When I think of a typical English chocolate cake, I think of a chocolate Victoria sponge. This type of cake is easy to make and can be presented in so many different ways.
Victoria sponge is more dense than the sponge used in typical cupcakes. Cupcakes are often made using a lighter sponge where the topping takes the centre stage. Victoria sponge cake is a very easy cake to make that has a good flavour and holds together well.
This recipe is the same as the recipe I used to make as a child. I loved baking even then - and my mother was always very patient with my fiesty temper if things didn't quite go according to plan.... It's easy to remember with the equal quantities of flour, sugar and butter. I do often reduce the sugar in this cake, and it's still perfectly delicious. You can reduce the sugar by almost a quarter with no harm done. If you're using a rich or very sweet topping or filling, this is most certainly a good idea.
You can use margarine. You get a fluffier and lighter sponge this way,
but we love the taste of butter and anyway, I don't quite trust
margarine. How healthy is it? One could ask how healthy cake is, I
suppose. But they're all honest ingredients, and a full afternoon tea is
a treat after all!
If using straight from the fridge, I chop the butter into small pieces in a glass bowl and put it into the oven for 3 minutes when I first turn on the oven. This softens the butter without fully melting it. When you take it out of the oven, beat it vigorously until it is all properly soft. If the butter does melt, don't worry too much. The cake will still taste great. But it's better for the consistency to be soft but not melted.
My personal favourite filling is whipped cream and fresh strawberries with a simple dusting of icing (powdered) sugar on the top.
When I was young, there was a fantastic baker in our town who made the most delicious English chocolate cream cakes that I have ever tasted. He was called Michael Brown and his cakes were presented with strawberry jam and whipped cream as a filling with a simple dusting of icing sugar on the top. When I was 18, he brought a large one of these cakes round to the door, still wearing his chef's hat! It was the best birthday cake I can remember.
Other delicious fillings are butter cream or chocolate butter cream, mousseline or chocolate ganache, just for examples. Other toppings could include chocolate ganache, fluffy vanilla frosting or butter cream. Really, the possibilities are endless.....
Cocoa powder varies in chocolateyness hugely. We love to get the Green and Blacks organic cocoa powder, but it is expensive. We often buy cheap cocoa powder, but throw in a handful of chocolate chips to the mixture which melt and make the cake extra special.
Time: 1 1/2 hour (including cooling time)
Servings: 8 generous slices, or 12 small
225g (1 1/4 cups) plain flour
1 slightly rounded tsp baking soda
1 slightly rounded tsp baking powder
225g (1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour
225g (one cup) soft butter
225g (scant 1 1/4 cup) caster or fine sugar
25g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder (dutch processed)
Two 8 inch cake tins
We have found that it is better to cook this cake in two tins. You can make it in one deep tin, but we find it tends to sag in the middle. Still tastes good though!
Your English Chocolate Cake is now ready and should be served ideally on the same day. If you are not eating it very soon, keep it in a cake tin to keep it fresh, or cover it with a tea towel at least.
As part of a tea spread, try serving it with chocolate eclairs (seen here filled with chocolate cream) and a selection of finger sandwiches. A nice combination would be cucumber, ham and egg mayonnaise.