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Chocolate Cake

by James Morton

If you’re after an alternative to the bog-standard Christmas cake this year, and you’re a lover of all things cocoa, keep this wee trick hidden for Christmas Eve.

Prep time

40 minutes

Cook time

40 minutes






I lagged behind chocolate cake trends for so long. There seemed to be this subculture of Youtubers and Bake-Off capitalists alike who swore by this one, identical chocolate fudge-cake recipe. It used oil instead of butter and a cup of boiling water for good measure. You can Google it if you want an average, moist cake somewhere between a brownie and a muffin.

But this isn’t that. This is a chocolate cake in its most traditional form, but better. Most of the old fashioned chocolate cake recipes, like those you might find in a Mary Berry cookbook from the mid 90s or earlier, were just simple sponges with added cocoa powder. Maybe melted chocolate, if they were getting fancy. These might have ‘worked’, but they didn’t really as they always left the cake a bit dry and cloying. Their relative success was in the base recipe from which they were adapted: the wonderful Victoria Sponge To augment it correctly for a great chocolate hit, I go for Brown sugar, as the treacle in it gives extra moisture to any bake. Then, buttermilk. The acidity adds an amazing complexity to the chocolate flavour, making this cake far less rich and dangerously consumable.


Step 1

First, preheat your oven to 170C/150C fan/Gas 3. Grease a large, non-stick baking tin with plenty of butter, then line it with baking paper (non-stick greaseproof paper).

Step 2

Buzz your butter in the microwave until it’s soft and very nearly melted, then place it in a large bowl with your sugar and eggs. Whisk these together until very light, bright and fluffy. This should at least double-triple in volume.

Step 3

Add your cocoa powder (shake the tub hard if lumpy), flour and baking powder. Gently, mix these into your eggy mixture until your mixture is a bit mess-like and still a bit lumpy.

Step 4

Buzz your dark chocolate in the microwave until just melted, and then add it and your buttermilk to the mixture. Slowly continue mixing until smooth your cake-mix is smooth.

Step 5

Place this in your large tin (or divide into two tins if you prefer) and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is springy to touch and a skewer or sharp knife comes up clean when stabbed into the middle. Leave to cool in the tin whilst you make the ganache.

Step 6

Into a saucepan, place your double cream. Heat over a medium heat until nearly simmering, then remove from the heat. Break your milk chocolate into a medium bowl, and pour your cream on top. Stir gently until combined.

Step 7

Remove your cake from the tin and place on a plate or cake stand. If you don’t mind drizzle, you can ganache whilst they’re both still warm. If you want a cleaner, polished finish, wait until they’re both cooled slightly more. I never can.


Top Tip

For an extra-light and flat-topped finish, warm your buttermilk in the microwave before you add it. This makes your mixture a better consistency. And you can’t get buttermilk, don’t worry. Substitute for semi-skimmed milk.



For the sponge:

  • 200g Graham’s slightly salted butter
  • 200g soft light brown sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 200g plain flour
  • 150ml buttermilk
  • 50g dark chocolate

For the ganache:

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 200g Graham’s double cream