Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

A Recipe For Chocolate Cake

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Gwyneth Paltrow has a website where she puts recipes.


But they’re quite good recipes. I could probably have fumbled through without her recipe for a tuna sandwich, but lots of them look lovely. I like her approach to food. The tabloids constantly take the mickey out of her faddish microbiotic madness - and really ripped her apart when she printed a recipe for roast chicken when she’s “supposed to be a vegan” - but as her website quite clearly states

“I am no longer so restrictive with my diet, far from it. But some of the tenets of macrobiotics have stayed with me and they always will. I try to eat locally, seasonally and always organically. I don’t eat processed foods or red meat and I try to stay away from sugar and dairy but I have a major cheese weakness and, well, you only live once.”

  That seems very reasonable to me. I know people think organic meat is a luxury for toffs; even Delia Smith seems to believe it’s a load of pretentious waffle when most of us simply NEED to scoff battery chickens as a money-saving measure. But I think that’s stupid. There have been periods of history where meat was an expensive luxury so people ate it rarely; nothing wrong with that. Much better to have good meat once a week than a daily munch on the mouldering minced carcass of a glum chemical-fed beast that lived and died in a tin box, and tastes like it.

  Anyway, anything Gwyneth Paltrow can do, I can do. Except play a thin elegant WASP in a massive Hollywood blockbuster. But I can do recipes. Indeed, I have a trophy on my mantelpiece for Best Cake at the Clacton Arts Festival 2005. I know I mention that a lot. But I’m very proud of it. It nestles between two poker trophies and is just as treasured.

  So, since it’s my BIRTHDAY TODAY, I thought I would put up a cake recipe. It’s not ideal for anyone who tries, like Gwyneth, to “stay away from sugar”. But, on the plus side, it doesn’t have any cheap meat in it. So, here’s the recipe.


  Heat the oven to about 350 F or 175 C.
Mix 140g of caster sugar with 140g of soft butter. Not melted soft, not runny, but nice soft room temperature butter. Mix them together til they’re properly blended and soft and, you know, mixed.
Then separate four eggs - put the whites aside and add the yolks to the mixture along with 140g of soft chocolate. Use decent chocolate, for God’s sake. Proper dark cooking chocolate with a nice high cocoa mix. When I say “soft” I do mean melted this time, but not too runny - just melted down to a nice soft gloopy mixture in a double boiler or a bowl over a saucepan. Double boiler’s safer. I don’t want anyone to cause an explosion in their kitchen and die as the result of trying to make a chocolate cake. That would be tragic.
  Then stir in a tablespoon of self-raising flour and 140g of ground nuts. That’s where it all goes wrong for those with a nut allergy. But it does need the nuts. You could use chopped hazelnuts if you really wanted, but the consistency’s better if you use ground nuts - ground hazelnuts ideal, mmm.
  Now beat the eggwhites, the four eggwhites you set aside before, beat them all good and peaky, and fold them in to the mixture - FOLD, FOLD, CUT AND FOLD, don’t get impatient and stir them in, FOLD them in, use a metal spoon, don’t crush all the air out of them in the mixing.
  Line a cake tin with greaseproof paper. If you don’t have a train to catch, grease the tin first. If you’re really keen, grease the paper as well. It all makes life easier at cake-removal time.
  When the tin is lined (and ideally also greased), fold in the mixture, put it in the oven and fork-test it after about 40 minutes. If the cake looks lovely and risen, and the fork doesn’t have liquid on it, take the cake out of the oven. If the fork’s still liquidy, give it a bit longer but keep a close eye. When it’s done, give it a few minutes in its tin (but out of the oven) then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool.
  Once it’s cooled… well, my grandma used to drizzle rum on it. A couple of tablespoons would do. She’d use a bucket. But a couple of tablespoons will do fine. Having said that, if you’re an alcoholic, you can leave off this poisoned garnish because it still tastes very nice without.
  And the finished cake goes very well with cream. If you like cream. I, personally, don’t. I think it’s revolting. I think it COMPLETELY RUINS THE CAKE. You might just as well cover it in toothpaste as far as I’m concerned. Or mud. Wormy mud. But for those who like cream, I believe it goes well.


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Dan at 1:53 am on August 18th, 2009

Wise words on the quality of our meat in ratio to volume.  I had a friend who worked for a chicken factory.  Those places don’t like to draw attention to their existence so they don’t have websites.

I intend to copy and paste this recipe, print it out using an extravagent font, stick it to my kitchen cupboard and bake it at some point.  Thanks, and a very happy birthday!

Matt at 7:54 am on August 18th, 2009

Happy Birthday, young Miss Victoria.

Smylers at 8:29 am on August 18th, 2009

Happy birthday!  Hope somebody else makes you a cake today.

Dave Budd at 8:59 am on August 18th, 2009

Happy birthday!

Colm at 9:17 am on August 18th, 2009

First things first,

Happy Birthday Vicky!!

Secondly, someone give this woman her own cookery show. It would be brilliant, hugely entertaining with digressions into Grandma’s over-exuberance with the rum, clear, practical instructions with no Michelin-starred faffing about, and while the cake is in the oven the host could play a few hands of hold ‘em or throw up a fiendish connecting wall.

Sheer televisual brilliance!

AndytheDealer at 9:25 am on August 18th, 2009

Happy Birthday Vicky!

I will have a go at making your chocolate cake.  I might even send it to the Test Match Special commentary team… If I mess it up.

Alex at 9:42 am on August 18th, 2009

Happy Birthday. Summer Birthdays are by far the best.

I personally do not enjoy chocolate cake. My friend, however, is a cocoa-fiend. I shall bake it for her birthday on Monday.

Thanks Muchly.

James at 10:28 am on August 18th, 2009

Happy Birthday!! Have a great day

Rainbow at 11:33 am on August 18th, 2009


Jim at 11:58 am on August 18th, 2009

Many happy returns!

Birthdays depress me more than words can say, but I’m sure you’re fine with yours!

Sam at 1:07 pm on August 18th, 2009

Very nice Rainbow.

Happy birthday Vicky.

My cake is in the oven, I used hazelnuts though as I adore them.

I don’t blame anyone for getting cheap meat, at the end of the day if you’re trying to feed a large family on a budget then sacrificing a bit of flavour and ethics is understandable as meat is always going to be one of the most cost effective ways to satisfy them, as well as easier.

I am quite fortunate to have a good local butcher who supplies very good quality meat, and will often give me the bones etc. for my stocks. But it costs a lot, I spend £40 a week on meat for two people. It’s not cheap.

And making well balanced, enjoyable, vegetarian meals is not that easy, nor that cheap either.

Andy W at 1:30 pm on August 18th, 2009

“Secondly, someone give this woman her own cookery show”

My family mix Vicky up with Nigella Lawson enough as it is.  A cookery show and I would have to painstakingly explain the difference at every family gathering from now till the end of time.


Julia at 1:46 pm on August 18th, 2009

Happy birthday! Hope it’s one filled with cakey goodness.

Clyde at 1:51 pm on August 18th, 2009

Zum Geburtstag viel glück!

Dickie D at 1:57 pm on August 18th, 2009

What a fab sounding cake.
How about adding some chocolate pieces right at the end before cooking such as a couple of bags of Cadburys Buttons.
If served slightly warm, bites of pure chocolate cake bliss would be accentuated by a hit of melted gooey chocolate. Heaven.
Jeez I’m hungry now.

..and have a great day Miss C.

Victoria Coren at 5:25 pm on August 18th, 2009

Someone’s baking the cake already! I’m so glad. REPORT BACK AFTER EATING. if no good, it’s your own fault for using whole nuts instead of ground. Or at least chopped. But ground is best.
  I wouldn’t advise adding chocolate buttons before cooking. They’ll only melt in with the rest of the chocolate and make the consistency a bit too heavy. If the cake just isn’t chocolatey enough for you, melt your buttons AFTER it’s baked and then slather them on the top as an icing. I’d guess that would work much better than adding them in to the mixture.

MarkP at 5:39 pm on August 18th, 2009

Find the connection in this group
Also in a previous job I used to service machines at a kebab factory. Without going into detail it put me off them for life.

CheddarGorgeous Matt at 6:35 pm on August 18th, 2009

Thanks for the cake recipe, I look forward to baking at the weekend.
And many happy returns too

JB at 7:39 pm on August 18th, 2009

A very Happy Birthday and many happy returns,


D at 9:32 pm on August 18th, 2009

Allow me to add my birthday good-wishes, and also say (i.e. brag) that I was lucky enough to snag a proof copy of ‘For Richer, For Poorer’, and I enjoyed it immensely. I don’t really play poker, so it was occasionally slightly opaque. But I will admit that - though perhaps my loratadine was wearing off, or it was just that sort of Sunday afternoon - I got a bit misty-eyed at the end of the penultimate chapter. (I won’t give away the ending here where everyone knows it already.)

As is my habit I marked a couple of typographical inconsistencies; I will see if I can call the publisher’s attention to them, though I expect they will (have) be(en) caught by sharper-eyed editors than myself before final printing.

Sam at 2:48 pm on August 19th, 2009

The cake was very much brilliant I have to say. It went down especially well with my next door neighbours, who I gave a couple of slices to as a thank-you for all the fresh vegetables they give me.

I love a good cake. I normally stay away from chocolate cake as it is often heavy and a bit sickly, but this was very good.

Also, just noticed you are on You Have Been Watching next week (according to Sky+ anyway). I love Charlie Brooker, who has to be pretty much the most underrated person on TV. You should definitely plug Screenwipe and Newswipe here, two of the best shows on television. Dawn Of The Dumb is brilliant as well (which I believe I purchased after you mentioned enjoying it either in a previous blog entry or an Observer article).

adam at 7:58 pm on August 19th, 2009

Belated birthday wishes (mine was on monday, spent in a field in wales at the croissant neuf festival which i highly recommend if you don’t like festivals but want to go to one).
Much as i enjoy You Have Been Watching, and hope to see you on it, i can’t help feeling charlie has been neutered by giving him a quiz show and should get back to the important business of newswipe. it really should be on daily on bbc1, say just after the ten o’clock news.

Helen at 9:05 pm on August 19th, 2009

I have many recipes for chocolate cake, but yours is the first one I’ve come across that made me laugh out loud.

I shall enjoy trying it out at the weekend.

Victoria Coren at 12:45 am on August 20th, 2009

Just to say I’ve added a line to the recipe. One correspondent told me privately that he had trouble taking the cake out and it would have been better to butter the greaseproof paper first. I’ve never had that problem. I often grease the *tin* first, but never the paper, and I’ve always found it peels off fine. NEVERTHELESS, sounds like that doesn’t always happen. So I’ve modified the recipe to suggest greasing the tin before you add the greaseproof paper, and greasing the paper as well for 100% ease of removal.

malc at 11:45 am on August 21st, 2009

Hope you had a enjoyable birthday!
I can just see you as the next Nigella!!!

Robert Duboff at 8:12 pm on August 21st, 2009

Hey Vicky,

Thanks for the recipe, hopefully it will be yummier than anything i’ve done on my course so far!  I will definitely try it out this weekend!

I liked your article in the guardian this week and it really is so true!

I hope you are well and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!


MarkP at 10:27 pm on August 31st, 2009

Ok, I’ve had a go at making your cake. I’m not entirely sure I got the beating of the eggs right, because I’m convinced it should have risen more. But considering that chocolate cake is not my favourite this tastes rather good. I think the nuts takes some of the overpowering chocolate taste away. And yes, no cream.

Victoria Coren at 11:37 pm on August 31st, 2009

Wow! Of all the cake pictures that have been posted (here and on Twitter) that is certainly the best looking. It wouldn’t rise much more than that - it isn’t a massively risey cake. It looks great! Well done, and I’m glad it tasted ok too.

James at 12:38 am on September 7th, 2009

A somewhat belated Happy Birthday! 

I feel that series 3 of Only Connect needs a question which lists “poker play”, “quizmistress”, “columnist” and “baker” as items to be connected…

I shall definitely be trying out this recipe, but would like to know: what size should the cake tin be?  This is quite important for getting cake recipes right, I’ve found.

I’d like to offer you a fabulous recipe for lemon cake in return, but your blog tells me that it has too many characters…

Victoria Coren at 4:34 am on September 7th, 2009

Hmm… just a standard cake tin really. I’d measure the one in my kitchen but I’m in the late stages of an online poker tournament and can’t get up. This cake doesn’t rise very high, so you definitely don’t want a tin that’s too wide. Just… standard. Medium rather large. Small would be better than large! Medium better.

Victoria Coren

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