Monday, October 26, 2015

Devil's Food Cake

Devil's Food Cake - Nigella Lawson's Recipe

I spent the afternoon with the lovely Kay Boreham while she baked this delicious Devil's food cake (Recipe by Nigella Lawson). She shared her beautiful baking legacy with me, which I have the privilege to share with you. 

I grew up watching my Grandmother bake – standing on her wooden kitchen chair until I was tall enough to see over the bench.

In her kitchen – a former State House in Opotiki that she scrimped and saved to pay off – there were built-in hinged ‘bins’ for sugar and flour. Nana used to keep her cash down the side of the cloth sack in the flour bin – her alternative to under the mattress! The faint traces of white on my birthday $5 was a bit of a give-away; the only association I have had with bank notes and white powder I quickly add.

One day a week was set aside for filling the tins, so there was always something on hand for the regular visitors who would call in for a cuppa and a chat. We all had our favourites – my Dad loved her Orange Cake and Caraway Seed cake (with a thick slick of butter on top); Mum liked Peanut Brownies and Anzac Biscuits – a bit of a traditionalist; I loved a slice called Tan Fingers; a shortcake base, with a gooey caramel spread over it, topped with walnuts and a bit of the shortcake dough grated over the top and baked to a bubbly golden gift for the gob!

Devil's Food Cake - Nigella Lawson's Recipe

Chocolate cake, date loaf, cheese biscuits, gems, ginger crunch – oh my God, the ginger crunch! –were among her repertoire.  There was only one bakery item Nana would buy – and they’re still around today – Ginger Kisses – little sponges sandwiched together with mock cream. Nana never used an electric mixer of any kind; it was all bowl and wooden spoon. Standing on one leg – always on one leg whether baking or on the telephone (they hung on the walls then, with a curly wurly cable and the operator’ would ask “number please” and then “put you through” or sometimes – “oh no dear, Shirley won’t be home, its her afternoon to get her hair done”. 

When I adopted yoga I realised my Nana nailed stork pose on a daily basis. And arm muscles – wow – no batwings on her; she could beat butter and sugar to smooth, pale submission in no time; being allowed to trail my finger through the yielding mixture was one of the many ways I knew Nana loved me.

Devil's Food Cake - Nigella Lawson's Recipe

When our children were little I baked so they had something for their lunch boxes and the after-school wind-down. Our girls have both become good bakers; thinking about it – they must have learned as I did through osmosis, as I don’t recall ever teaching them directly.

Recently, I’ve rediscovered the joy of baking; sending Ross to work on a fairly regular basis with something for his delightful team of communicators. It would seem a good cake is the easiest (very definitely the seemliest) way to spread pleasure in the workplace. This Devil’s Food Cake was my latest, and most popular, offering. The credit goes to my Goddess of food porn – the delectable Nigella Lawson. It’s a bit intense on the washing up – multiple bowls etc – but well worth the effort.

Devil's Food Cake - Nigella Lawson's Recipe


For cake:

½ cup sifted, unsweetened cocoa

½ cup dark brown sugar – this is Muscovado sugar, but I couldn’t score any at Pak ‘n Save so I used ordinary brown sugar and a ‘dollop’ of black strap molasses.

1 cup boiling water

125 grams soft unsalted butter

¾ cup castor sugar

1 ½ cups standard flour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs

For frosting:

½ cup water

2 tblsp brown sugar

175 grams unsalted butter

290 grams!! of really good dark chocolate – (I use Whittaker's Dark Ghana or Lindt 70%) chopped small


1. Preheat the over to 180 degrees C

2. Line the bottoms of two round cake tins with baking paper. Mine are about 23, so I get a flatter result.

 ( Kay shows us her neat little trick of quickly cutting an even circle. Mark the circle around the baking tin. Fold the baking paper along the diameter of the circle, in half and in half again and cut along the arc.)

3. The frosting takes some time time to cool and thicken, get started on that first: put the brown sugar, molasses and butter in a pot over a low heat to melt.

4. Once it starts to bubble, take it off the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Swirl the pan to mix it all with the hot liquid.  Leave it aside for a minute to melt, then whisk to a smooth and glossy finish.

5. Leave this aside for about an hour, whisking every now and again – you may think that it will never get to a spreadable consistency – but just hold the faith, it will.

6. Put the cocoa, brown sugar and molasses into a bowl and pour in the boiling water. Whisk it and set aside. 

(The water in the picture looks tan because we cleaned up the molasses spoon in before pouring it in!)

7. Beat the butter and castor sugar until it is light and fluffy.

(Kay's had this Kenwood mixer for about 35 years, it's got a faulty wire, but she loves it! I love how in those days things were made to last and you could create so many memories with them.)

8. Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarb together in another bowl and set aside.

9. Add the vanilla extract into the creamed butter and sugar. Add in an egg, quickly followed by a tablespoon of the flour mixture, then the second egg (adding the flour between the heke stops the mixture curdling – but if it does it’s no great drama)

10. Keep whipping and add in the rest of the dry ingredients for the cake.

11. Now, gently mix and fold in the cocoa mixture with a whisk.

12. Divide the batter between the two prepped tins 

13. Put in the oven for around 30 minutes or until it passes the skewer test. Leave the cooked cakes in their tins for 5 – 10 mins then turn out to cool on a cooling rack.

14. Time to ice!  Upend one cake (so you have the flat surface to work with); spread on about a third of the frosting; top with the second cake (right side up) and spread the remaining chocolately wickedness over the top and sides.

I hope you enjoy this cake as much as we did!

Devil's Food Cake - Nigella Lawson's Recipe

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