Chocolate Fudge Birthday Cake

'Triple loop' from the sculpture exhibition

‘Triple loop’ from the sculpture exhibition

It’s my little sister’s birthday this weekend – I say little, she’s nearly as grown-up as me and that’s the “over-30-but-pretending-we’re-not-middle-aged yet” bit of grown-up. She lives in Leicester, we’re in Milton Keynes and though we only live an hour and a half apart, what with holidays and plans and Stuff, we don’t always get to meet up near the actual day. This year, we met up for a wander around the Leicester Botanic Gardens sculpture exhibition which – honestly! – is a highlight of my year. The gardens are near to where I grew up but we didn’t visit very often so they have a sort of magical aura about them, left over from when I was little. There are fountains and cool green spaces and greenhouses full of cacti and paths winding off into the distance and enigmatic cats that watch you go by. I’m convinced that I remember an event there with an indoor swimming pool surrounded by flowers but as I get older, I have a nagging suspicion it might have been a dream. Anyway, every year a different set of sculptures are installed for the summer and we usually have two family outings to admire them: one in full summer where we swelter and one in the autumn with the glorious colours.

Cake-o-Meter Quantities

Cake-o-Meter Quantities

I took a cake this time. Sophie is a chocolate fan so it has to be a rich chocolate fudge job, but in acknowledgement of the fact we’re all supposed to getting smaller, I’m going to make a tiny one rather than a full-on Nigella-approved feast. This gave me an excuse to finally try the Cake-O-Meter website and convert the recipe to my little 6″ pans. The graphic right is what it came out with:

Here’s the final recipe (words Nigella’s, not mine!) in handy blog format:

Chocolate Fudge Cake

Makes a 6″ cake

  • 225 grams plain flour
  • 141 grams golden caster sugar
  • 57 grams light brown muscovado sugar
  • 28 grams best-quality cocoa powder
  • 1 rounded teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 80 ml sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 100 grams unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
  • 70 ml vegetable oil
  • 170 ml chilled water

For the frosting

  • 100 grams dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
  • 140 grams unsalted butter (softened)
  • 100 grams icing sugar (sifted)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350ºF.
  2. Butter and line the bottom of two 6 inch sandwich tins.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugars, cocoa, baking powder, bicarb and salt. In another bowl or wide-necked measuring jug whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla until blended. Using a freestanding or handheld electric mixer, beat together the melted butter and corn oil until just blended (you’ll need another large bowl for this if using the hand whisk; the freestanding mixer comes with its own bowl), then beat in the water. Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix together on a slow speed. Add the egg mixture, and mix again until everything is blended and then pour into the prepared tins.
  4. Bake the cakes for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake-tester comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their tins on a wire rack for 15 minutes, and then turn the cakes out onto the rack to cool completely.
  5. To make the icing, melt the chocolate in the microwave – 2-3 minutes on medium should do it – or in a bowl sitting over a pan of simmering water, and let cool slightly.
  6. In another bowl beat the butter until it’s soft and creamy and then add the sieved icing sugar and beat again until everything’s light and fluffy. I know sieving is a pain, the one job in the kitchen I really hate, but you have to do it or the icing will be unsoothingly lumpy. Then gently add the vanilla and chocolate and mix together until everything is glossy and smooth.
  7. Sandwich the middle of the cake with about a quarter of the icing, and then ice the top and sides too, spreading and smoothing with a rubber spatula.

Verdict? Well, the quantity conversion worked a charm but I wasn’t sure on the timing. I estimated the time it might need and cooked the cakes for 35 minutes rather than 55 and they did pass the clean-skewer test but I think they were only just cooked enough. 40 minutes might have been better. Anyway, I’ve been commissioned to make a carrot cake next Friday so will be using the converter again 🙂

I wasn’t sure if the frosting was going to survive the car journey on a hot day so I packed it around with frozen bottles of water and ice packs – it was fine. Here it is, surrounded with strawberries and perched on my parents’ lawn!

Chocolate cake and strawberries

Chocolate cake and strawberries

Happy birthday Sophie. Love you lots, and have a wonderful happy year with lots of adventures.

Decadently fudge

Decadently fudgy

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