Heres some written bits about birds and baths, and a chocolate cake (!!!!!! haha)
There are lots of birds in the garden at the moment. I’ve been thinking about them, in the sky mid-flight, fully feathered and singing. A picture book, pitch perfect bird. The image of a bird in my mind is a simple one; it never gets old, it never takes its first flight, it never eats its first worm, it never suffers a wing injury or almost gets eaten by a bigger bird.
Then last week I read this by Richard Mabey: ‘nightingales… are more cultured singers in June than they are in April…’ and a small part of my mind exploded. I have read and re-read that sentence. What a great thing. And a simple thing, that a bird becomes richer in singing power from one month to the next.
In March I thought of the word ‘relish’ a lot. I thought of this word on its own, and as part of a phrase which sounded like the opening of a book, or an essay, or an entry in the diary I don’t keep.
I will relish this time. This phrase came on March 1st and stayed stuck on a loop until about March 24th. I understand the core of it. It’s speaking to the domestic beats that have punctuated my days since moving back home after a period of unsustainable effort. At the root of it, I think, was an instruction to hold the knowledge that I will relish these moments later. In April maybe.
April came and I spent a lot of time in the bath. I learnt that missing someone deeply has a way of making your bones ache. For a few weeks just about the only thing that would soothe that ache was a bath. So, I like baths more now than I did in March.
I made this cake in honour of that time. A rich chocolate cake – brilliant, restless, playful. And every now and then, sassy.
For the Cake Layers
Note On Layers – This makes for two very thick layers of chocolate cake.
- 200g Dark Chocolate
- 100g Cocoa Powder
- 200g Boiling Water
- 400g Sugar
- 300g Salted Butter, Softened
- 4 Medium Eggs
- 200g Plain Yoghurt
- 300g Plain Flour
- 1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
For the Buttercream
Note on Buttercream – This recipe makes A LOT of buttercream, for a thick covering all over the cake and extra to put in a piping bag and play around with decoration. If you aren’t feeling as excessive as I was while working on this recipe, half the quantities for the buttercream will give you just enough to sandwich the layers and cover the cake. The buttercream can be made up to a week in advance of icing the cake if kept covered in the fridge. Just make sure to bring it to room temp and give it a really good mix before using.
- 80g Dark Chocolate
- 20g Golden Syrup
- 350g Butter, Softened
- 550g Icing Sugar
- 170g Cocoa Powder
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 5 Tbs Milk
Pre heat the oven to 180 / 160 fan. Grease and line two 7 inch / 18cm round cake tins.
Start with the cake. Chop up the dark chocolate roughly and add it to a bowl you can cover. To this bowl add the cocoa powder and the boiling water then cover with a lid ( I used a plate) and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until fluffed up slightly. Add one egg at a time, beating into the butter mixture until fully combined before adding the next.
Remove the lid from the cocoa powder and chocolate which should now be melted and stir to form a thick paste. Mix this paste into the butter mixture, quickly followed by the yoghurt and the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Give everything a good mix to combine.
Divide the batter evenly between the two tins and bake for about 35 – 45 mins or until a kinfe inserted into the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs. The top will be cracked that’s exactly how it should be. Allow the cakes to cool while making the buttercream.
For the Buttercream, chop up the dark chocolate and melt together with the golden syrup on a low heat over an bain marie (This is a bowl resting over a saucepan that is filled with a small amount of water. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water in the saucepan).
While the chocolate melts, beat together the butter and icing sugar for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Now add in the cocoa powder, the vanilla extract, the melted chocolate mixture and half the milk. Don’t worry here if the chocolate mixture has split a bit or is very firm, it will still whip into the buttercream with no problem. Beat the mutter cream for a further 2 mins, adding the rest of the milk if you want a slightly slacker consistency.
To assemble the cake, make sure the layers are cool. You may want to trim off the cracked tops but it’s not necessary. Place one cake on a serving plate and spread the top with an even layer of buttercream. Flip the second cake over so the base of the cake is towards the ceiling and place ontop of the partly iced cake. Cover the top and sides of the whole cake with a thick layer of buttercream and it is ready to go (eat).
The cake will keep covered well at room temperature for up to 4 days.