Remember when your parents asked what you did at school, and you replied with a listless, indifferent “nothing”? If your parents were anything like my mum was, that happened at least twice a day, every day; if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably never grown out of the habit. At the age of (nearly) twenty-eight, I’m still like that: I’ll listen to you talk about anything you like, for as long as you want – but the moment you ask “what about you?”, chances are I’ll answer with the good old “nothing”. Nothing remarkable. Nothing shocking. Nothing wrong, even. Just life – and I’m pretty rubbish at talking about mine. Imagine if this was a lifestyle blog; I’d be in a right mess. I mean, would you ever click on a title that sounds like:
- Hair tutorial: try milkmaid braids, give up because you look like Pippi Longstocking on crack, then wear your hair down for the rest of the day
- Outfit Of The Day: jeans from five years ago, and the same bobbly jumper I wore all week
- A day trip to Kent for a work meeting (photos: a styrofoam coffee cup with my name spelled wrong, the must-have shot of my open Mac with a notebook on top, and a panoramic of Gillingham Business Park)
- Sunday Supermarket Haul (did you know chicken breasts are on offer this week? YAY!)
I’d enjoy writing the first few posts (let’s face it: I’ll write about anything, if I can be sarcastic about it), but very soon get tired of posting out-of-focus pictures taken with my phone. And you’d begin to wonder if you’re reading a spoof, or the most unhelpful blog on the planet. I really wish it would be the former.
Talking about food feels much easier; take this simple chocolate cake I’m sharing with you today. It’s one of the most straightforward recipes I know, and yet, I could write about it for hours. Not just because cake is one of the things I love the most; because I’ve been baking this particular cake for half a lifetime, and could tell you hundreds of stories about it. Stories that make me smile, laugh out loud, or even shed a nostalgic tear. So here are five anecdotes about my simple chocolate cake. And I have to ask: what about you? Tell me about the dish or recipe that inspires you the fondest memories; I’d love to know.
1) This is the second cake I learnt to make (the first was this breakfast ricotta cake), and my absolute favourite for many years. I got the recipe from a friend’s mum, who used to make it for her family, and once offered me a slice when I was over to visit. I was fifteen, and felt I’d just been handed the key to eternal happiness.
2) The first and so far only time I cooked with my dad, we tried to turn this cake into a Sachertorte. I made the cake and apricot jam filling; he painstakingly made the glaze, claiming that the only way to get it right was tempering the chocolate on my mum’s white worktop three times. Meanwhile, my mum fretted about in the kitchen, saying nothing but “who will clean up this mess?” for a good hour. That was more than ten years ago; I’m not sure my dad remembers it, but I’m tempted to call him just to ask if he does. I swear I’ll cry if he says yes.
3) I had two very close friends at uni, and made this cake for both their twentieth birthdays. The first instance involved me going to my friend’s family home with all the ingredients in a supermarket bag, and baking it in her mum’s kitchen, as there was no baking gear in my shared house. You won’t be surprised to hear I moved out of there as fast as I could.
4) My other friend was also my roommate by the time her birthday came round, and we arranged a big dinner at our flat. One of the guests was so impressed, he couldn’t believe my chocolate cake was homemade. On the same night, one of our friends walked into the handle of the pan where we were frying bacon for our carbonara, and knocked it over on the kitchen floor. We ended up eating pasta with loads of egg yolk and next to no bacon. Talk about student cooking – ouch.
5) This is the first time I make this cake since moving to London. It’s so good, I have no idea what took me so long. Perhaps I got too carried away with trying to make my desserts healthier; perhaps I got sucked into the business of trying new things (and sometimes failing), and forgot about the old favourites that have never let me down. Don’t get me wrong, I love trying new things. Right now, however, I feel I should make up for the lost years by baking another one of these. Or two.
Simple Chocolate Cake
- 3 eggs (weighing around 175 – 180g altogether)
- 150g caster sugar
- 125ml skimmed milk
- 150g butter, plus extra for greasing
- 175 – 180g dark chocolate
- 175 – 180g plain flour, sifted
- 2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
Note: Sugar, butter, flour and chocolate should each weigh as much as the three eggs. I’ve grown used to reducing the amount of sugar and butter; if the weight of your eggs is wildly different than the recipe states, you’ll need to adjust your quantities.
- Combine the eggs and the sugar in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, whisk until you obtain a light, smooth mixture.
- Pour the milk in a saucepan, and warm it up on the hob. Add in the butter and chocolate; cook until they’re completely melted, stirring to make sure you don’t get any lumps.
- Add the chocolate and butter melt to the egg and sugar mixture, and whisk until well blended.
- Fold in the flour and baking powder. Mix gently until combined.
- Pour the batter in a 24cm springform cake tin, greased with butter.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180º, and bake for 35 – 40 minutes (or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean).
- Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.