An easy chocolate cake that is quick and fool-proof, and perfect for birthdays and celebrations.
I am mindful that I have already shared quite a few chocolate cake recipes here on this blog, and that they all happen to be recipes which I frequently return to whenever a special occasion arises. But recently, it occurred to me that I am often tweaking the recipes a bit here and there, particularly if I want to bake the cake in a different sized cake tin or if want to mix and match the cake with a different frosting.
So I thought it was worth posting one of my regular “tweaks” to Nigella Lawson’s Sour-Cream Chocolate Cake, a recipe which I have been faithful to for well over a decade – it is that good and that reliable.
For the most part, I love to make a double-layer cake as nothing exudes celebratory vibes more than a magnificantly tall cake. But for little childrens’ birthday parties, especially at my childrens’ daycare centre, I prefer to produce a more humble-looking cake, not least because a wider and flatter cake tends to be more economical, particularly if you are catering to little people who enjoy licking the icing more than eating the actual cake.
For my daughter’s birthday party at daycare this week (which they celebrate during the afternoon tea session), I made a large single-layer chocolate cake with a simple chocolate frosting. I briefly entertained the thought of turning it into a butterfly-shaped cake, but I decided to postpone the thought to another year; our nieces from Sweden were recently staying with us and I’m still recovering from the responsibilities of feeding two picky eaters in addition to our own little fusspots.
I keep telling myself that I ought to do something different at the next birthday celebration; that I should try a more challenging recipe, maybe make a rainbow cake or even attempt something crazy like a Paw Patrol tower cake. Or maybe I will just take the pressure off myself and attempt one of these cakes on a random afternoon to amuse the children 🙂
But in case you are interested, here is my recipe for an Easy Chocolate Cake, aka my go-to-recipe for birthdays, celebrations, or simply when the craving for a good old-fashioned chocolate cake arises. You won’t be disappointed.
Easy Chocolate Cake
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 35 mins
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: Serves 6-8
For the cake
- 2/3 cup (150ml) sour cream or crème frâiche
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 1 1/2 cups (200g) plain flour
- 1/3 cup (40g) best quality cocoa
- 1 cup (200g) caster sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks (200g) unsalted butter, softened
For the icing
- 3 oz (80g) milk chocolate (e.g. 42% cocoa)
- 3 oz (80 g) dark chocolate (e.g. 70% cocoa)
- 3/4 stick (75g) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (125ml) sour cream or crème frâiche
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 1 teaspoon golden syrup
- 2 1/2 cups (300g) icing sugar, sifted
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
- Line and grease a 23 cm (9 inch) round cake tin.
- Place all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture is well-combined. The batter should be thick and smooth.
- Alternatively, if you do not have a food processor, place the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer with the flat paddle attachment. Beat on low speed until the butter is incorporated into the dry ingredients. In a small bowl or jug, lightly whisk together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla extract. Slowly add the wet ingredients and beat until the batter is thoroughly mixed.
- Pour the batter evenly into the prepared cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Place the cake tin on a wire rack and let the cake cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, before turning it onto the wire rack to cool completely. I often make the cake the night before serving and leave it to cool overnight.
- To make the icing, melt the chocolate and butter in a bain-marie or a bowl over a pan of simmering water, taking care not to let the bowl come into contact with the water. Once the chocolate has melted, take the bowl off the heat and stir in the sour cream, vanilla extract and golden syrup.
- Whisk the icing sugar into the chocolate mixture. The icing should be thick enough to cover the cake, but soft enough to spread easily.
- Ice the cake as per the photo with a tall layer of frosting, or cover the cake completely with the frosting – however you like.
- Leave the cake to set for at least a few hours before serving.
- The cake keeps well on a covered cake stand for a few days.
As this is one of my go-to recipes for birthday cakes, I thought it would be helpful to also provide baking times when using different sized cake pans.
12 cm (5 inch) round cake pan
Fill the pan with batter to about 2 cm from the top. You will have leftover batter from the recipe above. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
16 cm (6 inch) round cake pan
Fill the pan with batter to about 2 cm from the top. You will have leftover batter from the recipe above. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
20 cm (8 inch) round cake pan
The above recipe can be used to fill two cake pans of this size. Fill the pans with batter to about 2 cm from the top. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
23 cm (9 inch) round cake pan
The above recipe can be used to fill one cake pan of this size. To make a double-layer cake, double the above recipe and use two pans of this size. Fill the pan with batter to about 2 cm from the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
26 cm (10 inch) round cake pan
The above recipe can be used to fill one cake pan of this size. To make a double-layer cake, double the above recipe and use two pans of this size. Fill the pan with batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Share your photos!
If you have used this recipe, I would love to hear how it turned out! Please leave a comment below and share your photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using #eatlittlebird
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