I got asked the 'Sophie, what do you want to do?' question. It was followed by the 'what do you want to achieve in the next few years?' question.
In no particular order:
1) Convince Wok 'n' Noodle to deliver to my house sans delivery fee;
2) Wash my sheets consistently once a week;
3) Write a cookbook, host a TV show and become a worldwide household name.
The top two are reasonably easy. The third however fills me with dread and uncertainty. I really really want that to be a thing. Just how? I barely have tome to wash my sheets once a week. There isn't exactly an instructional 'how to' on that career path. Where is the magic wand of life when you need it?
I've received some rather lovely messages from friends but also random strangers about recipes they've made from my site and how much they and their friends have loved them. My scones apparently won a friend of mine a cheeky pash on top of One Tree Hill. I use my blog a lot too. It is a handy online record of all the recipes I love so when I am out at the supo and wondering what on earth goes into something all I have to do is use The Google.
One such recipe I find myself ego surfing on is the basic but foolproof chocolate cake recipe. I've been vowing to post a simplified version with a single recipe of buttercream for people who are after a modest but always reliable cake.
I often pop a dollop of something in between each cake layer, this of course is not essential. If I do I often like peanut butter, dulce de leche or salted caramel. I'll also pop the caramel recipe below just in case you've forgotten :)
Oh and one of the great things about this cake is that it stays fresh for days after making it.
The always reliable, super moist chocolate cake that I always make
Makes 3x15cm OR 2x20cm OR 1 x23cm cake/s
(nb you'll need to reduce the buttercream amounts if making a single or two layers of cake)
For the cakes
2 large eggs
2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
Juice of 1 small lemon
2 cups flour
1 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup very strong black coffee (or 1 cup of water with a tablespoon of instant coffee powder dissolved into it)
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees and line three 15cm cake tins. Grease the sides of the tins and dust with flour.
Squeeze the lemon juice into a jug with the milk and leave for five minutes to curdle. Using an electric mixer or an electric hand beater beat together the eggs, sugar and vanilla until pale then beat in the oil followed by the curdled milk. Sieve in the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt into the bowl and gently mix in. Lastly mix in the coffee and beat until the batter is smooth.
Divide the batter between the three tins (about 500-550g per tin) then bake for 35-45 minutes. Use a skewer to check if cooked, the skewer should come out with a few moist crumbs stuck to it when the cake is perfectly cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to cook for 20 minutes until turning out of the tins and leaving to cool completely. Wrap in gladwrap and leave overnight if need be. Level the cakes so the tops are totally flat and even by slicing excess off with a serrated knife.
To make 2 x 20cm cakes, split the batter between two greased and lined tins then bake for 40-45 minutes (start checking at 35 minutes just like the 15cm cakes just to be safe).
To make a single 23cm cake, line and grease a large cake tin and bake for 50-65 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. You may need to pop a sheet of tin foil over the top of the cake to stop it browning too much after about 45 minutes.
For the buttercream
250g salted butter, softened
800g icing sugar
A few tablespoons of full fat milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
To make the buttercream, beat the butter and vanilla until pale and slightly fluffy. Sieve in half of the icing sugar and mix until smooth and fluffy. Add a little of the milk if it needs loosening. Sieve in the remaining icing sugar and repeat. Add enough of the milk so that the icing is light, fluffy and easily spreadable.
For the salted caramel
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon plus more to taste salt
1/4 cup cold water
To make the caramel heat the sugar and water together in a medium sized saucepan. Begin to warm the cream in a separate saucepan but be careful not to boil. Bring the sugar and water to the boil without stirring and continue to heat until it turns a bright amber colour. This should take around 7 minutes. I recommend wearing rubber gloves to protect your hands from the steam for the next bit. Remove from the heat and gradually pour in the warmed cream stirring with a spatula as you go. Make sure you scrape down the bottom of the pan dissolving all the sugar into the cream. Once the caramel is smooth, start adding the salt and tasting it with each bit you add (make sure you blow well on the spoon first!). Leave the caramel to fully cool. Store in an airtight jar in the fridge. It will last a few weeks in there.
To assemble (this looks daunting but it actually isn't )
Take either a foil cake board or a flat plate and smear a blog of buttercream on it. In an ideal world everyone would have a turntable but if you don't, that's perfectly ok. Get yourself either a small pallet knife or a large butter knife. A mug of boiling hot water is essential to dip your pallet knife in to get a smooth spread. I also recommend an edge to smooth the buttercream with, I personally use a 15cm regular stationary ruler. A piping bag fitted with a round tip nozzle is also helpful if wanting to fill each layer with something. Trimmed wooden chopsticks also make good support struts if making a three layer cake.
Place levelled layer number one onto the board or plate with the natural 'bottom' surface facing down.
Dollop about a 1/4-1/3 cup of butter cream on the cake. and smoothly spread it to the edges. Use more buttercream if this is all that is going between the layers. If wanting to put something runny, say salted caramel in between do the following: fill your piping bag fitted with a round tip with buttercream. Pipe a solid border around the cake about 7mm from the edge, make sure there are no gaps at the bottom. Take your cool salted caramel and pour a few generous tablespoons into the centre, spread to the edges.
Place the second layer of cake on top. Repeat the same with this layer if making a three layer cake. Decorate however you wish if just a two layer cake.
Place the third layer of cake on the top with the natural 'bottom' surface facing upwards. Poke two wooden chopsticks vertically into the cake and mark where the cake comes up to. Remove the chopsticks then carefully trim them at the marked point. Return them back to the original holes once trimmed. These will stop the layers from sliding around.
Put another couple of dollops of buttercream on top and start to spread over the entire cake to create a rough crumb coat. There are plenty of online tutorials for this so just have a look on The Google for a far better lesson. Pop your crumb coated cake in the fridge for half an hour then take it out and smooth over the rest of the buttercream to get a tidier 'naked' look. Decorate with drizzles of salted caramel or fresh blooms et voila!