Chocolate birthday cake

Chocolate birthday cake

How to Cook Cakes
Peter Cassidy

This fail-safe chocolate cake is great for a children's or adult's birthday party. It is made in a square tin to make it easier to cut into portions. The cake keeps well, and even improves if made a day ahead. Just keep it in an airtight container until you are ready to ice it. Feel free to change the Smartie decoration. You will need a 20–23cm square cake tin, 5cm deep.


Quantity Ingredient
oil or butter, to grease
285g plain flour
3 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
225g caster sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
225ml corn or sunflower oil
225ml milk
3 tablespoons golden syrup

For the icing

Quantity Ingredient
85g butter
6 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
225g icing sugar
4-6 tablespoons milk

To decorate (optional)

Quantity Ingredient
2 tubes smarties
1 packet multi-coloured fondant icing


  1. Heat the oven to 170°C. Lightly grease the cake tin, line with greaseproof paper and grease again.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and caster sugar into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Break the eggs into a separate bowl and beat using a fork, to break them up. Add the oil, milk and golden syrup and stir with a whisk until well combined.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, then slowly add the wet ingredients, gradually incorporating them with the whisk until you have a smooth batter. It will be runnier than a normal cake mixture.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the middle of the oven for about 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean, or with only a few moist crumbs sticking to it.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Remove the lining paper once cooled. If the cake has peaked a little in the centre, carefully trim the domed part off the cooled cake before icing it.
  7. To make the icing, melt the butter in a saucepan, then remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa powder. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, then add it to the pan along with 4 tbsp of the milk. Stir well using a small whisk until smooth, with a thick, floodable consistency. Add the remaining milk only if it is too thick.
  8. Cut the cooled cake in half horizontally, using a serrated bread knife. Spread one third of the icing over the bottom half of the cake, then replace the top half. Pour the remaining icing over the top of the cake, using a palette knife to smooth it over the top and sides of the cake. Transfer to a serving plate or a cake board.
  9. Decorate the sides of the cake with Smarties, then roll out the coloured fondant and cut out letters or shapes to decorate the top of the cake as desired. Cut into squares to serve.
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