Chocolate Spice Cake

This recipe is seriously old school. It’s from 1974. Even before I saw the copyright date on the bottom I knew it was outdated because it calls for margarine and cooking chocolate, neither of which are welcome in my kitchen. Sorry guys, you just don’t cut it. There’s a story coming up so get comfy and prepare to be regaled.

The Mammy has three sisters and they all have a sweet recipe that is kind of their signature dish. It’s like the Captain Planet of baking only more delicious and not at all cringey. The Mammy herself makes Chocolate Brownies. Auntie Sheila makes Profiteroles. Auntie Emer makes Pavlova. And Auntie Felicia makes my grandmother’s Chocolate Spice Cake which I remember fondly from childhood memories. In November, I was sitting down with a whole bunch of my cousins – all the children of said aunties. I mentioned my desire to set up a Happy Food Baby stall at a local food market as a way to feed the hungry, sugar-starved masses and also as a way to make some dosh. I put down a list of all the things I intended to make – some new recipes from my own repertoire but also some older recipes I’ve taken over from The Mammy. Soon, the conversation was in full swing and more suggestions were hastily scribbled into my tiny notebook. It was all “aww d’ya remember those things your mam used to make? They were delicious!” and “I used to love those things as a kid, you should make them for your food stall!” It was a lot of fun. Of course, the idea of Chocolate Spice Cake came up. I figured it was something easy I could whip up and serve at a food market. It’s also in-keeping with the Happy Food Baby theme of good old-fashioned homecooking, without the fuss and palaver. Finally, the recipe made its way into my hands. Check it out: long before the days of fancy food photography, it was enough to simply show the cake as it would look if you followed the recipe accordingly.  I can’t argue with that. At least the rather rudimentary photo won’t leave me in a pool of self-doubt, wondering why my cake never turns out so fancy, sob!

You can see the recipe in the above picture but for the sake of continuity, I have rewritten it below. I also changed the icing recipe slightly, using plenty of cream. This cake is seriously light and airy, with just a hint of spice. It’s basically a moist gingerbread cake. Perfect for elevenses!

Chocolate Spice Cake

4 oz / 100g butter, softened
7 oz / 200g sugar
2 oz / 50g chocolate (I used 1oz of milk choc and 1oz of 70%+ choc)
2 eggs, separated
6 oz / 175g self-raising flour
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cloves
8 tblsp / 100ml milk
1 oz / 25g butter, softened
5 oz / 125g icing sugar
3 tblsp cocoa powder
Enough pouring cream to bring the icing to a spreadable consistency.

1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F. Grease and flour an 8inch cake tin.

2. Using the microwave or double boiler, melt the chocolate and allow to cool.

3. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the egg yolks and chocolate and beat until well mixed.

4. Sift the flour with the spices and salt. Alternately beat the flour and milk into the butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour.

5. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Gently fold them into the batter using a metal spoon.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and smooth down. Bake for 40-45 mins or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. My cake was perfectly done after 40mins. Turn onto a wire rack and allow to cool.

7. For the icing: sift the icing sugar and cocoa together. Cream the butter with the dry ingredients. If you use cream instead of hot water, as in the original recipe, you’ll need to continue mixing the icing over a double boiler or in the microwave in order to melt the butter. Add the cream gradually, mixing well after each addition. Once your icing is at a spreadable consistency, and gloopy enough that it’ll dribble down the side of the cake, you’re done, but you’ll need to work relatively quickly as the butter will begin to harden. I didn’t add vanilla as I didn’t want the icing to be too sweet.


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