At school, I had a brief flirtation with genetics. I adored Biology (possibly because I adored my teacher, Miss Greig) and when the time came to choose my A-Levels, I seriously considered going to university to study genetics. Which in itself, may have been swayed by my fascination (obsession) with Jurassic Park but I decided I wasn’t destined for a life in a lab, staring down Western Blots and microarrays which (most probably) wouldn’t be the most scintillating company. But I digress! I am reminded of my fascination with genetic engineering when I think of my Milk Chocolate Birthday Cake, as I basically reverse engineered it from a friend’s request for “something more milk chocolatey”for her little boy’s birthday.
You see, I adore dark and rich chocolate cake. Whether it’s in the form of my chocolate pound cake or Ina Garten’s chocolate cake, the darker, the better for me. I opt for the addition of coffee and dark muscovado sugars in the cake and hugely prefer a dark chocolate ganache (or if I do want something with a sweeter edge, chocolate cream cheese Italian meringue frosting) to standard buttercream. But those cakes come out really full on. Hungry Hubby famously says he finds chocolate cake too much (although he gets greedy around my intensely chocolatey lava cakes) and whilst I know plenty of kids with really, what one could consider, grown-up palates, a lot do love their milk chocolate and wouldn’t thank you for a square of bitter 70% chocolate!
As I never want anyone to feel left out of having cake, especially on their birthday, my Milk Chocolate Birthday Cake was born. When my friend asked for it, it got the old cogs turning in my brain. How could I produce a moist, tender and still somewhat fudgy chocolate cake without a tonne of cocoa powder which is drying in cakes and quite bitter to taste? I didn’t feel satisfied by subbing a spoonful of flour for cocoa in a standard Victoria sponge as it simply isn’t chocolatey enough, and it is rather insipid in colour too. I looked to my vanilla yogurt cake for inspiration and after some experimentation, concocted a suitably fudgy cake, thanks to the use of yogurt, oil and molten milk chocolate.
The cake itself is super simple to make – whisk the wet ingredients, sift over and fold the dry in. You need a little cocoa to enrich the colour but I promise the flavour is all milk, no bitterness at all. If I were to be sugarpasting this cake, I would stick with a simple icing sugar, butter and cocoa buttercream but if you want to serve it more simply, perhaps with a few of the birthday boy (or girl’s) favourite sprinkles on, then you must try the frosting in the recipe! Again, it’s easy – simply whisk all the ingredients together before chilling briefly to allow for easy decoration. This frosting really is a true fudge frosting as it is made with evaporated milk to make it extra luscious, sweet and creamy.
And p.s. know that this cake works beautifully using Terry’s Chocolate Oranges in place of the milk chocolate and a little dribble of orange extract in the frosting. Hungry Hubby approves. Next time, I’m going to melt down a Mint Aero and add peppermint to the frosting 😉
Both the cake and frosting are super simple to make and will suit kiddies (and grown-ups!) who find dark chocolate a bit too much. I know, I don't understand either... 😉
- 120 g vegetable oil (yes I weigh it)
- 3 large eggs
- 200 g Greek yogurt
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 200 g caster sugar
- 150 g melted milk chocolate
- 250 g self-raising flour
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp sea salt (leave out if serving to young children)
- 100 g very soft butter
- 300 g icing sugar
- 4 tbsp cocoa (30g)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 100 g evaporated milk
- sprinkles as liked to finish
Preheat the oven to 160˚C (if your oven is fan forced, just reduce the cooking time by 2-3 minutes, not the temperature). Lined two 8 inch round sandwich tins.
Whisk together the oil, eggs, yogurt, vanilla, sugar and chocolate for 2 minutes until pale, light and fluffy. I use my electric hand whisk or a good old fashioned whisk! Don't skimp on this part - it helps make the cake light and fluffy.
Sift over the flour, cocoa, baking powder and optional salt then fold in. Divide between the two cake tins and bake for 28-30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in the tin before unmoulding to finish cooling.
Simply whisk all the ingredients together on high speed until paler and fluffy. It will be quite soft at this point so either scrape into a bowl and freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate for up to an hour. It makes frosting much easier.
Use a third of the frosting to sandwich the cakes then cover the cake with the remainder. Decorate with sprinkles as liked! I find it best to chill again for 15 mins (in the fridge this time) before slicing and in the height of summer, you'll want to store this cake in the fridge, but bring to room temperature before serving.
1. In the UK, evaporated milk comes in oddly sized 170g tins. Use the rest from the frosting in mac & cheese or even in a white sauce, such as you would use for lasagne. It's good and rich and creamy!
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