Put A Ring On It

I know I just recently waxed lyrical about being a chocolate cake snob, and only the very best made from the sweat of Taye Diggs (ok not strictly true) will do.

no brainer

But then this recipe made its way through a long chain of people, and arrived on my desk a few weeks back… Charlotte Gomes Microwave Chocolate Cake. When it comes to cake I would normally balk (yes. balk.) at the word Microwave. My encounters with microwaved ring cakes have generally been of the rubbery, chewy variety that bears no comparison with “real” baking. But this particular recipe had this gorgeous photo of a voluptuous chocolate ring cake with frosting oozing down the sides and winking seductively at me…

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a chocolate cake fan but seriously, if you don’t have the time or means or inclination to go through the entire convoluted process of making the shmancy cake I posted earlier then this is the recipe for you. No pre-planning or foraging for exotic ingredients is needed (it’s stuff everyone has in the cupboard and fridge), no arm-numbing creaming of butter and sugar, and no firing up of the oven. Plus it’s yummy!

It’s moist and light and (in my humble opinion) better than any of the regular convection chocolate cakes. It’s not like those microwave cakes of the early 90s that somehow tasted of magnetron – no-one would guess that this one took 20 minutes from start to finish. Remember those recipe books that came with microwaves back then? If you really splurged on a top-of-the-range piece of technology the book would even be in colour! With lots of sad, anaemic-looking sunken cakes and flaccid yellow-skinned chicken. I’m giving away my age now so I will stop.

hold onto your hat


One cake made about 16 slender slices. Of course if you are greedier, you could make it 8 slices. Or 4 even. Or just don’t bother slicing.

lovin it

take another little piece my heart



I’ve made a tiny amendment or two to the recipe, as one does…

For one magnificent microwaved cake:

  • 1 cup Cake Flour
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 3 tablespoons Cocoa Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Espresso Powder (optional – I think it brings out the best of the chocolate flavour)
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup Sunflower Oil
  • 2 Eggs

First prepare your cake pan – don’t use metal, unless you want to enjoy the fireworks as your microwave dies a fiery death. Use a microwave safe ring-shaped cake pan, and if you don’t have one then improvise like I did, using a regular drinking glass and a round glass bowl; give it a blast with nonstick cooking spray. The ring shape is so that you don’t end up with a vulcanised-rubber-like core – it’s just one of those things that come with microwave cooking.

Mix the dry stuff together in a bowl. Mix the wet stuff together in a bowl or jug. Add the wet mix to the dry and stir together (do not beat with an electric beater). The only way you could screw this up, honestly, is if you are lacking opposable thumbs.

Pour into the prepared cake pan – I’d say leave at least 5cm for rising. Bake for 10 minutes on High, right in the centre of the microwave. I used a dish that was only just big enough, and it started to vaguely overflow at 6 minutes – I popped a plate under it to minimize the mess. Once it’s done, turn it out (it just popped right out, as if I’d asked it politely) and allow to cool completely.

For the super-easy frosting:

  • 1 cup Icing Sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Margarine
  • 2 tablespoons Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Milk

Prepare the frosting only once the cake has cooled – it takes no time at all, but does not like to be kept waiting.

I can’t believe how much of my life has been wasted making fluffy buttercream when actually I could have been whipping this up in no time. Grrr gnash.

Put all the ingredients into a microwave-safe jug (for easy pouring after) and microwave for 40 seconds on High. Give it a good beating for a minute so that it is smooth and glossy and thick, then pour it over the cooled cake. Liberally apply sprinkles, glitter etc. If you can find a decorative item that will fit in the hole in the centre – yay! The only thing I could find at the time, with the right circumference, was a bottle of cat shampoo. I figured it would detract from the overall appeal and chose (wisely, I think) to omit it. I don’t even own a cat anymore.

Quite Easily Done

Thank you Charlotte Gomes and Sheila 🙂

slice of heaven

That’s it! And now I’d like to borrow a line from Ina Garten (only she uses it when cooking things like truffle butter lobster on gold-plated foie gras) – “How easy is that?”.





OMGee Whiz! I love science and technology and food so much that, actually *nerd-guffaw*, I’m finding this more exciting than the prospect of hover-boards from Back To The Future.

The first “Olfactory Tweet” has been sent, i.e. sending smells to someone in another physical location!!

Read all about it at Edible Geography.

Slightly lower tech but possibly more accessible until odour-transmitting phones become same ol’-same ol’ is this SCENTSATIONAL app from Kraft:

{the danger being that i'd bite into my phone every morning}

{the danger being that i’d bite into my phone every morning}

Scented phone cases do not count.


Things Are Gonna Get Ugly Round Here

Shameful secret time: I’m not a huge fan of chocolate cake. I never, ever order it in coffee shops or help myself to a slice of it at parties, because it’s ALWAYS a disappointment. Either it’s dry and scratchy, or it’s oily, and either way it tastes nothing like chocolate. Plus it’s generally slathered in frilly faux-cream rosettes and sprinkles and those sticky red pseudo-cherries that stain your fingers, which I’m pretty sure is an cosmetic attempt to hide the sadness that is the cake. Usually I’m happy and grateful to eat whatever’s put in front of me but I am not afraid to unleash my inner Cake Snob when it comes to chocolate. Anyhoo, this is the only chocolate cake I ever bake and the only one I’ll eat without a grimace.


It all came together several years ago in this bizarre cross-country series of events, summarized thusly:

I met a lovely woman from Singapore in South Africa, who later married a lovely Swiss man and they sent me a beautiful hamper of really spectacular chocolate which arrived on the same day that I found a recipe for a French chocolate cake. It was just absolutely meant to be. I feel it in my waters, even.

(I don’t know what that means but I read it in Sophie Dahl’s debut novel The Man with the Dancing Eyes, and it stuck).

This cake has very few ingredients, mostly chocolate – meaning it truly tastes like chocolate, and is not just a brown cake which tastes exactly like the plain white one next to it, only more “dusty” from the cocoa. It has no leavening agent other than pure air bubbles, and it can easily be converted to gluten-free for the Celiacs (doesn’t it sound like maniacs almost?) in your life.

{heartburn birthday cupcakes}

{heartburn birthday cupcakes}

{raspberry white chocolate picnic cupcakes}

{raspberry white chocolate picnic cupcakes}


{spot the sunken cupcakes in the black liners, hiding between the roses}

{spot the sunken cupcakes in the black liners, hiding between the roses}

It is truly the ugliest cake in the world. Looks-wise it’s the runt of the cake litter; no-one ever picks it out of a lineup – which is a good thing (more for me!). This is the Ugly Duckling of Cakes. It behaves kind of like a soufflé, forming a delicate meringue-like top crust which collapses in on itself. I’ve found that the closer down to sea-level I am, the more the cake collapses – cupcakes practically form a little bowl, which is perfect for holding a wodge of whipped cream, but can be slightly more challenging to eat in a lady-like manner. Don’t even consider trying to cover it neatly in icing (it will just crumble and collapse); it responds best to cream or light-as-air buttercream piled up top with artistic abandon.

It’s light as a feather, and melt-in-the mouth fine-textured but outrageously chocolatey at the same time; best of all it is that it gets along so well with other flavours – I’ve added ground dried chilli (a friend told me that it tasted familiar, then eventually identified the flavour as “heartburn”), peppermint essence, espresso powder, all to delicious effect.

taye before

i digg it

the before


streaky bakin'


cracked up

To make one U.G.L.Y. chocolate cake (you ain’t got no alibi) of the Gods:

  • 100g best possible dark chocolate – 70%. Only the best, mind. Rubbish-in rubbish-out theory applies.
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened. Don’t you dare insult this cake with margarine *fixes stern eye on you*
  • 3 large eggs, room-temperature
  • 100g sugar
  • 50g cake flour or corn flour

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and grease a baking tin well with soft butter. Get into all those nooks and crannies! (Doesn’t “cranny” sound like a rude word to you? *tee hee*).

Melt the butter in the microwave, then break the chocolate into it and stir until it’s smooth and glossy and beautiful. When it resembles Taye Diggs, you know you’ve got it right.

taye be, or not taye be

Allow the chocolate/butter/Taye mixture to cool while you whip the eggs and sugar together to form a lighter shade of pale, aerated, volumised foam. I guess since I used a human reference for the chocolate, I should use one here too… aim for a 1980’s hairdo. I’m thinking the entire female cast of Steel Magnolias right now. Frothy, fluffy, and quadruple its usual volume.

closer to god

When you are absolutely sure that the butter/sugar foam is ready, beat it five minutes more anyway. Immediately trickle in the Taye mixture as well as the sifted flour and watch it all sink straight down, then oh-so-gently fold it all together with a spatula. Gently, like it is a fractious colicky baby you are trying to put to sleep (except so much better in that it is edible and won’t be ruthlessly extracting money from you for the next 20 years). It doesn’t have to be perfectly uniformly blended – a bit of streakiness like in the photo is perfectly fine. Gently ease the batter into the prepared tin, then gently slide it onto an oven rack. Do not go banging the baking tin all over the place, because you will knock out all those precious air-bubbles.

Give it 20 minutes in the oven or until a poke with a toothpick comes out clean; you will notice that it rises promisingly – yep, it’s too good to be true.

Remember once the cake is safely stowed away in the oven to lick the spatula as well as the mixing bowl before anyone else gets to it. Best part about being the baker, in my opinion.

{you know you want to...}

{you know you want to…}

When it’s ready, gently remove the cake from the oven – see that strange feathery crust on top? It’s all gonna collapse in a moment. Regardless, leave it to cool in the tin to firm up some before very carefully turning it out.

The cooled cake will look sad and despondent. It will be cracked and fissured and scarred. It will look like the ugly step-sister of those colossal 5-storey-tall over-embellished chocolate cake monstrosities at your local supermarket, but it will kick every other cakes butt in the taste department. Don’t bother trying to prettify it – it can be beautiful in its own right. Usually I just give it a dusting of icing sugar, but it is great with a drizzle of white chocolate and fresh raspberries, or a really light (1980’s hairdo!!) white chocolate buttercream. I guess this cake should serve 8, but don’t plan to share it amongst more than four people so that everyone can have seconds. It’s that kind of cake.