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Little Devil's Chocolate Birthday Cake

Our little man / devil  turned six this week. Six. EEK!!

Apart from us now having an increasingly precocious six-going-on-sixteen year old, it also means this blog is very nearly six too.

I just feel like I really don't know where that time has gone, y'know?
It only feels like yesterday that I was on maternity leave with Sam, overwhelmed and overtired and trying to find a creative outlet to keep myself sane. 

So much has happened since then. And I think there's definite truth in the saying that time speeds up the older you get. Now I'm at the point of knocking on the door of 50, birthdays seem to fly by.

Anyway, enough of that.
It's also a universal truth that whatever the birthday, anniversary or occasion, you can't really go far wrong with a chocolate cake.
Especially when it's as rich, fudgey and, well, chocolatey as this one.

This is my all time, favourite chocolate incarnation, hacked from David Liebovitz's Devil's Food Cake recipe. My former colleague and partner-in-cake, Laura, put me onto this, and I now tend to use it for most of the chocolate cake variations we offer in Sweet. 

It's perfect. Not too sweet, not too rich. Just a gobsmacking load of chocolatey goodness.

You can pair it with a simple chocolate buttercream. Or a flavoured buttercream like salted caramel, with a saucy side to the middle. Or some Oreo Cream Cheese frosting. Or Nutella and Ferraro Rocher. Or raspberry coulis and fresh berries. Or mint extract and crushed candy canes (oooh, festive!).

Get the idea? Whatever takes your fancy really. 

This time though, I didn't get to choose.

I had to work to a brief of chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. Something that a six year old could get their teeth into.

So I went for custom chocolate ganache. I call it custom as I find milk chocolate on a cake is too sweet, and dark chocolate is just too dark. So I tend to mix them. Play around a bit. Get something I'm really happy with. 

The important thing is that it's smooth and velvety, and just the right consistency to firm up a bit on the cake to hold it together.

And then of course, there were the sweeties. Lots of them. Sweets for my sweet ...

Twirl Bites.
Freddo Faces.
Cadbury's Buttons.

You could use any your little heart desires though, so go ahead, knock yourself out. 

If you've clicked on the link to David's recipe, you'll see that it uses American cup measurements. I've adapted to get something I can weigh in grams, so more UK user friendly. 

I don't use the coffee either. It's a small amount and is just supposed to highlight the chocolate taste, rather than make it taste like a Mocha. I just don't bother.
I also use a different method for ganache. It's pretty straightforward and just begging to be tried.

Go on. I dare you ... 

Little Devil's Chocolate Birthday Cake
Makes one 8" cake serving 12 - 16

115g room temperature (so soft) butter
300g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs (each about 68g) lightly beaten
185g plain flour
75g cocoa powder
1 tspn bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn salt
120ml water
120 ml milk

Chocolate Ganache to decorate
300g quality milk chocolate callets (or drops/chopped chocolate)
100g quality plain chocolate callets 
200g double cream
Sweeties. Lots of them.

Preheat the oven to 160 Fan/180 Electric. Grease and baseline two eight inch sandwich pans.

Sieve the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarb into a bowl. Add the salt and set aside. Measure the water and milk into a jug.

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium high for a few minutes until it becomes light and creamy and the sugar starts to dissolve. It'll look really dry at first, like wet sand (because there 's obviously more sugar than butter),  but keep going and it'll get there.

Add the eggs little by little until incorporated. Don't overmix.

Now, turn the mixer to low and add about a third of the flour mix. I usually do this a dessert-spoon at a time, so you don't knock any air out of the mix by dumping it in all in one go.

Add half of the water and milk, mix briefly, then add another third of the flour, then the remaining water and milk, and then finally, the last third of the flour. Once the flour looks as though it has mixed in, turn the mixer to medium and give it a quick blast for 30 seconds, to make sure it is all mixed thoroughly. Pause, scrape down the  bowl if necessary, and give it another quick whizz if it's not all incorporated.

Turn the mix out evenly between the two cake pans. (if you still have some streaky bits of mix showing, just manually fold it in with a spatula).

Bake in the centre of the oven for about 25-30 minutes until risen, slightly pulling from the side of the tin, and firm-ish to the touch (touch the surface lightly with a clean finger - if it's not ready, it'll leave an indentation as if it's a deflating balloon. If it is ready, it'll be firmer).

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

A note on frosting

This sponge is really forgiving if you want to make it one night and decorate the next. Just wrap the cake - still in the tin - in cling film once cool. No need to refrigerate. When you are ready, just unwrap, run a palette knife along the inside to ease release, and then turn out.

The sponge should be moist - if you handle it too roughly, it may even feel a bit sticky in your fingers. So go carefully. You should also plan on crumb-coating it before adding a final layer of decoration. This first crumb coat - and try and make the frosting very smooth and silky - will lift but then trap a layer of crumbs, but providing you are gentle it should be fine. Chill for 20 minutes and it'll be firm enough to do the final finishing coat.

For the ganache, place the chocolate into a heat proof bowl. Place the cream in a small saucepan and gently bring up to simmering point, stirring often. Pour the cream over the chocolate pieces and stir briefly, then allow to sit for a minute.

Using a large whisk, stir the chocolate and cream mix briskly to ensure that the chocolate has all melted and mixed with the cream, and that it is thoroughly blended.

Set side and allow to cool. You can speed this process up by placing in the fridge, but if you do, stir frequently and remove as soon as you reach a smooth, spreadable consistency. If you over chill it and it is too thick, give it a burst in the microwave for a few seconds and then stir, repeating if necessary. 

Once your cakes have cooled completely, you can use this devilish mix to sandwich and coat them.

Decorate how you wish. You can just smother the cake with ganache and swirl with a knife. But I find a bit of piping around the top adds a little decoration (and stops all the sweeties falling off!).

And this was how it looked on the night.

With one very excited, newly-turned 6 year old in charge of blowing out the candles ...

Susie xx


  1. This birthday cake looks super yummy. All the chocolate is so inviting. I can eat the complete cake alone. Just kidding! On my daughter’s birthday I also would like to host a fairy themed bash at the local Seattle venues and would like to make DIY choco cake for her.

    1. Aww, thanks for your lovely comment. There's always something special about a Little One's birthday, hope your daughter enjoys hers.


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