This is the recipe I usually use if I'm asked to make a chocolate birthday cake. It uses cocoa powder, is quick and easy and not expensive. You just put all the ingredients in a food processor or mixer, then whizz it all up.
If you don't have a mixer or food processor, put everything in a big bowl and beat everything together by hand - that's how I always used to do it. Just make sure the butter is very soft or you'll be there for weeks.
...ready for the cake tin (buttered and base lined). My tin is 22 cm. Cook at 170 or 180 C depending on how fierce your oven is.
After about 55 minutes (stick a skewer or sharp knife in the middle part to check it's cooked right through) take it out of the oven and leave to cool.
This cake always gets cracks in the top especially if you use a food processor, I've found. I choose to see this as a good thing, because it means that the icing gets right down into the cake. It's best to use a thickish icing so the cracks don't show.
I spread on some chocolate icing, then decided to get fancy and try a baking paper cut-out number. This was all done while eleven 6- and 7-year-olds rampaged around the house, so I was a bit crazy.
It took me about an hour to decorate the cake as I kept having to go and supervise children and tell them to stop running etc. Luckily it was ready just in time!
Putting hundreds and thousands on a dome-topped cake is a very tricky thing to do. They all roll and bounce around the place. I'm going to be finding them all over the house for months to come.
185 g butter, very soft
330 g (1 1/2 cups) caster sugar
225 g (1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour
110 g (3/4 cups) plain flour
50 g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder
250 ml (1 cup) warm/hot water
65 g butter (ie the rest of the 250 g block)
3 tbsp milk
25 g cocoa powder, sifted
22g g icing sugar, sifted (or use icing mixture and skip the sifting)
Place butter and milk in a small pan and heat gently until butter is melted. Pour into a large bowl and blend in cocoa powder. Stir in icing sugar and beat until smooth. Either use immediately to give a smooth, glossy finish or allow to thicken for a buttercream-type finish. If it gets too thick, add a little more milk. (For a cake with cracks, like this one, make sure the icing is thick enough to fill in the cracks before spreading over.)