A friend requested a cake for a housewarming party. However, he had two conditions: one, it had to be chocolate; and two, although the cake had to be decorated for the celebration, he didn’t want any icing to be used. Challenge accepted.
The chocolate part was easy. I love cake recipes that require you to bung everything into a bowl, stir it up and bake, and this one’s no exception.
Leaving out the icing was also good news to me. Not that I hate icing, but it can be challenging to work with sometimes in hot weather (which is all year-round where I live). Plus, it meant I only needed one layer of cake.
For something easy yet impressive-looking, I reached for my stack of Wilton cake stencils. It literally does what it says on the tin: select a pattern and sift on cocoa or sugar. Done!
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 200g caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup milk
- 30g unsweetened cocoa
- 200g all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- A pinch of salt
Makes a single-layer 8-inch cake. Serves 8-10.
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 175°C (350°F). Grease and line an 8-inch round cake tin.
Step 2: In a large bowl, beat together the oil, sugar and eggs until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture lightens slightly.
Step 3: Mix in the vanilla extract and milk.
Step 4: Sift in the cocoa, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir to combine.
Step 5: Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 45 minutes.
To do the stenciling, you’ll need your cake top to be as flat as possible. Instead of trying to chop off the dome of your cake, a much simpler way would be to smush (highly technical terminology here) it down with the palm of your hand (washed clean, please) while the cake is still warm in its tin, about 15 minutes after removing from the oven.
Don’t worry if cracks form or if you get carried away with the smushage and leave a visible handprint on your cake. Because what we want is to decorate the bottom of the cake, which should naturally be flat. So flip the cake over onto your serving platter or cake board and let it cool completely.
Then, sift a layer of cocoa powder over the top (the bottom, previously) of your cake. The cocoa is there to dry out any moisture that might dissolve your icing sugar pattern. Place the stencil on top of the cake and sift an even layer of icing sugar. When you’re done, carefully remove the stencil. Now, wasn’t that easy?