Barbara’s Can’t Fail Chocolate Cake with Amaretto-Laced Whipped Cream and Raspberries
My Grandmother, Ruby Sybil Wild, was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. Her mother worked as a cook for a family in a large stately home, so she was raised by her grandparents. Ruby loved the place where she lived and was devastated when her mother decided to move her to Canada at the age of six. Although she would never see them again, my Grandmother Ruby kept in close touch with her grandparents, and also her extended family including her Uncle Albert and his sons Alan and Noel. After my Mom wrote to tell him my Grandma had passed away, Uncle Albert kept in touch with us. One of the first letters I wrote was to him, a thank you for a present he had sent from the magical far away land of England. I wrote to him regularly after that.
When Albert died, his daughter-in-law Barbara found one of my letters, and began to write to me. I became fast (long-distance) friends with Barbara, and my parents and I stayed with her and her husband Noel on our first visit to England in 1985. Barbara and Noel were a lovely couple, and really took me under their wing. They also introduced me to Noel’s brother Alan, and his daughter Carolynn. Carolynn would later introduce me her friend Guy, the man who became my husband. I often wonder whether I would be where I am today, with such a lovely family, if Barbara had not taken the time to answer the letter she found amongst her father in law’s papers so long ago.
Barbara was an incredibly creative lady and a fantastic cook. She was also one of those lovely people who die far too young, and I miss her more than I can say. This Can’t Fail Chocolate Cake is one of her recipes. I’ve made it more times than I can count over the years, and every time I think of her. It is incredibly quick and easy and makes a delicious chocolate cake that is light and not too rich. It’s great on its own with a cup of tea, or with ice cream or whipped cream and fruit for a really special dessert.
Barbara’s recipe was originally written in ounces, and I’ve changed it to cups in order to make things easier. I have also slightly reduced the flour in the recipe and increased the amount of cocoa to make the chocolate flavour more intense, without making it too sweet. I also use buttermilk instead of milk for a richer flavour (but milk works just fine too). Golden Syrup is a very common sweetener in England. You can substitute corn syrup (not high fructose corn syrup!) or liquid honey if you can’t find it.
I like to bake the cake in a rectangular pan, preferably 9 x 13 inches. However, this cake can be made in an 8 inch square or round pan instead, or even as cupcakes. You just need to adjust the cooking time. As a general rule, I set the timer for 15 minutes and then watch the cake carefully thereafter until I am familiar with how the cake bakes in any particular size of pan. My 9 x 13 inch pan takes about 25 minutes.
Barbara’s Can’t Fail Chocolate Cake
Serves about 8 to 10
1⅓ cups flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
1 level teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
¾ cup sugar
½ cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (sunflower for preference)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk
2 tablespoons Golden Syrup
Preheat the oven to 325ºF (165ºC). Grease and flour or line an 9 x 13 inch pan (or your pan of choice).
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar.
In a medium bowl or large pitcher, beat together the oil, eggs, buttermilk and Golden Syrup.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid ingredients. Beat well to make a smooth batter.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top springs back when touched lightly. A skewer inserted in the centre of the cake should come out clean.
You can frost this cake when it is cool or leave it plain. It is lovely served with a bit of whipped cream laced with Amaretto liqueur (just whip a couple of tablespoons of liqueur into the cream with the sugar) and some raspberries.