Sunday, 7 June 2009

The 21st Century Housewife's Devil's Food Cake


I made my own birthday cake this year. This is not as bad as it sounds. Neither my husband nor my son are keen bakers and I’m pretty good at making cakes. Added to this, my husband had only just returned on the red eye from San Francisco in the late afternoon the day before my birthday. Not much time to make or order a cake – and as he gave me a Fendi handbag for my birthday, I’ll definitely forgive him!

I’ve been making Devil’s Food Cake for a long time now. It’s one of the nicest cakes I make and people often ask for it. The thing is, I was using a recipe I developed a long time ago with the help of a dog-eared clipping from my Mom’s old recipe file. For some reason, I felt a tiny bit daring when I made it this time, and I’m so glad I did. I made a few more changes to the recipe and this Devil’s Food Cake is definitely the best one I have ever made. Sometimes Devil’s Food Cake can be a bit too rich, but this one is light and has just the right level of sweetness.

I like to use an electric mixer to make this cake as it gives a lighter and fluffier result. You can mix it by hand if you prefer, but I find the amount of beating the mixture requires to get the best results makes my arms feel like they are going to fall off and yet I still don't get the amount of air I need in the mixture!

It’s really important to use good unsweetened cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate) as it can affect how your cake turns out, and especially how it tastes. I used Green and Black’s Organic Cocoa Powder this time and the results were superb. In the past I have also used Cadbury and Rowntree cocoa powder with good results as well. Also, don't leave out the vanilla. Although it seems odd putting vanilla in a chocolate cake, it makes a huge difference to the depth of the flavor.

This recipe makes a proper two-layer cake that you can sandwich together with the frosting of your choice. Traditionally, Devil’s Food Cake is frosted with chocolate icing. However, my son decided when he was a little boy that he preferred vanilla frosting with it. It tastes very nice, so I tend to use that instead. (I must confess that I do use a Betty Crocker ready-made frosting from time to time, especially if I am in a hurry as I was this time.) I am currently working on developing a new ‘from scratch’ frosting using the Green and Black’s Cocoa Powder as I find myself craving a return to the traditional - so watch this space!

The 21st Century Housewife’s Devil’s Food Cake

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ¾ cups white sugar (caster for preference, but granulated will do)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
3 large eggs, preferably free range and organic if possible
2¼ cups all-purpose (plain) flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
2 generous pinches of salt
1 1/3 cups milk (I used half fat – that’s 2% - milk)

You’ll need two eight or nine inch round cake tins (20 to 23 cm). Grease and flour the pans before using – or use cake tin liners which are by far the easier option. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). This is quite hot, but you are not going to leave it this hot. You just want the oven right up to temperature when you put the cake in, at which point you turn it back a bit. This helps the layers to rise beautifully.

Cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the sugar and vanilla and cream together. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together into a separate bowl. Add this mixture alternately with the milk (in about four additions) beating well after each addition.

Divide the mixture evenly between the cake tins and place in the preheated oven. Once you have closed the door, immediately turn the oven back to between 150 and 170°C (fan ovens are best at 150°C) or 325°F. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until a piece of raw spaghetti inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Frost as desired and enjoy. The cake will keep up to three days and is better if stored in a fridge and returned to room temperature before serving. You can also freeze the layers (without icing) for about a month. Thaw completely before frosting.

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