Thursday, 7 March 2013

A Tale of Two Chocolate Cakes

We forget that chocolate has been in Europe since the early 17th century and the first mention of chocolate in England was in the mid 1600s when bakers started to add cocoa powder to cakes. Everyone loves Chocolate Cake and yet there are so many variations. So far, I’ve told you about Grandma’s simple version of Chocolate Cake which can be decorated with a dusting of icing sugar or cocoa powder or covered with melted chocolate. It’s one of my favourites since it’s quick to make and light in texture.
A few weeks ago I met a lovely gentleman called Harry who gave me his Milk Chocolate Cake recipe when I talked to the Independent Living Group. Harry makes his yummy cake for the group when they meet for Afternoon tea and they all love it.

Harry’s Milk Chocolate Cake
4oz/110g butter or margarine
4oz /110g sugar
2 eggs (beaten)
5 tbsps evaporated milk
1 oz/25g cocoa powder
7oz/175g self raising flour
5 tbsps water
Few drops of vanilla essence or extract
Beat the butter and sugar to a cream. Then stir in the eggs beaten with the evaporated milk. Add the flour and cocoa powder. Mix thoroughly. Then add the water and vanilla essence. Pour mixture into 2 well greased sandwich tins. Bake in the oven 180C (fan 160C), Mark 4 for around 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool.

Filling
20z/50g butter
4oz/110g sieved icing sugar
Mix thoroughly and spread on one of the sandwich cakes. Place the other on top. Decorate the top with sieved icing sugar or melted chocolate. Delicious!

I’ve completed my last of four Wednesdays of talks at the Hodsock Priory Snowdrops. Visitors were intrigued by one of the recipes from the Buchanan family’s own compilation of recipes, which dated back to 1885 from Emily, Marchioness of Headfort, great great grandmother of the current custodians of Hodsock. It's for a chocolate cake which is quite different to Harry's and has a denser texture than more modern sponge cakes.  
Emily’s Chocolate Cake
Emily writes that this Chocolate Cake is ‘perfect but extravagant’. It contains the usual ingredients of sugar, flour, grated chocolate, butter and eggs but also adds Groult’s potato flour.  The method is as follows : ‘Work the butter and sugar together, then work in the chocolate, add the yolks of eggs and lastly the flours and the whipped egg whites. Bake for 1-1 ½ hours according to the oven’.

I’ve been quizzing the Hodsock visitors to see if they know how the cooks in those days knew how to gauge the temperatures of the oven ranges. Do you know how they did this?  Well, Grandma used to tell me that she would put her hand inside the oven to see if it was just the right temperature for a cake or pie!  Safety alert – don’t try this! Thank goodness for modern ovens with temperature dials today.

Enjoy baking chocolate cakes - have you got a special Chocolate Cake recipe?

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