This is a delicious cake that’s always super popular (especially with chocolate lovers!). Because it uses oil, not butter, it’s also super easy to make dairy-free: just swap out the buttermilk for almond milk with a splash of lemon juice (and grease your pans with dairy-free margarine, or oil). I’ve done this before, and it tastes just the same.
I recently used this recipe for a friend’s 21st birthday party. I filled it with caramel sauce, buttercream made with melted dark chocolate, and drizzled with a dark chocolate ganache drip… Drooling yet?
Before you rush off to your kitchen, I do have a couple of important tips to share with you. The batter is quite runny, so I never use my springform pans to make it, as the batter will just drip out the bottom. If you only have springform pans, fear not: simply place a large tray at the bottom of your oven to catch the drips.
Also, make sure you use a large bowl when you beat the eggs – this will be the bowl that contains the batter, of which this recipe makes quite a lot of. (If you’re getting bored of my rambling, scroll down to the bottom to find the recipe!)
I always measure (and sift!) all my ingredients out first. This means that once I have finished beating my eggs, the perfect texture that I have created with my electric mixer doesn’t start going flat because I’m busy measuring the next ingredient.
The texture of this cake is excellent, and is ideal to be used in a layer cake – I have done so several times, like this chocolate lover’s cake for my boyfriend:
And this weekend’s two-tiered cake order, in which I layered two types of chocolate cake (visible in the featured image above, pre-decoration):
Otherwise, it tastes amazing fresh out the oven with ice cream & berries, or accompanied by my super-easy homemade caramel sauce (recipe below).
There is also one very important (not-so-)secret ingredient for this cake.
…A tablespoon of whisky!
I have experimented with this cake for a couple of years. I have attempted everything between no whisky and 100mL of whisky (I wouldn’t recommend the latter, really, unless you’re bringing your cake to a whisky party). 20mL is the perfect amount, and brings out a magnificent chocolate-y flavour. You can’t tell the whisky is there, but without it, something is missing.
To boost the flavour of the cake a bit more, I use a teaspoon of coffee essence. I’ve experimented with using instant coffee instead, but it doesn’t give the cake a good flavour (I’m a bit of a coffee snob – I can detect instant coffee a mile away). Similarly, it’s difficult to achieve any significant flavour with espresso. The addition of coffee essence doesn’t actually give any coffee flavouring per se, but it gives the cake a depth of flavour that I haven’t been able to achieve with any other ingredient. If you don’t have any coffee essence on your hands, I recommend you play around with caramel essence, or even a dash more vanilla.
For the cake
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
20mL (1 tbsp) whisky
1 tsp coffee essence (I used GoBake Coffee Flavocol)
325mL boiling water
2 eggs (at room temperature)
2 cups caster sugar
1/2 cup rice bran oil or similar, like canola oil
250mL buttermilk (if you have no buttermilk, mix some normal milk with a small capful of white vinegar or a squeeze of lemon juice, and leave to sit for a bit)
2 cups plain flour, sifted
pinch of salt
2 tsp baking soda
- Preheat your oven to 180ºC (356ºF). Grease two 20cm cake pans with butter, and cut some baking paper to line the base of your pans, like so:
- In a medium to large sized bowl, whisk together the cocoa, vanilla, whisky, coffee essence, and boiling water. Make sure you have sifted the cocoa thoroughly. It’s super important to sift all your powdered ingredients well- as far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as over-sifting! Also note: this mixture will smell incredible, like the perfect cocoa on a cold winter’s day.
- Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment in a (pretty large) bowl, beat eggs and sugar together until light, fluffy, and perfectly coloured, as in the image below. This is one of the most important steps to creating the perfect cake texture; I take my egg-beating very seriously.
- Slowly beat in the oil until just mixed. Add buttermilk and hot water mixture, but do so slowly.
- Slowly sift flour, salt, & baking soda into the mixture while beating. I like to have these dry ingredients sifted and mixed together in a separate bowl before I sift them again into the wet ingredients. Beat until the batter is shiny, but don’t over-mix. The consistency is quite thin, so don’t be alarmed!
- Pour into the prepared cake tins. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Be careful of under-cooking; as the batter is very wet, it needs a bit more time in the oven than a sponge might.
- Remove from the oven once baked, and leave to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before carefully removing and placing on a cooling rack.If you’re eating the cake for dessert with caramel sauce, you can serve it warm (yum). If you’re using the cakes for a layer cake, or putting any form of icing on them, make sure your cakes are 100% cool before doing so (they shouldn’t be even the slightest bit warm). I often wrap mine up in glad wrap and place them in the fridge until they’re cool, especially when I’ve got a big cake order – it speeds things up a bit.
For the caramel sauce
100g soft brown sugar
100mL cream or milk
Place the butter and sugar in a saucepan on the stove at a very low heat.
While stirring all the time, melt together slowly, until the butter is only just not a solid anymore.
Once they have “melted” together, remove the saucepan from the heat.
Very slowly, begin pouring the cream (or milk) into the mixture. Keep stirring. (Whatever you do, don’t stop stirring!)
It’s very important that you don’t allow your mixture to get too hot, otherwise your butter will melt too much, causing your cream/milk to curdle. I always start off at the lowest possible temperature on my stove. Take your time – and voila, you will have the very best caramel sauce ever.
To make salted caramel sauce, stir in a pinch or two of salt.
You can use this as a filling for cakes, or to drizzle over desserts. Or eat it by the spoonful, I won’t tell.
Not a chocolate fan? Why don’t you try my recipe for vanilla sponge cake with mango, strawberry & peach compote filling, white chocolate buttercream, and salted almond praline?
Let me know if you make my recipes – I’d love to hear from you!