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    Martha Collison's Favourite chocolate cake

    'Chocolate cake absolutely has to be two things: dark and moist. A dry chocolate cake hits you in the back of the throat with its coarse crumbs, like a tickly cough. To make sure it is sticky and dense I use buttermilk. This might seem a curious ingredient to include in a chocolate cake, but it is completely necessary to guarantee a moist and tender crumb. Essentially sour milk (not the same thing as soured, spoiled milk!), its acidity reacts with the bicarbonate of soda to give this cake its rise. It also acts as a tenderiser, stopping tough gluten networks forming so quickly. If you can’t find buttermilk, mix some milk with lemon juice as a substitute. The juice will make the milk curdle, but don’t worry about this.

    'Adding coffee to chocolate cakes really brings out the flavour in the cocoa, and you can barely taste it. If you detest coffee or are baking for children, you can use boiling water instead in any of the chocolate cake recipes.'

    Martha Collinson

    This recipe is taken from Martha Collison’s new book Twist.

    Makes: One 20cm sponge layer


    butter, for greasing 125g plain flour
    225g caster sugar
    50g cocoa powder
    1 tsp bicarbonate of soda 1⁄4 tsp salt
    125ml buttermilk (cultured), or 110ml milk plus
    1⁄2 tbsp lemon juice
    60g butter, melted
    1 egg
    125ml coffee (or water)
    You will also need a 20cm tin. 


    1. Pre heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4 then grease a 20cm tin and line it with baking parchment. Put the plain flour, caster sugar, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine.

    2. If you don’t have buttermilk, pour the milk into a large jug and add the lemon juice. Leave to stand for five minutes until thickened.

    3. Whisk the buttermilk/acidified milk into the melted butter and egg followed by the coffee or water.

    4. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, whisking until a smooth batter has formed. It will be very runny, and if you are making more than one layer, the best way to divide it between the tins is to transfer the batter to a large jug. You can then use either the markings on the jug to measure the amount going into each tin, or put a tin on the scales and measure by weight. It is important to do this so that the layers are the same height and cook at the same rate.

    5. Bake for 25–30 minutes until risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for ten minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. 

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    Click here to find out how to make Martha Collison's Blackberry & honeycomb ombre cake.


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