Easy Chocolate Birthday Cake


This is the cake I make for birthdays, celebrations and special occasions when I just need a no-fuss recipe. There’s no compromise on flavour, though: light brown sugar adds a toffee sweetness, vanilla sits in harmony with the cocoa, coffee lends a welcome darkness while the saltiness of the butter brings the whole thing into focus. It’s got all the depth of the richest chocolate cakes, but with the lightness of a Victoria sponge. If you want something a little more grown up, ice the cake as detailed below, chill it well then glaze with a thin coat of ganache.

For the cake:
275g salted butter, very soft
275g soft light brown sugar
75g cocoa powder
2½ teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
225g plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
150ml weak black coffee, cooled (or 150ml milk)

For the buttercream:
225g salted butter, softened
50g cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
325g icing sugar
2 teaspoons instant coffee dissolved in 2 teaspoons water

Two 20cm round cake tins, preferably loose-bottomed or spring-form

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4. Grease the cake tins and line their bases with circles of baking parchment.

Beat the butter with the sugar in a large mixing bowl for several minutes, until perfectly smooth and light. Stir in the cocoa powder and vanilla extract. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each to minimise clumping and curdling. Stir the flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl then add this mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing until smooth. Add the coffee and fold in to give a soft, velvety batter.

Divide the batter between the two prepared tins and bake for 30–35 minutes, until well risen and springy to touch. A small knife inserted into the centre of each cake should emerge with no more than a couple of crumbs stuck to it. Leave the cakes to cool completely in their tins before unmoulding.

For the buttercream, beat the butter until smooth then stir in the cocoa powder and vanilla extract. Sift in the icing sugar a third at a time, mixing well as you go. Finally, stir in the coffee. The buttercream should be luxuriantly thick, but soft enough to spread on the cakes without ripping them. Add a dash of extra milk or coffee to slacken if necessary.

Smooth a thick layer of buttercream over one of the cake layers then sandwich with the second layer and ice the top. Spread the remaining buttercream generously around the sides of the cake. Decorate with as much sparkle as you like.

  ©Charlotte Bland, 2016

©Charlotte Bland, 2016

  ©Charlotte Bland, 2016

©Charlotte Bland, 2016