It’s my birthday and I’ll bake rum-soaked chocolate cake if I want to

I’ve just finished icing a double-layer rum-soaked chocolate cake with a double batch of chocolate cream cheese icing. It looks a treat (and I recommend icing as a pre-breakfast pick-me-up) but reality has suddenly hit. It’s not the fact that I’m another year older, or that there is a smudge of icing on my pyjamas, but that I have to transport this precious cargo out of the house, down 50 stairs made slippery with overnight rain, into the garage (opening the door with one hand, shielding the cake from the howling wind with the other) and into the car. Then there’s the short but perilous route to the Small Girl’s nursery (two sets of traffic lights, one set of roadworks, one long street of speed humps) and the slightly longer but no less fraught trip to work (back down the street of speed humps, through the roadworks, up the hill, through the lights, through another set of roadworks, through the tricky intersection, up the hill, down the hill, merging into the motorway traffic, more lights, the steep hill, negotiating the carpark). I used to think it was hard carting cake on the Tube, but this is a whole new ballgame. Oh well. If push comes to shove en route then my workmates will have to make do. It’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?

Chocolate Birthday Cake
I’m a bit fussy about chocolate cake, preferring it to be dark, flourless and sticky. But sometimes you need a crowd-pleaser, something that your hungry colleagues can tuck into and leave sticky smears of icing all over their keyboards. (Sometimes you also need a cake you can make late at night, when you realise you don’t have enough ground almonds or chocolate to make the sort of cake you had in mind.)
This recipe is written in shorthand on the back of an envelope in my recipe book – I can’t remember where it came from, so if it’s yours, many thanks. This icing – adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook – is what I used to use in my brief foray into cupcake selling. It’s just right for this dark, moist cake.

1 2/3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 1/2 baking soda
2/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp salt
100g butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line two 20cm sandwich tins. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Add the butter, milk and eggs and beat furiously with a wooden spoon until well mixed (you can also do this in the processor or in a mixer). Divide between the two tins (I actually do this with a measuring cup to be precise) and gently place in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cakes are springy and a skewer plunged into them comes out clean.
Let them cool for 10 minutes, then gently turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
When the cakes have cooled, stab holes in them with a toothpick and drizzle with brandy or rum. (This isn’t essential, but it feels festive.) Wrap carefully in clingfilm and store in a cool place (not the fridge) until you’re ready to ice them. The flavour of this cake improves the day after you make it.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing
150g very soft butter
80g sifted cocoa
400g sifted icing sugar
300g cold cream cheese

Beat the butter, cocoa and icing sugar together until well mixed (use an electric beater or a freestanding mixer. Add the cream cheese and beat for about five minutes, until light and fluffy. This makes a lot – but better too much than too little, don’t you think?
Slather over the cake – use it to sandwich the two halves together – and have fun swirling it around.

I found a box in the shed and managed to insert plated cake into it before we got in the car. Cake and I have arrived at our destination safely, although I did nearly plough into a bus while watching that it didn’t slide off the front seat. Phew!



  1. July 5, 2011 / 6:27 pm

    Happy Birthday! The cake looks delish! Hope you have a fab evening!

  2. July 5, 2011 / 6:31 pm

    Haha, possibly one of the best blog post titles I've ever come across! Looks delicious – weirdly to most, I'm not the biggest fan of chocolate cake and I'd never really bother making one unless it was for someone else. However, a rum soaked version may prove to be the exception! Happy Birthday!

  3. July 5, 2011 / 7:36 pm

    I've just hopped out of bed having been lost in the pages of Fiona Kidman's memoir and reading your post kept the flow of lovely words going. You are so wonderful, with your words and oh so wonderful cakes.
    Happy happy birthday Lucy! xoxoxo

  4. July 5, 2011 / 7:37 pm

    Happy Birthday to You! Completely understand the transporting cake adventure. My birthday this week too and have to transport lots of cake by foot first (possibly in pouring rain) then by crowded train then foot again. Love the way you've decorated your cake, want to pinch the idea, but can't make out how you've done it?????

  5. July 5, 2011 / 9:00 pm

    Thank you thank you thank you!
    Choclette, the decoration is easy – just pile on the icing and then wiggle the tines of a fork across the surface. Helps if you're doing it in a badly lit kitchen at 6am!

  6. July 5, 2011 / 9:21 pm

    Happy Birthday to Yoooooooooooooooou!
    Lucy – what a lovely looking cake and so grown up!
    Transporting baking and cakes is such a pain! So much work to make something look so tempting then all the worry of having it look just as nice when it gets to its destination. I'm glad your cake survived the trip but more importantly – glad you survived and didn't run into the bus!!!! Afterall, I wanna see what birthday cake you make for yourself next year.

  7. July 5, 2011 / 10:29 pm

    Happiest of birthdays – the cake looks gorgeous; very similar recipe to one I make, only mine has sugar in it! Also buttermilk (more usually yoghurt in our house) instead of milk.

  8. July 5, 2011 / 10:41 pm

    Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Lucy, happy birthday to you! If that cake tastes as good as it looks then you will be having a very happy birthday indeed 🙂

  9. July 6, 2011 / 2:34 am

    happy birthday love, that chocky cream cheese icing sounds like a winner ..

  10. July 6, 2011 / 4:41 am

    Happy birthday! Enjoy the tipple! I hope your family and friends don't get upset that you made your own cake. Although I would fear baking a cake for a great baker on their birthday.

  11. July 6, 2011 / 5:10 am

    Happy birthday!

    Chocolate cream cheese icing sounds absolutely dreamy. I understand the perils of carrying baking around the city, I always forget that bit when I enthusiastically promise things to people.

  12. July 6, 2011 / 8:16 am

    Happy Birthday to you!! Have a wonderful day. The cake looks fantastic. Love icing for breakfast 🙂

  13. July 6, 2011 / 9:34 am

    Happy birthday!! Glad to hear the cake made it in one piece. Hope the rest of the day was just as successful 🙂

  14. July 6, 2011 / 10:11 am

    Thank you and happy bithday! It's my lovely husband's birthday next week and I wasn't sure how to improve on last year's sugar-coma inducing chocolate cake, but now I am.

  15. July 6, 2011 / 7:55 pm

    Happy happy birthday wishes to you Birthday Lady.

    No doubt Your chocolate cake was a crowd pleaser.

  16. July 7, 2011 / 5:30 am

    Wow, fab cake for a birthday:) felt stressed reading about the transportation however, well done getting it to work in one piece …

  17. July 8, 2011 / 1:16 am

    I love this post's title :). Hope you had a happy birthday. I'm sure the people who got to eat this appreciated it!

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