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I have 4 sons ranging in age from 10 to 24, so have had lots of practise making birthday cakes! It has taken me quite some time to come up with the winning formula. In the beginning I tried lots of different cake recipes but they almost invariably peaked in the middle. This meant that, once I had cut it level, I had quite a thin cake to work with. Once, in desperation, I even tried a bought packet cake mix but I still had the same problem. Finally I found this recipe on the internet. Success at last! A lovely big, moist, chocolatey cake that came out almost flat – only a little trimming required. A couple of years after finding the recipe I came across a hint to prevent peaking. It was to put a damp towel round the tin while the cake is cooking. This prevents the outside of the cake from cooking before it has completely risen. Since then I have used this trick in combination with the Dark Chocolate Cake recipe and the end result is invariably a lovely flat top. I quite often cook the whole mixture in a 25cm square tin -this takes about an hour to cook. Other times I will divide the batter between several pans to make particular novelty cakes – here are some I have made over the years.

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