Special occasion chocolate cake

Special occasion chocolate cake

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"At Vygie we like to celebrate special occasions – birthdays, weddings, when someone is going home to visit the family, the end of a long day on the farm – and we often pack cakes to send with people who come to visit. This is our favourite chocolate cake recipe – our handwritten recipe book flops open to this page because we use it so often.” – Rose and Adam Williams


  • For the cake:
  • 280 g cake flour
  • 400 g sugar
  • 75 g best-quality cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
  • 1½ t bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 2 t ground coffee (filter coffee)
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • For the icing:
  • 250 g salted butter, at room temperature
  • 200 g icing sugar
  • cup ¾ tahini
  • 3 T cocoa powder
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • For the filling and topping:
  • 12 ripe strawberries
  • ½ cup raspberry jam

Cooking Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease 2x 20 cm springform cake tins and dust the bottoms with cocoa powder.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix lightly until well incorporated. Add the milk, oil, eggs and vanilla and mix until combined ¬– do not overmix.

3. Add the boiling water only when you are ready to bake – when it is combined the mixture will be very wet.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the cake tins and bake for 30–35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tins for 10–15 minutes before inverting onto a wire cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before icing

5. To make the icing, beat the butter with a hand mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually add the icing sugar, followed by the tahini, cocoa powder and vanilla. If you need to loosen the icing slightly, add 1 t hot coffee at a time.

6. To assemble, when the cake is completely cool, lay the larger of the two cakes onto a plate or cake stand, and the second cake alongside. Cover the bottom cake in a layer of buttercream and then top with half of the jam – you can pipe a buttercream “wall” around the edges of the bottom cake to contain the jam if you want – we pile it all on. Thinly slice half the strawberries and make an even layer of strawberries over the bottom cake.

7. Place the second cake on top on the bottom one, then cover the whole cake with a thin layer of icing (the crumb layer). This layer can be messy and will ensure that the top layer of icing is nice and tidy. Allow the cake to firm up for a few minutes after icing the crumb layer so that it doesn’t slide around.

8. Cover the whole cake in buttercream – we use an offset spatula or a butter knife to ice the cake, dipping it in hot water to make the icing more sculptable.

9. Once the whole cake is iced you can dollop spoonfuls of the remaining jam onto the top of the cake and decorate it with sliced and whole strawberries. We usually go for asymmetrical decorations with this type of cake because it is much less stressful for the decorator.

Cook’s note: Substitute strawberries with other berries, add some whipped cream that has been strengthened with a bit of caster sugar, use granadilla curd instead of jam or top with a mountain of baby meringues – this cake is an excellent base for creativity and joy in baking. We like to take wild flowers and stand them upright in the top of the cake on their stems (like birthday candles) and also to press edible flowers into the sides of the cake.

Find more cake recipes here. 

Photographs: Jan Ras
Production: Abigail Donnelly

Rose and Adam Williams Recipe by: Rose and Adam Williams
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Wife-and-husband team Rose and Adam Williams have transformed a beautiful old stable on Oaklands Farm an hour outside of Cape Town, into Vygie Kitchen and Dining Room, a destination restaurant that’s worth the drive.

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