I have to confess: I’m not the cake maker in the family – my sister is. So when it’s her birthday, unfortunately for her the task falls to me. I always apologise in advance.
For some reason, whether it’s my middle aged oven or a blip in my DNA, I just can’t seem to put out a good cake. So naturally, I begin to get sweaty palms when her birthday approaches. This year, in preparation for the great event I did some internet research and came up with a Chocolate Mud Cake thanks to Nestle and some chocolate cream cheese icing from Donna Hay.
To hedge my bets, I made the cake the night before. The plan was, that should morning reveal it to be an unmitigated disaster I could quickly whip up a second cake and no-one would be the wiser. I needn’t have worried – the cake was lovely and moist and the cream cheese icing was deliciously tangy, though the main problem was that it didn’t set very well, as you can tell by my photo. Hmmm, how did Donna Hay get hers to look so perky, I asked myself, not without a small measure of suspicion. An exhaustive internet search later and I found that gloopy cream cheese frosting is not uncommon and, luckily for me, a few tried and true solutions were readily offered. I’ve listed them at the bottom of this post.* PS: It’s a year later, and I’ve found an alternative cream cheese icing recipe that’s totally yum and will hold up much better than this one – if you’re interested in trying it, here it is.
Runny frosting aside, I’m happy to report that I received no complaints about my cake making abilities and actually got a few compliments – always a bonus.
- 1 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cup neutral tasting oil or extra virgin olive oil
- 200g (7 oz) dark chocolate (chopped into small pieces - I used bitter-sweet 72% cocoa)
- 1 cup freshly boiled water
- 2 teaspoons instant coffee
- 2 cups of flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 100g (3.5 oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 500g (17.6 oz) (1.1 lb) cream cheese, chopped
- 2 cups icing (confectioner’s) sugar mixture, sifted
- 1/2 cup cocoa, sifted
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (360 degrees F). Line base of a greased 22cm (9 inch) round cake tin with baking paper.
- Combine milk and lemon juice and set aside to sour. Place oil, chopped chocolate, hot water, and coffee in a sauce pan. Stir over a low heat until smooth and chocolate has melted. Cool to room temperature.
- Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, and sugar into a bowl. Add eggs to chocolate mix and mix well then gradually stir in the soured milk. Add chocolate mix to dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Pour into cake tin.
- Bake for 55 mins or until cooked (mine took 1 hour 5 minutes). Check for doneness by inserting a skewer or knife into the centre – it should come out clean, though I've read if it comes out with moist crumbs, it's still fine.
- Set the cake tin on a wire rack and leave to cool in the tin.**
- Place the butter and cream cheese in an electric mixer and beat for 6–8 minutes or until pale and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the icing sugar and cocoa and beat for a further 6–8 minutes or until pale and fluffy. Store in the refrigerator until needed.
- Once the cake is completely cool, take it out of its tin and trim the top from the cake with a large bread knife. Then slice the cake in half horizontally. Place the top part of the cake upside down onto a serving platter (its trimmed top is now at the bottom) and spread with half the frosting. Place the remaining layer on top (the base of the cake will be on top) and spread the remaining layer of frosting over top. If not serving immediately, place the cake in the fridge (the oil in the cake will ensure the cake doesn’t dry out).
1. Don't over-whip the mixture; many say you just need to whip until just combined. This could well be an issue with this recipe as Donna Hay advocates whipping for an exceptionally long time.
2. Cream the butter with the sugar first. Then add in the cocoa, then add the cream cheese afterwards.
3. While the butter should be room temperature, the cream cheese should be cold from the fridge and diced.
4. Adding a little extra icing sugar (confectioner's sugar) or extra butter can help make the mixture stiffer.
**While the original recipe called to take the cake out of the tin after 10 minutes, I decided to let the cake cool in the tin, as it was a heavy dense cake and I wanted to ensure it held its shape whilst cooling. I have read this recommendation in some other mud cake recipes as well. However, do what feels right for you.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Top image – Canon 18-55mm lens; Bottom image – Canon 50mm 1.8 lens / Natural lighting