The Other Half took his last exam (hopefully ever, or at least for quite a long time) this afternoon.

I took a sneaky afternoon off without telling him, sped home and to Tesco’s like a maniac, and while he was writing about Modern Heuristics (urgh), I was making this:

Because if there’s anything that says ‘celebration’ to this chap, it’s ‘large quantities of Minstrels’.

This is an old-fashioned chocolate cake, according to Nigella’s website, which was the first to appear when I typed ‘chocolate cake’ into Google. Personally, I think the fact that one of the main ingredients is sour cream makes it quite a modern chocolate cake, but let’s not quibble. The cake mix, unusually, contains both baking powder and bicarb (still don’t really know the difference between them), but apart from this and the sour cream, is the usual eggs/sugar/flour/cocoa concoction you’d expect. Nigella recommends – AGAIN – just putting all the ingredients in your handy food processor. The day I actually own a food processor, I’m going to write and tell her. I’m sure she’ll be pleased. Anyway, I did it the long way round, creaming butter, sugar and flour and then adding the whisked cocoa, cream, vanilla and eggs. It’s a layer cake, which meant the stress of producing two identical halves again, but aside from leaving them in the oven a touch too long (they were a little dry around the edges), they seemed to come out ok.

The icing is chocolate, butter, yet more sour cream, vanilla and a LOT of sieved icing sugar. Does anyone know whether inhaling icing sugar is a health risk? I felt like a coal miner after a very cloudy few minutes in the kitchen.

Once the cakes are cool, a third of the icing is sandwiched between them, and the rest goes on the top and sides. This is the first time I’ve ever had to call my tiny spatula into service, which was most satisfying: I was beginning to think the poor thing was entirely useless. I forgot to put baking paper underneath the cake to catch the drips, by the way, but wiped off the excess with kitchen roll, so it wasn’t a disaster.

A few thousand Minstrels later (not really, but it felt like it), it was done. They stick unexpectedly well to the icing, which was a relief: they’re quite heavy, so I thought perhaps they’d slip off.

He was pleased, at any rate. Especially when I told him I’d over-bought on the Minstrels and there were lots left.

Slicing through Minstrels with a large knife makes one feel terribly manly. So I'm told.

Deliciousness: The dark chocolate makes this quite rich – smaller slices work better – and I overcooked the cake slightly, as I said. Still, this is a good find: an excellent all-round celebration cake that could be adapted for all sorts of occasions. If necessary, you could make the icing from a mixture of milk and dark chocolate, instead of all dark, to make it more child-friendly.

Complexity: Even without a food processor, not difficult to make. Assembly is quite tricky; make sure you have a tiny spatula on hand (or the back of a tiny spoon would probably do).

Washing-up pile: I was in such a rush I forgot to count, but seemed to go through absolutely all of my mixing bowls – quite a feat.

Casualties: I hesitate to say it, but yet another minor oven burn. I need to start wearing oven gloves permanently, I think.

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