Do you know how your love of food/cooking/baking started? I do. It all started with cakes. From the moment I realised that it was possible to make cakes from scratch at home, I had to make one. It wasn’t easy, despite the simple (but not very reliable) recipe I used and it took at least 4 tries to get it right. But after the first time I got it right, I was hooked. I fell in love with the feeling of creaming butter, whipping eggs, folding the batter and then scraping it all out of the bowl and into the tins. And I loved the anticipation whilst watching to see if the cake would rise (and more importantly how much it would rise) and the satisfaction of taking a beautiful cake straight out of the oven to devour straight away. I’ll take any opportunity to bake a cake- which is why I did not hesitate to offer to bake a cake for my friend’s surprise party.
The fact that our group of friends only decided we wanted a cake two days before my friend’s birthday (because us teenagers are unorganised like that), made it difficult to make anything really special because I like to have a long ‘thinking time’. So, to keep it sort of simple, I decided on a chocolate mud cake, since everyone loves chocolate- so no matter how badly the baking would go, it couldn’t really taste too bad. I also decided to add bit of chocolate frosting and ganache over the top to make the cake more like of a birthday cake without being too extravagant or time consuming. Considering the number of times I’ve made chocolate cake before, there wasn’t too much that could go wrong………
You can probably guess it didn’t quite go as planned.
Even before the baking started, I ran into my first ‘problem’- the budget. I didn’t realise that chocolate would cost so much! I ended up buying Cadbury (~$3.50) only to realise later that not only do normal bars of chocolate cost a lot less than ‘cooking chocolate’, there’s almost always a brand of chocolate for half price every week too! So, as far as I’m concerned ‘cooking chocolate’ is just a marketing trick to get us consumers to pay more for the same bar of chocolate =[
The baking, however, started off perfectly. The recipe was simple- just some melting of chocolate and butter, then some mixing and then into the oven it went. I did go a little overboard with the mixing (because it’s so fun!) so the cake turned out lighter than it should have been, and therefore not very mud cake-y, but I like light cakes anyway =] I don’t have two pans of the same size in my household, so I ended up baking then in two slightly different tins. The cakes turned out wonderful despite the slightly domed shape (I increased the temperature a bit). They smelt delicious and I had an urge to just peel of the crispy edges like I always do but somehow managed to refrain. It was so hard not knowing how the cake would taste! With the baking only taking me about an hour, I had things all under control- how long could the icing possibly take????
I left the cake to cool for more than an hour, which was more than enough, in this cool weather. Once I was satisfied that the cake was cool enough, I started with the frosting, which was a simple truffle ganache frosting- just chocolate, sugar, cream and butter. When that was done, I started to cut trim the cakes. Since one was larger than the other, I wanted to cut the larger one until it was the same size as the smaller one- sounds simple enough right? It was only then that I realised I’d never trimmed any cake before, and as I made my way around the cake with a knife, bits and pieces just fell off, leaving me with a smaller, wonky sized cake!
From there on it went downhill- I tried to cut the top one too make it look like the second one, and when that didn’t work I tried cutting them both together- but the cake just fell off in huge pieces! The originally 23cm cake, eventually turned into a smaller than 20cm cake, and I ended up having to stick the cake back together with chocolate……and ended up with a terrible chocolatey mess in my kitchen too! There were cake crumbs and chocolate everywhere! And then when I went on to frost the cake, I realised that I didn’t have nearly enough frosting- clearly 200mL of cream was not enough to frost two layers of 20cm cake! So I improvised a chocolate butter cream with melted chocolate, butter and icing sugar only to run out of chocolate (luckily I still had some not very good quality chocolate in my pantry) and to have the chocolate turn into specks of chocolate in the buttercream.
By the time I made the ganache to pour over the cake, I’d spent too much time and used way too much equipment, to bother with making it properly. I just placed it in the microwave to heat- hence the lack of glossiness and the lumps of chocolate everywhere. It was a little too runny, and the icing ran all over the counter top but at least I sort of got the dripping pattern I was hoping for…….sort of. I attempted to make cake balls out of the cake scraps, mixing them with the left over runny ganache, but realised I didn’t have enough ganache so I tried piping my friend’s name with the mixture and when that turned out horrible I tried piping a thin line on the bottom of the cake, despite the face that I only had enough to go around a quarter of the cake. So if you were wondering what that dark brown thing at the bottom of the cake is, now you know =]
So, more than two bars of chocolate, two blocks of butter (no one needed to know that…), a tub of cream and a two sink-fuls of baking equipment later, I finally had my cake. Now all that was left to do was to put it in the cardboard cake box and take it to school……. and ask the canteen ladies whether we could borrow their fridge for half a day, and try to sneak the cake into a room without the birthday girl seeing it =] The surprise party was a success, and we had a wonderful time, even if it took half of lunch to get everything prepared. Because of certain laws which ban students from taking knives to school, we had to cut the cake with a plastic knife- which just does not work, no matter how good at cutting cakes you are! The cake however, tasted surprisingly good- I got great reviews from everyone who tasted it (although no one’s ever really going to tell you that your cake tastes bad) and it was definitely one of the best chocolate cake recipes I’ve tried- I’d definitely use it again! I’d probably halve the recipe next time- despite our very large group of friends, we found it difficult to finish it all!
Chocolate Mud Cake
Recipe from Exclusively Food
250g butter (if using unsalted butter, add 1/4 teaspoon salt
with the butter)
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules/powder
325g (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) plain flour
30g (1/4 cup
plus 2 teaspoons) cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking
550g (2 1/2 cups) caster sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
125ml (1/2 cup) buttermilk
(I used normal milk)
1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius (not fan-forced).
2. Grease the side and base of a deep 23cm or 24cm diameter (inside top measurement) round cake pan. Line base and side of the pan with non-stick baking paper, extending the paper a few centimetres above the top rim of the pan.
3. Place 250g chocolate, butter, coffee and water in a large saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. When chocolate and butter have melted, remove mixture from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm/room temperature.
4. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda together into a very large bowl.
5. Add the caster sugar to the bowl with the flour mixture, and stir the ingredients together until well combined. For this recipe, we prefer to use a whisk to stir ingredients together.
6. In a medium bowl, place eggs, oil, vanilla and buttermilk.
7. Whisk the wet ingredients together until well combined.
8. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until well combined.
9. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg and flour mixture in a three batches, stirring until combined after each addition.
10. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
11. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes (24cm pan) or 1 hour and 30 minutes (23cm pan). Insert a thin-bladed knife or wooden skewer into the centre of the cake to test whether it is cooked through. If the knife/skewer comes out clean or with moist crumbs (not gooey batter) attached, the cake is ready. If not, return the cake to the oven and bake for a further 5-10 minutes before testing again.
12. When cooked through, remove cake from oven, cover with a clean tea towel and allow to cool in the pan.