Hannes' lip-smackin Chocolate Cake

Merlin’s Cottage has brought us many splendid guests from around the world. We’ve had the pleasure of entertaining guests to lunch or dinner from time to time or just chatting over a cup of good coffee. It gets tricky sometimes preparing something from the kitchen that everybody would like. However, with luck you discover a few favourites that suit most taste buds, like our tomato jam… and then one day you bake a cake. This is not any old cake – this is a cake so popular that guests book it well in advance for their next visit to the farm. The recipe is so easy; believe me anybody can make it. INGREDIENTS Half cup (110g) butter, 1 cup (200g) white sugar, 2 cups (260g) cake flour, half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, half teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/5 cup (25g) cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, 1 cup (250ml) milk, 2 large free-range eggs. METHOD Pre-heat your oven to 180 C (350 F). Melt the butter and beat up well with the sugar until it’s creamy. Separate the egg yolks from the white and beat the yolks lightly. Add the beaten yolk and chocolate powder to the butter mixture. Sift the flour, bicarb, baking powder and salt together. Add the butter mixture to the dry mixture bit by bit and alternate by adding a little milk. Sometimes I add a few handfuls of desiccated coconut at this point for a slightly different taste. Beat up the egg whites well and add this with the vanilla to the mixture. It should reach a creamy texture but if not, add a little milk until it does. If the mixture is very runny, add more chocolate powder (sometimes I add loads of chocolate but with extra milk – I figure too much chocolate won’t do much harm...). Scoop the mixture into two circular 20cm greased baking pans. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until a skewer placed into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Sometimes I miss out the cocoa powder but add in some glazed cherries once all the mixing is done, this is also great with chocolate icing. FILLING AND ICING This is the creative part… choosing the right filling and icing for the specific cake (I like to vary it a bit). INGREDIENTS 3 cups (330g) icing sugar, half cup (60g) cocoa powder, ¼ cup (55g) butter, hot boiled water. METHOD Melt the butter and add the icing sugar and cocoa powder. Mix it up a bit. Add small amounts of just-boiled water until the mixture goes smooth and into a soft paste. If you add too much water it gets too runny (then you have to add more of the devilish chocolate). Once both layers of the cake have cooled down, remove from the pans. Place one layer upside down on a plate. Use a knife or spoon to scoop some of the icing onto the cake. I often stack loads of uncut glazed cherries onto this layer of icing – extremely calorific but absolutely worth it! Place the second layer of the cake on top of the iced layer and start icing the whole cake on top and sides. If the icing gets too thick to spread, add a little water. Once it’s all done, dip the knife into hot water and “seal” off the icing to get a glazed effect. Then decorate with either chocolate shavings or more delicious cherries or anything you like to add on top. Boil up the kettle and brew a splendid pot of coffee, put your feet up and enjoy a slice of heavenly cake. Even better if you’re by yourself, then you won’t have to share it!

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