Mum's Magic Chocolate Cake
Food for Thought

Bake 4: Mum’s Magical Chocolate Birthday Cake (but mostly the miraculous frosting)

Mum's Magic Chocolate CakeFirst, a disclaimer. I didn’t take nearly enough photos of this cake in progress to give a decent overview of how the magic happens. But then I decided, maybe that’s for the best. You get to experience it for yourself instead, when you try to make it. Which you absolutely have to do.

My Mum has made this cake for every single birthday party held at our house (which is many) for years. When we were kids, she did all the fancy train cakes and castle cakes and Barbie’s skirt cakes. But to be honest? This one tastes the best. And it is so magically easy.

I made a chocolate cake for my sister-in-law’s birthday last November, and stupidly pulled out a different cake recipe, just to give it a go. It took three times as long and didn’t taste as good. Never again. This, right here, is my chocolate cake recipe, from now on. After all, it’s an heirloom. A tradition. Right?

The cake itself is a basic chocolate sandwich cake, simple and tasty. I use Green & Blacks cocoa to make it extra special, but beyond that, and standard recipe will do. You know, 6oz butter, 6oz sugar, 3 eggs, 5oz self-raising flour and 1oz cocoa. Two tins. 25 minutes at 190°C. Excellent cake.

The frosting, however, is the magic bit. Of course, it’s entirely possible that you’ve all been making a variation on this frosting for years, and it’s only me that’s been struggling with inferior icing methods all my life. If so, ignore my sense of wonder and amazement. But just in case there are people out there who haven’t discovered the magic, here’s the recipe.


  • 3 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 oz butter
  • 4 oz dark chocolate, broken into pieces (again, Green & Blacks’ is sublime here)
  • 95ml evaporated milk
  • 2 drops of Vanilla Extract


  1. Combine sugar and milk in a heavy saucepan and put on a low heat, stirring frequently until all the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for exactly 6 minutes without stirring.
    (Note: This is when the magic happens! Or possibly it’s alchemy. Anyway, it’s certainly the point where the husband wandered in and said, “Is it supposed to be doing that?” while reaching for a spoon, and I rugby tackled him to the floor.)
  3. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the chocolate until it has all melted.
  4. Stir in butter and vanilla extract.
  5. Transfer to a bowl, cool and cover with clingfilm. Chill for a couple of hours until it has thickened enough to spread.
  6. Slather between the two cakes, and on top. And maybe even the sides. Don’t even bother trying to resist the urge to lick out the bowl when you’ve finished.
  7. Decorate cake with candles and sparkles and numbers and other pretty things. Celebrate.