Chocolate Birthday Cake

When I was little, I had a chcolate cake pretty much every year for my birthday. For me, chocolate cake is to birthdays what wine is to Friday evenings. You can have one without the other but it just isn’t as fun.

My father in law said to me recently that nobody makes a chocolate cake as good as your Mum’s, and I definitely have to agree with him. My mum is an amazing baker and every year for my birthday I had a glorious, homemade cake. My favourite one by far was the chocolate cake covered in whipped cream and strawberries.

This recipe is a slightly tweaked version of the one my mum uses, which was passed to her by a great aunt.


225g plain flour

350g sugar

85g cocoa

10g baking powder 

10g bicarbonate of soda

2 eggs

250g milk

250g oil

Pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees centigrade or gas mark 4.
  2. Grease and line two cake tins.
  3. Sieve together all of your dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
  4. Add the milk a little at a time, so as to avoid clumping.
  5. When all the milk has been incorporated, add the oil and the eggs.
  6. Split the batter evenly between to two tins and bake in the middle of the oven for 30-40 minutes. The cakes should be well risen and springy.
  7. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tins. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

To Decorate

This cake makes a really good base for lots of different styles of cakes. It’s not too sweet and not too rich, plus it’s reasonably sturdy and stays moist for several days. Here are some ideas for quick and easy ways to finish this cake.

  1. Fill the inside with vanilla buttercream and your favourite jam. Dust the top with icing sugar.
  2. Fill and top with Nutella. Make it easier to spread by microwaving for a few seconds and stirring well.
  3. Fill the cake with whipped cream and seasonal fruit and finish with icing sugar and more fruit.
  4. Fill the cake with chocolate buttercream and coat the outside with chocolate ganache. Decorate with your favourite chocolates and sweeties.


  • If your batter turns lumpy, use an immersion blender to ensure a silky smooth batter.
  • If you only have a small oven, bake your cakes one at a time to help you get an even bake. Make sure you keep one in the fridge whilst the other bakes. 
  • If you are only using shallow tins, you only need to line the base of the tin. I start with a square of paper the size of my tin, fold it in half, half again, then diagonally and diagonally one more time. Then cut across to top of the triangle, open it out and voila! Butter the tin, place the paper inside and rub more butter around the paper to keep things neat and to help avoid leakages.


Butterbean and Kale Soup

I found this rather lovely looking vegetable in the supermarket recently, and even though I’m not much of a Kale lover, I just had to buy it. Then I looked at it for a long time, trying to think of something to do with it. I came up with this hearty soup…


  • 250g smoky bacon lardons 
  • 200 g shredded Kale 
  • 1 onion
  • 1 leek
  • 3 celery sticks
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 can of butter beans
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • A knob of butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 100ml double cream
  1. Cook the bacon in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan until it is good and crispy.
  2. Whilst the bacon is cooking, prep the vegetables. The onion, leek and celery should be as finely diced as you can manage. Mince the garlic (I use a lemon zester)
  3. Add the vegetables to the pan with the bacon and cook until softened.
  4. Next add your knob of butter. Once this has melted, sprinkle over the table spoon of flour.
  5. Pour over the vegetable stock and stir. Bring to the boil, chuck in the thyme and then leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. After the broth has simmered, add the drained butterbeans. Allow to simmer for a further 10 minutes. Stir every now and then to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  7. Next add the shredded Kale. Keep the heat as low as possible now so as not to over cook the Kale. You want to maintain some of the crunch.
  8. When the Kale has softened, turn off the heat and pour in the cream. Season to taste and serve immediately.