For me, therefore, this will be forever "Helen Chocolate Cake".

Helen started responding to requests for the recipe. I think she did it in the hope that other people would take on the mantle of making "Helen's Chocolate Cake". Sadly, for her, every time we are needing cakes, she gets asked  "Helen, can you make a chocolate cake?" and if she complains, we remind her that her version is the original and best.

I succumbed to obtaining the recipe last Christmas, when I first was contributing to school's other main fundraising event, the Christmas fair. Helen offered to send me the recipe when I mused about making chocolate cake, but have always been scared that it would mean melting chocolate and faffing around - even tho I know, having done it a few times over the last few years, that it is not that technically difficult to do.

Good to her word, the recipe arrived in my inbox within a day or two. As Helen said herself, it's very very quick and easy tho you might find that you need to make it a few times to get it totally to your liking. Personally, I think the oven temperature is set too low and after a few goes at this, I now set my oven hotter and the cake has been fine.

The good news is that there is actually no chocolate at all. The cake uses cocoa powder so it mixes in with the dry ingredients and needs no special treatment. Simple, this most definitely is. I would also use margarine as recommended. The flavour won't be affected but the margarine keeps the icing softer and the cake less dry.

Here's the recipe for "Helen Chocolate Cake".


For the cake
225g/8oz self raising flour
275g/10oz caster Sugar
175g/6oz soft tub margarine
3 eggs
1tsp vanilla essence
175g/6oz low fat natural yoghurt
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the icing
50g/2oz soft tub margarine
50g/2 oz cocoa powder
3 tablespoons milk (I find it needs more than this)
350g/12oz icing sugar
12 walnut halves to decorate (optional – you can add anything you fancy)

you will also need a 32cm/9 in spring form cake tin and some non-stick baking paper. 
 Method
1. Pre-heat oven to 170oC/325oF/gas 3. Grease the tin. Line the base with non-stick baking paper. Dust the inside of the tin with a little flour, then tap out the excess. 

(Note - Helen reckons a 20cm/8 in tin will work fine as well.I reckon using 180C/gas 4 works better)

2. Beat the caster sugar and margarine in a mixing bowl until smooth. Beat in eggs, vanilla essence and yoghurt. Sift in flour, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda. Stir until fully combined. Spoon mixture into prepared tin and level the surface.

3. Bake cake for 40-45 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Put tin onto a wire rack, cool for 5 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack to cool completely.

(You may need to do a bit of trial and error on this one - for me, 180 C for 50 mins gives a good result.)




4. For the icing, melt the margarine in a saucepan - a milk pan is ideal. Stir in the cocoa. Heat gently, stirring, until combined. Remove from heat. Stir in milk and sifted icing sugar until mixture is smooth and blended. (Extra milk is definitely needed for this but add in spoonfuls. If you add too much, you'll need extra icing sugar).

5. Spread or pour (pouring probably works better and gives a smoother result) icing evenly over top and side of cake. Arrange walnut halves, if using,  around top edge. Leave icing to set for 10 minutes before serving.

Here is the finished article: 

I have made this cake for Monkey's 5th birthday party back in March and for that, I got a personalised Ben10 icing cake topper from eBay to complete the look. It was actually really easy to do and looked great. He was very proud that his mummy had made him a proper cake. I have also made this cake and the children asked for leftovers for breakfast. As an one off, I let them and have never seen such well-behaved children in the period between getting up and going on the school run.

This is a great cake to make with kids and actually Missy Woo helped me make this one. Licking the bowl is great too, because the minute you add the cocoa, it all starts to taste very chocolatey and it's heaven for little ones to to lick. The icing is a mummy only job, thanks to the fact we're using a pan on the hob. 

So, what do you think? Fancy trying to make a Helen Chocolate Cake and telling me how you got on? I'd love to hear. You will love this cake and you'll become extremely popular with friends. They will think you're extremely clever. But your secret will be safe with me. :)


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