My Favorite Chocolate Cake!

When I was musing on Twitter whether or not blogging was for me, everyone said yes and at least one person told me I had to include recipes!

But before I give you my first one, I would like to tell you about food and I.

My passion for cooking came early on. Nan was a good old fashioned cook but cake wasn’t her thing! “There’s nothing that can’t be fixed with some hot custard” was her favorite saying about cakes!! And trifle was her thing!

Mum could do three dishes – a tasty hot stew type beef curry, spag bol and Hawaiian Casserole. And every sunday she would make jam drops, rock cakes and a dry as dust date cake.

I think I was really inspired by the local CWA, Red Cross and Ladies Auxilliary women. Mostly they were the same people.

Any time there was a function, fundraiser, wedding, funeral, party – anything really – all the food came out. Beautiful, simple, well made food interspersed with flashes of brilliance.

I learned to cook on wood stoves. We had one (mum and dad still do), as did Nan, as did most people where I grew up. It was the cooker, heater and hot water system all rolled into one! It was a bit of a shock at high school having to cook on an electric stove.

I worked as a shearers cook for a while – 10 years as well as other shed jobs. I was a good cook and could work magic with very little but was completely stressed out. I would do a much better job of it now I think. But doing that job required me to use everything from leaky old wood stoves to gas ovens. Most of which came out of the ‘Main House’ when it no longer served its purpose. That experience taught me a lot about adapting and making failures work. I can also disguise old broken mouth sheep meat!

All this has stood me in good stead in recent months. Lack of funds has meant a major belt tightening by all. I have even started making my own bread because its cheaper. Not a lot of ready made or take away is purchased here!

Meal times in our house can be very chaotic too. I rarely see the kids before they leave for school and often wonder if they even get breakfast! I think the mornings they don’t at home they have found 20c and bought toast at the canteen. But their lunch is always packed and waiting in the fridge. They often feel special too as not many other kids get home made double chocolate biscuits, carrot cake muffins or the other delightful fillers I make. The other kids always want to know what exciting things Miss 5 has in her lunchbox! When I was at school, bought bickies were very special!

But we make sure we have a few meals a week where we all eat together. And once a month(ish!) when our son is home we invite our other daughter and have a family dinner.

I don’t believe enough families share food any more. The art of conversation is slowly dying and sitting around a table sharing food and thoughts is a huge opportunity to teach kids about getting along with others. it is! The photos aren’t spectacular but I hope they give you an idea what’s going on. Photography is a skill I am working on.

This recipe is my favorite cake recipe. Its easy to make, a little time consuming and fiddly but totally worth it.

It comes from The Australian Woman’s Weekly Cookbook ‘Home Baked’. If you know someone who loves to cook this would be a great present. A lot of my sweet cooking comes from this book. The messy pages are proof!

This is not a cake that would be given the tick of approval by the Heart Foundation! It uses nearly a kilo of sugar and a lot of butter. But it does make a very big cake.

The tin to cook it in needs to be pretty big. They’ve suggested a rectangular one. I use a very old 25cm square one that was a wedding present for my parents. So its 40+ years old!IMG_00000460

Family Chocolate Cake


2 cups of water

3 cups of caster sugar

250g butter, chopped

1/3 cup cocoa

1  teaspoon bicarbonate soda

3 cups self raising flour

4 eggs, beaten lightly


IMG_00000454Combine the water, sugar, butter, cocoa, and soda in a medium saucepan – I use a rather large deep boiler type saucepan. The bicarb makes this froth up a lot when heating! Stir over heat, without boiling until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil then reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. This is where you can make or break this cake. Let the mix cool!! Don’t be too hasty. But the length of cooling you allow changes the texture of the cake. Leave it only for 1/2 to 1 hour if you want a dense gooey cake, leave it to cool completely for a lighter cake. Don’t refrigerate! I did once and it overflowed in the oven!!

Preheat oven to moderate – 190C. Grease a deep 26.5 x 33cm (14c/3.5L) cake tin or baking dish and line the base with baking paper.

Add flour and eggs to the bowl and beat until smooth and pale in colour. Pour mixture into prepared tin. I tend to gently tap the tin on the bench once or twice. This mix is prone to air bubbles. But its not required.


Bake about 50 minutes, until you can put a skewer in the cake and it comes out clean and the cake is slightly springy to touch on top. Its a very ‘about’ 50 as well!! This cake took 1hr 20min. Others have been done in 50, some less, some more. If its not done in the allotted 50 minutes, cook for 10-20 minutes till its done. It really needs hovering over from 40 minutes on. I always put a biscuit tray under this one – it has overflowed before!! That probably changes the cooking time…

While the cake is cooking, make the icing. It needs cooling time.

Combine 90g of butter, 1/3 cup of water and 1/2 cup of caster sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved without boiling. Sift 1 1/2 cups icing sugar and 1/3 cup cocoa into a medium mixing bowl then gradually stir in the hot butter mixture. When it is smooth, cover and refrigerate until thick. The recipe says 20 minutes, again I found more time was required. That’s why I make it while the cake is cooking. If the icing is too hard to put on the cake, zap it in the microwave in 5 second bursts until it is.

Cool cake in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out on a wire rack. I wrap mine in a tea towl but the choice is yours.IMG_00000471IMG_00000472

Ice and enjoy!!

Its good for about 2-3 days, up to 5 days if you keep it in the fridge. Mine never last that long!

This cake freezes ok iced too!

I have warmed this cake slightly and served with ice cream for dessert….

So Friday November 8 was our 7th wedding anniversary.

How did we celebrate? Sleep in? Nice breaky or lunch in town? Romantic stroll along the beach?

No to all of them.

We sat in the Centrelink office hoping to get some extra money to prop up our extravagant lifestyle…

Costs outweigh our income for a lot of reasons. And I think its the same for most primary producers at the moment. I saw an article in the last few days – which I can no longer find – about a sheep farmer from Southern NSW. She says in that article (I paraphrase here) that we are feeding the nation for free.

That’s exactly what we are doing right now.

According to the Australian Government’s Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education’s report ‘Key Facts Australian Industry 2011-12’, agriculture, forestry and fishing added $34.2 billion to our economy ($2.76 billion of that was dairy). That was 2.4% of the GDP. Mining’s contribution was $139.9 billion, 6.7% of the GDP.

So that explains why mining gets all the press, both good and bad!

But the point I’m trying to get across is this

2.4% of GDP helps feed 100% of the Australian population.

So why is it that those people who produce the cleanest greenest food in the world (my opinion) are forgotten?

According to the National Farmers Federation 2012 Farm Facts, each of the 134,000 farm businesses in Australia feed 600 people and produce 93% of the food consumed here.  Agriculture creates a total of 1.6 million jobs.

At farm level 307,000 people are employed, while only 269,300 are directly employed in mines. Is anybody else as surprised as I am about this?

I could wax lyrical about agricultural statistics all day! But as dairy is the industry I am currently heavily involved in, I found the following very interesting.

Last years ABARES report shows this;

In 1967, the national dairy herd was 3,061,000, the average production per cow was 2,298L. In 2012 the herd size has shrunk to 1,630,o00 and average production has risen to 5,816L. Genetics, feed, and a better understanding of the cow has helped Australian dairy farmers improve productivity by 258% in 45 years.

The International Farm Comparison Network, as reported by the Weekly Times, says the average cost to produce 100kg of milk (1kg of milk, 4% Butterfat, 3.3% Protein) is $US46. The same article states Australia and New Zealand produce milk for $US30-40/100kg. A quick study of that map shows the cost of production is higher in countries who are subsidized.

Why are Australian dairy farmers not being rewarded for this?

New Zealand is so far ahead of us in production and export. What could their industry leaders and Government see that ours couldn’t? The strong Australian dollar has something to do with it, but New Zealand have been working on this for a while.

The New Zealand herd size is 4,634,226, but their cows produce 4,128L each/year.

Australia produced 9.48 million litres 2011-12 about 50% is of which is exported, New Zealand a staggering 19.1 billion litres, 95% of which is exported. If their cows were as efficient as ours they would produce 26.9 billion litres.

So who is making the money?

I don’t think its the farmers.

And how do we sort this problem out?

If agriculture in general is in trouble, and it is, its my opinion that the issues need to be sorted industry by industry. What fits for dairy probably won’t work for sheep for example.

The one thing all primary producers need to do is tell the general public their story.

If the public – consumers – understand where their food comes from and how its produced, they might then become interested in why its so expensive to produce in Australia, then we can work on having a win/win situation for both buyers and sellers.

Pipe dream – maybe! But without ambition, we have nothing.

Your views on this are something I’d love to see! Both from producers and consumers alike.

And I’d also like to hear how the industry you’re involved in is doing.

After all, a problem shared is a problem halved, right.