As promised, the recipe for this Chocolate Orange Cake. It’s not the world’s most complicated recipe, but it was rather yummy. Apologies if you’re a seasonsed baker – this may all seem a bit simple. But I thought I’d explain every step thoroughly, just in case baking newbies want to have a go. And if you wait ’til the bottom of today’s post, you can see the joint effort of me and my housemate Mel… never has something aimed at children been compiled with such panache and skill.
I should warn you, before I start, that my baking is never an exact science. As long as you beat well, and have things more or less in ratio, it can’t go far wrong. I’ve tried to make the recipe chatty, but following the bits in bold will work just as well…
– 250g margarine/butter
– 250g golden or normal/white caster sugar
– 230g self-raising flour (we don’t really have cake flour in the UK…)
– 20g cocoa powder
– 3 eggs (medium or large)
– small amount of baking powder
– ditto vanilla essence
– an orange
For the icing:
– icing sugar, butter, cocoa powder… as needed
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5
(sorry, no ‘degrees’ key)
1) Cream together the margarine and the sugar. And mix it quite well. But don’t wear yourself out at this stage. Exert a huge amount of will power not to eat the entire sugary-buttery mixture… seriously, I sometimes put 10g extra of each in, just to compensate for the amount I know that I’ll eat at this stage.
As I said in an earlier post, I always use caster sugar. People more in the know than me assure me that granulated will work equally well but… I’m a sceptic. I use what Our Vicar’s Wife always used.
2) Measure out the s-r flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder. Yes, technically you don’t need baking powder if you’re using self-raising flour – but I find popping a little baking powder in ensures that it’s nice and fluffy. Put it this way, I’ve never had a cake come out overly solid.
A tip… I have put 230g flour and 20g cocoa powder above, but I recommend putting in as much as cocoa powder as looks right, then fill up with the flour until the scales reach 250g. Always better to have too much cocoa powder than too little…
3) Break an egg into a mug, whisk it, add it with a third of the flour/cocoa powder/baking powder mixture. Repeat three times. Doesn’t have to be a mug. You can use one of those endless little glass bowls chefs have on TV, if you like. But doing them in three bouts – rather than all at once – makes it easier to get the additions into thirds. And to fish out bits of broken shell. In between each addition, beat well. But not so flour goes everywhere.
4) Beat it really well. I think this is what separates the fluffy cakes from the doorstops.
5) Add vanilla essence. And now the exciting part. Add the zest and juice of the orange. If, like me, you don’t own a zester, a fine cheese grater works well. But make sure it’s a fine one, not one which will leave chunks of peel in your mixture. Zest/grate all over the orange, straight into the bowl, until the outside of the orange is mostly white. You want to get as much of the zest in as possible. Then chop the orange in half and use a juicer, or just squeeze the orange over the bowl – being careful to remove the pips as they inevitably fall in…
6) Is it the right consistency? Recipe books assume nothing can go wrong… as a seasoned amateur baker, I definitely don’t assume that. The juice of the orange might well have made the mixture too runny – if so, sift some more flour in. Consistencies are really difficult to describe… it should pour slowly into the baking tins. I.e. not liquidy but not stuck to the bowl… it should ‘keep a peak’, as they say of meringue mixtures. But it’s not *so* important if it’s not exactly the right consistency…
7) Put in circular tins. Which I’m sure you’ve already greased and lined with baking paper… Recipes always tell you to do this at the beginning, but I’m sure nobody does. Perhaps I’m just a baking rebel without a cause.
8) Bake for 35-45mins. Because this is quite a large cake, it needs a bit longer in the oven than most. I tend to take it out at about 30mins and poke a knife in it. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. Keep testing like this every five minutes until it is done. Use a fancy baking skewer if you’ve got one.
9) Let it cool, then ice it. I used butter icing for the centre (the rule of thumb is twice as much icing sugar as butter – I used 50g and 100g) and chocolate icing on the top. For that, use more icing sugar than you would have thought possible, sieve it – always sieve icing sugar, actually – and sieve in a tablespoon of cocoa powder. Again, better too much cocoa powder than too little. Nobody likes weak-tasting icing. Add tiny bits of water in increments, mixing well, until the icing is spreadable but not spillontothefloorable. This is usually a matter of trial and error – add some water, add some water, add some water – oh no, too much! – add some icing sugar, add some water…
If you don’t have *that* sweet a tooth, just use the butter icing in the centre, and dust icing sugar over the top, using a sieve. That makes it look very attractive, and saves on dentist bills a tiny bit.
And then hopefully you’re done! A fairly standard sponge cake, but with a few twists, and lots of little foibles which probably aren’t set in stone, but are essential for a true Simon Thomas cake. Do let me know if you have a go – I want to see pictures!
Speaking of which, and destroying any baking credentials I might have had, here is the creation Mel and I made. It’s a self-assembly baking kit, but a little old and thus the pre-made icing had gone a bit, er, funny… At least it’s brought a *little* literature into today’s post, by way of Hansel and Gretel.