Go To Chocolate Birthday Cake

Updated: Sep 13, 2020

Originally posted 19th January 2019

Dear Alice,

This is the recipe for a deliciously easy, yet rich chocolate sponge that keeps nice and moist for a few days and bakes with a centre just the right side of fudgey. Used for your three tier, 15cm second birthday cake which was (as somewhat surprisingly requested) pink with flowers and berries. You chose the flowers yourself from our lovely local florist and I used the cream cheese frosting recipe that makes daddy crave more cake than is reasonable. A toasted marshmallow icing sugar gave it a nice lift.


100g salted butter

340g brown sugar

100g plain chocolate drops - melted

150ml milk

3 large eggs

225g plain flour

2 1/4 tablespoons cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1. Beat the butter sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Slowly add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture. If it curdles then add a

tablespoon or two of the flour to bring it

back together.

4. Add the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and milk to the mixture. Once combined stir through the melted chocolate.

5. Mix one last time at a slow speed or gently folding with your spoon until just combined then pour into prepared cake tins and bake at 170° about 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Once cooked, let it rest for a few minutes before turning the sponges out to cool on a wire rack.

So it's been another year since that life changing day when you dramatically struggled your way into our lives. Without doubt these have been the most rollercoaster years of my life so far. With our sudden relocation from London to Somerset where we know nobody, my accidentally enforced but welcome career abandonment, house refurbishment and Daddy working hugely increased hours, these years have not always been easy. If I'm very honest, they have not always been happy. Often, the circumstances have left me feeling stripped of my identity, lonely and incredibly inadequate. But on the good days (the number of which are definitely on the up and have always outnumbered the bad) I have seen what an incredible privilege it is to stay at home and raise babies. To raise you. My phenomenal girl. The girl my baby has become is brave, adventurous, thoughtful and astonishing and I am left to wonder how this all happened. Somehow, between bringing you home in your over-sized cardigan and blinking you are two years old. Two! How in the world did that happen? Where did the time, the intoxicating new baby smell and my tiny little hedgehog-headed newborn go? And where will you take me next?

This year, on your actual birthday, you were the worst version of yourself. In fact, a version of you I had never seen before. A whingey, whiney toddler, crossing off every stereotype on the terrible twos list. It was my fault. I suggested that we go out for a pancake breakfast when, quite understandably, you wanted to stay at home and play with your presents. Then there was a Wendy House incident at playgroup and it was down hill from there. I did not cope with it well. I lost my temper, you continued to cry and I felt like a big, fat failure and spent your nap time crying on the sofa. In contrast, the following day we went searching for flowers and berries for your birthday party cake and out for coffee. You were your best self. Chatting, interested and loved picking out these beautiful blossoms from our fabulous local florist. Then you napped and, aside from all the housework that wanted doing, I felt like I was winning at life. Motherhood. The mother of all dichotomies!

I was so excited to bake this beautiful cake for you, my gorgeous girl. Parenting is often terrible and tremendous in equal measure. It is absolutely, as a dear friend once warned me it would be, an adult-long lesson in letting go. I am torn between grieving for the baby left behind and bursting with pride and wonder at the brave and adventurous little woman flourishing independently in front of me. So now the cake has been eaten and the party been had, I am left with only one option. To celebrate you and all that you are, good days and bad, the baby and the blooming. To celebrate that I get to be your mummy and to whole-heartedly pray that somehow you will find it possible to like me too. Like me for all that I am, warts and all, because I’m not always my best self baby girl, but I’m trying bloody hard.

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