Beginner’s Chocolate Cake with whipped Chocolate Butter Icing

A few years ago I set out on a mission to find the “best” chocolate cake recipes around. And by “best”, I meant “best moist cake”, “best mud cake”, “best cake for kid’s parties”, etcetera – you get the picture. A chocolaholic like me can’t possibly rely on only one chocolate cake recipe to meet my various chocolate needs; and what is dense and decadent, filled with rich dark chocolate demands a very different audience to a lighter, milder children’s birthday cake.

Beginner's Chocolate Cake

So this is my “lighter, milder children’s birthday cake” and is a wonderfully straight-forward recipe that any new baker perhaps low in confidence might want to start off with. Where it lacks complication and a  list of ingredients as long as your arm, believe me, there is no lacking in flavour or texture.

I tend to match my icings with the type of cake too, so where you have a richer cake, I feel the icing should complement it, but be more simple. Likewise where you have a plainer basic cake, you get to experiment and be a little more flamboyant with the icing. So keeping that in mind, I was experimenting with good old butter icing the other day and came up with this version. It is light and creamy, with only a hint of the icing sugar present. I really don’t enjoy icings where the only thing you can taste is the icing sugar itself, so never be shy to play around with icing ingredients and quantities until you find one that works well for you.

Basic Chocolate Cake:
3 eggs
250 ml castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
250 ml flour
½ cup cocoa
½ tsp salt
½ cup milk
2 Tbsp butter
3 tsp baking powder

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Prepare two round 20 cm cake tins by buttering the sides and bottom and coating in a thin layer of flour, or line with baking parchment.
  2. Beat the sugar and eggs together until light and fluffy, probably for around 3 – 5 minutes on a medium to high speed.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients (except the baking powder) in a separate bowl.
  4. Add the vanilla essence to the egg mix.
  5. Boil the milk and butter in a saucepan on the stove or in a microwave proof jug.
  6. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the egg mixture alternately with the butter/milk mixture. Fold together until well combined.
  7. Sprinkle over the baking powder and stir to combine. The mixture will be quite runny.
  8. Pour it evenly into the two prepared baking tins and bake in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre of each cake comes out clean.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins on wire cooling racks. After about 10 minutes, invert them onto the wire racks and allow to cool completely before icing.

Chocolate Butter Icing with a difference
1 cup butter, at room temperature (soft but not melted)
2 cups icing sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
hot water
chocolate bar for decoration

  1. Add sufficient hot water to the cup of cocoa powder to form a smooth runny paste – I can’t tell you exactly how much water, but add a little at a time until you get there. It might be more than you think you’ll need, but once added you can’t remove it, so see how you go. Set aside to cool. It must still be more of a paste, not a runny liquid.
  2. Cream the butter with an electric mixer until light in colour and smooth. Add the sifted icing sugar a little at a time and continue to mix until well combined and smooth.
  3. Add the cooled cocoa/water mixture and mix well to combine.
  4. Place the mixing bowl into the fridge for a while to cool completely and set a little, about 15 – 20 minutes.
  5. Beat the mixture on high to whip it up then pour/lather it between the layers and over the top and sides of the cake.
  6. Grate chocolate over the top, in this case my favourite Peppermint Crisp.


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