Most of us who bake probably have a favourite chocolate cake recipe - the one that always works; that forgives being made in a rush or once without eggs (added to the cake tin five minutes after it was initially placed in the oven ... even I didn't think I'd get away with that one); that tolerates the fickle heat of different ovens and different tins and without fail, at first sniff of it baking, brings back delicious memories of old friends and old holidays. And picnics and sand between toes and laughter and blustery walks and holding hands and eating too much and wind in your hair and squinting in the sun and dancing in the rain and dragonflies hitching a ride and castles and hill-tops and freezing cold lochs and a long walk with a black and white cat.
This is my favourite chocolate cake recipe. Written by the dearest of old friends, on this scrap of paper, over twenty years ago. (Annotated by he who should have known better and me. He was right about the 3 eggs though, especially if those available are a medium size.)
It is a recipe I have baked often at home. And often on holiday.
Because it's very good and it's very easy.
Only one pan gets dirty.
It tolerates being made by a distracted new-baby-headed mother (the missing eggs episode, many years ago) and copes with being lactose-free, made with lactose-free butter. I've experimented with adding a tablespoon of marmalade to the mixture and the one below had some raspberry jam in it. Sometimes, I use pale brown sugar, sometimes dark and occasionally a mixture of dark and molasses sugars - this latter version makes it incredibly rich. Delicious: the smell is divine.
This week, I burnt it slightly ... in my defence, my Aga at home has no fan and the oven on holiday did. So my timing was a bit squiffy. And the cake a bit dark.
Cook as a conventional cake with nothing sticking to a skewer at the end of cooking time, or slightly undercook it, if you want it for pudding.
As a pudding, it surpasses most chocolate brownie recipes. I serve it with a mix of raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, piled next to a small slice that has been drenched in cointreau and topped with good vanilla ice-cream. Warm with custard is almost as good. I imagine a sprinkling of Baileys and some coffee ice-cream served with a hot espresso would be pretty outstanding. Even those who profess to not being pudding people (not a sentiment I understand!) have been known to succumb to this cake.
Wrapped in foil, the cake version is light enough to carry up a mountain and enjoy at the summit.
This is Littlest, at the top of Ben Venue, on Friday.
To all old friends and chocolate-cake-lovers out there, Happy Holidays and Happy Easter.
And to my dearest old friend, thank you.