Divine Chocolate Birthday Cake

This week I turned 40 (eek!), and to celebrate, I decided to bake myself Mary Berry’s ‘Divine Chocolate Birthday Cake’; you can find the recipe on page 204 of her book 100 Cakes and Bakes. Needless to say, Will was very supportive of the idea. It’s funny, because I’m more of a sponge cake with buttercream kinda girl, but for some reason I decided to make my husband happy and go for a chocolate cake! It was definitely a great choice though, and I can thoroughly recommend it.

Making the Cake

Step 1: Gather the ingredients

First, I gathered together all of the ingredients to make the cake. Here’s what I used:

  • 1 large egg
  • 5 large eggs (separated)
  • 215 g caster sugar
  • 265 g dark chocolate (54 per cent cocoa solids), broken into pieces
  • 1 level tsp instant coffee powder
  • 1 tsp hot water
  • 150 g ground almonds

The recipe actually calls for plain chocolate with 39 per cent cocoa solids, but I could only find chocolate with 54 per cent cocoa solids. I was a bit worried that the cake wouldn’t turn out right, but it was really nice, so I had nothing to worry about! I used Dr. Oetker’s dark chocolate. For the instant coffee powder, I used Tesco’s classic rich roast full flavoured instant coffee granules, and for the ground almonds, I used Whitworths. Equipment-wise, you will need a deep, round 23 cm (9 in) cake tin.

Cake Ingredients

Step 2: Prepare cake tin

First of all, I cut out a piece of baking paper to line the base of the tin; I did this by drawing around the cake tin on the paper. Next, I greased the base and the sides of the tin using some butter on a piece of kitchen towel, then I pressed the baking paper into the tin (I always wonder at this point whether there is a right and a wrong side to the baking paper… I must look that up):

Greased and lined cake tin

Step 3: Turn on oven

Next, I turned on the fan oven to 170 degrees Celsius.

Step 4: Make cake mixture

I placed the whole egg, five egg yolks and caster sugar into a large bowl, and beat them together with my electric hand mixer until the mixture was thick and light in colour. (At this point, I wasn’t 100 per cent sure whether I had beaten it enough, but I was worried about overbeating it, so I stopped.):

Egg, egg yolks and caster sugar beaten together

Next, I put a pan of water on to boil and then turned it down to simmer. I put the chocolate in a heatproof dish and melted it gently over the pan of water, stirring occasionally:

Melting the chocolate over a bain-marie

I boiled some water, and added 1 teaspoon of it to the coffee granules:

Coffee granules dissolved in hot water

Then I added the dissolved coffee granules into the melted chocolate, and stirred it in:

Melted chocolate mixed with dissolved coffee granules

I left the melted chocolate to cool slightly, and then I stirred it into the egg mixture along with the ground almonds:

Stirring melted chocolate into the egg mixture
Stirring ground almonds into the egg and chocolate mixture
Egg, chocolate and ground almond mixture

Next, in a separate (inappropriate) bowl, I whisked the egg whites with my electric hand mixer. The recipe says to whisk them until they are ‘stiff but not dry’. I wasn’t sure about the dryness bit, so I just whisked the egg whites until they were stiff:

Whisked egg whites

I only have one mixing bowl (which I had already used to mix the egg yolks etc.), so that is why I had to use the inappropriate bowl above! It was far too small, with the egg whites threatening to overflow at any second! I also ended up with a very scratched bowl from the blades… Doh. Mental note to self: must buy more mixing bowls.

The next step is to ‘carefully fold’ the whisked egg whites into the egg and chocolate mixture. I effectively dumped the whole egg white into the mixture at once, and then proceeded to carefully fold it in using a spatula. At this point, I was unsure whether I may have overfolded it, but I hoped for the best πŸ™‚ :

Folding egg whites into the egg and chocolate mixture
Cake mixture

Step 5: Turn cake mixture into tin

I then turned the cake mixture into the prepared tin (it flowed into the tin in satisfying ribbons πŸ™‚ ). The recipe says to ‘gently level the surface’, but I didn’t think I needed to, as I thought I had poured the mixture in quite evenly:

Cake mixture turned into the prepared tin

Step 6: Bake cake

The recipe says to bake the cake ‘for about 50 minutes or until well risen, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean’. After 45 minutes I tested my cake with a skewer, and it didn’t come out entirely clean, so I left it for the full 50 minutes. I then tested the cake with a skewer again and it came out clean. On taking the cake out of the oven, I discovered that it had a huge crack down the middle; the cake had risen a lot in the middle, a bit like a mountain!

Baked (cracked) cake!

I looked this up afterwards, and it seems that cakes can crack if your oven is too hot (my oven is definitely on the hot side). What happens is that the outside bakes quickly forming a crust, and because the inside bakes more slowly, when it rises it has to push through the exterior crust, thus the cracking. So this could be the reason, or maybe I just left the cake in for too long? But I would bet on the oven heat being the problem.

Step 7: Leave cake to cool

Next, I left the cake to cool in the tin for ten minutes. After this time, the crack in the cake wasn’t looking so drastic after all!:

Cooled cake (with less drastic-looking crack!)

Step 8: Turn out cake

Next I turned the cake out onto a wire rack, with the help of my glamorous assistant, Will. I put a clean tea towel over my hand (thanks to a tip from the BBC Food website – this prevents a wire mark on the top of the cake), turned the cake onto this hand, then Will lifted the cake tin off. Surprisingly, it all came off in one go, including the loose tin bottom! So I was then able to peel off the baking paper from the bottom of the cake with my other hand, place the wire rack over the bottom of the cake and invert it so the cake was the right way up. I left the cake to finish cooling on the rack:

Cake cooling on wire rack

Making the Icing

Step 1: Gather the ingredients

Here are the ingredients I used for the icing:

  • 4 tbsp apricot jam
  • 225 g dark chocolate (54 per cent cocoa solids), broken into pieces
  • 100 g unsalted butter

Again, the recipe says to use plain chocolate with 39 per cent cocoa solids, but I used dark chocolate with 54 per cent cocoa solids.

Icing Ingredients

Step 2: Melt jam and brush cake

First, I put the apricot jam into a small saucepan, and melted it over a low heat. Then, I brushed the jam over the entire cake:

Brushing melted apricot jam over cake
Cake with apricot jam brushed over it

Step 3: Make the icing

To make the icing, I melted the chocolate gently in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Once the chocolate had melted, I added the butter and stirred it until it was ‘the consistency of thick pouring cream’. I really could have done with Will being around at this point, as he is a LOT more familiar with cream consistencies than me! (He had conveniently popped out to the supermarket…) Anyway, I stirred the icing for quite some time, as I was worried about making it too thin; I didn’t want it to slide off the cake! I was happy with how the icing turned out; it was really nice and glossy:

Melting the chocolate
Adding butter to the chocolate
Glossy icing!

Step 4: Pour icing over cake

Next, I stood the wire rack on top of a baking tray (to catch the drips), and then I poured the icing over the cake, smoothing it over the top and sides with my brand new offset palette knife. This part was fun, but scary, as I wasn’t sure whether the icing would stick – but it did, hooray! Once I had poured the icing over the cake and smoothed it over, I realised that there was still some icing in the bowl. So, instead of leaving it, I decided to pour it over the cake. This was not a great idea, as it was harder to smooth over the second time – I should have poured the icing over the cake all in one go, and smoothed it over with the palette knife just the one time:

Iced Cake!
The icing process was very messy!

Step 5: Allow cake to set

Once the icing had set, I then transferred the cake to a silver cake base board thing. It didn’t prove very easy to remove it from the wire rack, so Will had the ingenious idea of pushing the cake up from the bottom, instead of trying to detach it using a knife. I was a little worried that the base would look messy, but it wasn’t too bad. Then I slid a palette knife under the cake and transferred it to the silver board:

Iced cake on silver board

At this point, you can decorate the cake if you want, but as I had made it the day before my birthday, and I was only going to add candles, I stored it away. The cake was too big to fit my largest cake tin, so Will kindly made a wigwam from wooden skewers and foil to house the cake overnight!:

Cake Wigwam Storage Container!

Presenting the Cake

So, the fateful day (my 40th birthday!) arrived, and I removed the cake from the wigwam – it had survived, hurrah! I finished the cake by putting some rose gold candles on it – nine in fact – so today I could pretend to be nine years old (Will says this is quite normal for me!):

Cake decorated with candles

It is at this point that Will started to salivate as he pined for eating the cake. However, first I had to take my pictures πŸ™‚ I always try to take some arty farty shots, but some well-placed balloons didn’t turn out quite as I would have liked. The next shot looks like a giant bottom is descending on my cake!:

Cake with backdrop of ‘bum’ balloons!

I quickly ditched the balloon backdrop, and plumped for lit candles instead. So voila! Here, I present to you one divine chocolate birthday cake!

Divine Chocolate Birthday Cake!
Cake with 40th birthday balloon and decorations

Here’s a picture of the cake having been cut:

Cake after having been cut
Interior of cut cake
Slice of chocolate cake


This cake was a resounding success! It’s probably one of the nicest chocolate cakes I have ever eaten. You’d think that this cake would be really rich, but it wasn’t at all; it was fudgy, moist and truly scrumptious. Will and I polished the entire cake off in two days, it was that good! YUM! So, to finish off, I’d say that this chocolate cake is perfect for celebrations and I would definitely make it again.

What are you baking these days? I think I need a break from the sugary stuff… maybe I will attempt bread next? Watch this space!

Published by

Helena Davies

Baker and Linguist based in Cardiff, Wales.

4 thoughts on “Divine Chocolate Birthday Cake”

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