Sunday, May 25, 2014

We Should Cocoa Challenge: Bake a Chocolate Cake For £1

This month Choclette has set a tough We Should Cocoa challenge with the brief to make a chocolate cake for £1. The challenge underlined just how difficult it is to incorporate anything fancy into your diet when living on a very tight budget. The much more sobering and harrowing challenge faced by so many experiencing extreme food poverty had been given world wide coverage earlier in the month by the Live Below The Line fund raiser. The many people who took part raised 5.5 million pounds by volunteering to live off just £1 a day for all of their food and drink needs for 5 days, and asking for sponsorship to do so. The money raised is going to help anti-poverty organisations across the world. Reading the blog diaries of others taking part made it painfully clear how difficult it was to balance the need for adequate calories with good nutrition. 
My £1 Chocolate Cake, well almost, I went 2p over budget.
So how easy is it to bake a budget chocolate cake worth the money spent on the ingredients and good enough to lift your spirits?  Quite a few bloggers have come up with £1 cakes and it has been fun to see what everyone has chosen to do. I went 2p over budget so points off for that!

This is a pretty basic chocolate cake with a few sacrifices of food ethics to fit the budget. To be clear the £1 budget did not include the cost of energy for the oven, or for all the hot water needed to wash up afterwards, just the ingredients. My cake before icing weighed in at 500g so a reasonable size for a small group of family or folks, should you be sharing.

The recipe I started from was a very old one I had used as a teenager from 'Mrs Beeton's Favorite Cakes & Breads', published in 1972 by Concorde Books and my copy is now falling apart.  I was thrilled when my aunt gave it to me for my birthday, if I remember correctly it was the first cookbook I owned and I have always loved baking.
 The recipe title in the book is Cocoa Cake (Economical Chocolate Cake) and as with many sponge cake recipes from the seventies it calls for margarine. I prefer not to use margarine but butter was beyond the budget so I swapped sunflower oil for the margarine and was relieved it did not spoil the texture of the cake. Further changes were needed to keep close to the budget so I used less egg and cancelled the vanilla extract. My icing was made with a 100g bar of supermarket economy plain chocolate (30p) which had very little cocoa solids in, and the water ganache I made with it was rather dull. My wish to have an iced cake was possibly a bad call. The 30p taken up by the chocolate bar could have been put to better use with some vanilla and the full amount of egg. I costed my eggs at the supermarket budget price, but I keep hens and ducks so I used what I had at home.

 I love this style of recipe layout; books were crammed with recipes whereas now you get very few in relation to the size of the book.

The cake I costed was a half batch of this recipe but I made the full batch and produced the 500g cake and a dozen cup cakes. The original recipe calls for two 9" inch layer pans which you sandwich together with a frosting.

Ingredients adjusted for budget
115g sunflower oil (originally margarine)
340g granulated sugar
2 eggs (originally 3)
0.5 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
140ml milk
85g cocoa powder dissolved in 70ml hot water**
200g plain flour
0.5tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla extract (omitted)

** I have never been able to get the cocoa powder 'dissolved' in 70ml of water so I also add in half the milk, pre warmed, to get the coca powder paste needed.

Oven 180C
Two  9" layer pans greased and floured or lined (I used a 17cm deep square tin).

  1. Beat together the sunflower oil, sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl until paler in colour and thick and creamy, a hand mixer helps.
  2. Blend the cocoa 'paste' into the egg mixture.
  3. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together.
  4. Dissolve the baking soda in the remaining milk.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk and soda.
  6. Add the vanilla if using.
  7. The batter will be quite thin. Pour this into the two 9" layer pans that have been greased and floured or lined with parchment.
  8. Bake the cake layers for approx 35 minutes, cakes will spring back when pressed once fully baked.
  9. Cool the baked layers on a wire rack.
  10. Frost as desired. (Water ganache with cheap chocolate NOT recommended!)

1 comment:

  1. Well I'm impressed you managed an iced cake Jill, even if you did go 2p over budget. I reckon you might have the most chocolatey of all the cakes as you've used quite a lot of cocoa powder AND chocolate on the top too. Interesting to hear the cheap chocolate didn't work very well as a water ganache. Until reading all these challenge recipes I didn't know there was such thing as a 100g bar of chocolate costing 30p! Thanks for taking part in this, I've found it to be the most interesting challenge I've done for a long time.