South Africa’s best chocolate cake

I haven’t baked this recipe in over 6 months, and TBH I forgot how delicious it is!

When I had my first bite of a fresh warm cupcake on Sunday evening I swear my tastebuds did a little dance!

A wise person once said, no good story starts with a salad, and I couldn’t agree more! I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve told this story, the truth is I’ll probably tell it a couple hundred more times before I die. I’m quite proud of it!

This story starts with my Gran. She found an advert about the Best Chocolate Cake Competition in the Sunday Times and insisted I enter, she even drove out to our house to drop the article off so I could get all the details. I literally left it to the last minute, after contemplating entering, thinking up ideas for my cake (all cakes had to be original) and a few weeks of one sided arguments with the little voice of self-doubt in my head, I submitted my original recipe, with only a few days to spare.

Shortly after entering I got a phone call from Hillary Biller, food editor for the Sunday Times, she called to tell me that out of hundreds of applicants I had been shortlisted to the final 6. We were to compete in a bake off at Sandton City Shopping Centre on 14 September 2013. I could hardly believe it!

So on the 13th of September 2013 the 6 finalists met up with a few of the judges, we had drinks, followed by a wonderful dinner at The Walnut Grove in Sandton City.

We spent the evening making new friends and chatting about baking and food in general, it was clear to see that everyone at the table had a passion for good food!

After dinner we set off to take a sneak peek at our bake stations for the next day.

1237039_10201367081314518_715286861_nThen we were off to bed, we spent the night at the Sandton Sun in complete luxury, but with hearts racing and tummies full of butterflies it wasn’t easy to fall asleep.

On the morning of the 14th we were up bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready for the day ahead.

After a scrumptious breakfast we headed down to the bake stations and so it began, checking that all our ingredients were there, sending people to get what was missing, preparing our stations, setting our ovens, measuring out ingredients, prepping our pans and doing interviews with the press, there were soooo many cameras!!

At 11 we were told to start baking, there was some serious Masterchef stuff going on!

Everyone was hurrying around and within a couple of minutes people were already popping cakes in the ovens, the bake-off area filled up with a strong sweet smell of chocolate, it was incredible.

45527_10202076130765618_214203703_nAbout 15 minutes after I put my cake in the oven I realised I had forgotten to set the timer, I was panicked but kept my cool and decided to just wait and see what happened.

In the mean while I prepped the decorations and chatted to the TV people.

After a few short hours we had all finished our cakes and had them on display, photo ready!

Not one cake was similar to the next, brandy, granadilla, orange and strawberries had all found their way into the mix!

After a miniature photo shoot the judges started the very difficult job of judging the cakes.

One by one they were cut, served, and judged in hushed tones based on a number of factors, while we stood on and watched with baited breath, waiting to hear the outcome.
How nerve wrecking!

Eventually the winners were announced and much to my delight and surprise my cake was crowned Sunday Times Best-Tasting Chocolate Cake!

1273744_701860976508495_1419114183_o1116557_9280181383887_701862346508358_2076605921_nIt was the most amazing feeling! Definitely one of my proudest moments!

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s ridiculously easy to make! And it doubles as a cupcake recipe aswell!

To make a 23cm double layer cake or 24 cupcakes you will need:

2 cups flour
¾ cups cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups sugar
½ cup oil
1 cup boiling water
2 eggs
200g of dark chocolate
200ml double cream
Fresh strawberries (washed) for decorating
150ml cream
For a cake : +/- 40 flake chocolates cut to size
1.5m Pretty ribbon of choice
For 24 cupcakes : 3 flake chocolates

Preheat the oven to 180°C. If you’re baking a cake grease two 23cm round cake pans well using spray and cook. For cupcakes just fill your muffin pan with cupcake casings.

In a large bowl, sift all of the dry ingredients together.

DSC_0698Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla essence and beat with an electric mixer for about two minutes.

DSC_0700Then add the boiling water and mix until combined. This can get a little splashy because the batter will be quite runny, this makes the cake nice and moist.

DSC_0714-reducedPour the batter evenly into the prepared pans and pop them into the oven. If you’re baking a cake let it bake for about 30-40 minutes, cupcakes can go for 17-20 minutes.

DSC_0717-reducedDon’t open the oven before you’ve reached the minimum baking time because the cake/cupcakes will fall in the middle when the heat escapes the oven.

To test if the cake is ready, insert a toothpick/cake poker/thin knife blade into the middle of the pan. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready.

Take it out of the oven and allow it to cool a little in the pan (5-10 minutes).

If you’re baking a cake slide a knife around the edge of each cake to loosen it from the pan, turn the cake out onto a metal rack to cool further.

Let the cake cool off completely before you start the icing and decorating.

Now for the fun part!

To make the ganache heat the chocolate and double cream in a saucepan over medium heat on the stove, stirring constantly until all the chocolate melts and is properly combined with the cream. The mixture should be smooth and glossy.

DSC_0734-reducedTake the pan off the stove and put it aside to cool down and thicken a little.
Good luck trying not to have a taste – this stuff is so good drizzled over fresh strawberries!!

In a separate bowl beat the 150ml cream until firm peaks start to form, you can add a pinch of sugar to help thicken the cream.

DSC_0737-reducedIf you are making cupcakes grab a thin bladed knife and cut a circle in the top of each cupcake.

Lift the circle out and slice the tip off creating a little cake “lid” for the cupcake(Eat the tip you cut off…or feed it to you SO – no wasting good cake here!!)

DSC_0725-reducedFill the hole in the cupcake with cream and put the lid back on the cupcake covering the cream.

DSC_0743-reducedIce the cupcake with a tablespoon of chocolate ganache.

Crush up the flake and give each cupcake a generous sprinkling.

DSC_0762-reducedDecorate with your fruit of choice. I used strawberries and raspberries.

DSC_0767-reducedIf you are making a cake, put one layer of your cake on the plate/cake stand you’ll be using to serve it.

Spread the cream on top of the cake and then place the second layer on top, making a sandwich.

Ice the entire cake with chocolate ganache icing. I find it easiest to plop spoonfuls of the ganache on top of the cake and allow it to run slightly down the sides (you want the majority of the ganache on the top of the cake and only a thin spreading around the sides).

Thinly slice the strawberries and arrange them in fans on top of the cake. They should be placed along the edge of the cake, leaving the center of the cake open for decoration/candles, etc or for more strawberries.

Stick the flake fingers to the icing around the sides of the cake ensuring the entire cake is “surrounded” by flake fingers.

Tie the ribbon around the cake and place it in the fridge until you are ready to serve it.

Serve and enjoy!!

If you give my cake a try please do let me know what you think! 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to grab one of the last surviving cupcakes before Riaan eats them all!!

**Photo’s taken by myself, Mariaan De Klerk and The Sunday Times**


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    • SimmyVos

      Lauren it is a really easy cake – let me know how it goes if you end up trying it!
      I am also hoping for more time to bake – bank holiday got the better of me though so I never got around to trying out a new creation – hopefully this weekend I’ll do better! :)

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