This cake is the first chocolate cake I can remember eating. It’s certainly the one my mother cooked for us most often as children (when she wasn’t burning her way through Delia’s Book of Cakes). The original recipe was within the pages of an Marks & Spencer cookbook/manual called How to Give a Children’s Party, and I was FASCINATED by this book.
Back then in the late 70s/early 80s, kids’ parties were very much still in the Pass the Parcel/Musical Statues/play in the garden/birthday cake wrapped in a piece of kitchen roll/tiny going home present mould, and the idea of pinatas or complex theme parties was just too exotic for words.
This cake was billed as a Milk Chocolate Cake, but was always known as Chocolate Smartie Cake in our household, and it’s one of the very, very few fake chocolate cakes that I would tolerate then or now (as in it uses drinking chocolate in the sponge, as opposed to proper grown up chocolate). I am scarred because most choccie cakes made for children’s palates back in my yoof were from the era when people used margarine for cake baking &, even worse, for faux butter icing, leaving that oily film on the roof of the mouth. GROO.
It’s great for children, as it’s not at all rich, but because it has a proper chocolate icing, it still delivers that theobromine hit. Somehow this cake just manages to transcend its ingredients: the evaporated milk is genius, because it makes for a deliciously light & moist crumb, thereby also avoiding the other cake horror of childhood – the sawdust cake.
(I was hideously spoilt as a child, as my mother is both a glorious cook and a Ninja baker and, frankly, everything we ate outside of our home paled by comparison.)
I have tweaked the recipe slightly. It called for marg for a start, and as the fashion these days is for deep cakes, I double the ingredients, as otherwise the cake looks like a classic flat-ish Victoria Sponge. Resist the temptation to split your cakes and make this into a four layer cake, as this icing does not sit well on naked cake crumb. (Or else, use a different icing.)
400g (14 oz) self-raising flour
450g (16 oz) caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons drinking chocolate (I use Green & Blacks as it gives a nice speckly blonde batter. Cadbury’s is finer so you get a more chocolate coloured batter.)
200g (8 oz) Butter
10 tablespoons evaporated milk
10 tablespoons water
2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1. Grease two deep 18cm (7 in) tins, either round, but not loose-bottomed.
2. In a food processor, tip in the dry ingredients and the butter, and whizz together
3. Mix together all the liquid ingredients: eggs, milk, water and vanilla essence, then stir in.
4. Whizz together until the mixture is well combined
5. Divide the mixture between the two tins, smoothing off the top.
6. Bake at 180°C, 350°F, Gas Mark 4 for about 30 minutes. The cake should be springy when pressed with a finger.
7. turn out carefully onto an airing rack, and make sure it is completely cool before icing.
9. Ice with chocolate fudge icing.
Chocolate fudge icing
NB: in the photo I have used HALF this recipe, but I didn’t think it was nearly generous enough, so I’m going to suggest the amount below.
150g (6 oz) Butter
8 tablespoons Cocoa – again, I use Green & Black’s.
DO NOT USE drinking chocolate here, as it will be far too sweet when mixed with the icing sugar.
450 g (16 oz) sieved Icing Sugar – US – confectioner’s sugar. (It’s really important to sift it as it is always lumpy and you don’t want a lumpy icing.)
6 tablespoons Evaporated Milk
2 teaspoons Vanilla Essence
1. Melt the butter and the cocoa together over a low heat.
2. Add the evaporated milk with the vanilla essence and beat well.
2. Sir in the icing sugar gradually and beat very well until smooth. Do not add it all in at once as the icing will become impossible to stir.
4. Use it immediately to sandwich the two layers and then ice the top, smoothing with a spatula or palette knife down towards the side. Then ice the sides.
Warning: this icing stiffens very, very quickly so you need to use it as soon as possible. If it starts to crisp on the surface, warm it over a low heat and beat well.