RECIPE: Scotch Chocolate Snacking Cake

Flipping through 1938’s “World’s Best Recipes By 500 of the World’s Best Cooks”, a single line in a recipe instantly carried me back to my Aunty Marie’s kitchen in childhood.

The ingredient line read: “one square of baking chocolate, melted in a half a cup of boiling water”.

I remember distinctly peering over the edge of a counter and staring through a glass measuring cup. It contained a single perfect square of baking chocolate. I very much wanted to grab it and nibble on the edge, but experience had taught me that baking chocolate was somehow delicious in baking but disgusting on its own.

I watched the boiling water slowly flow over the chocolate. I observed the edges of the chocolate soften and turn cloudy. My aunt inserted a metal teaspoon and started to stir the chocolate. As the water swirled around the chocolate, they danced and entwined, becoming one luscious dark liquid.

While you make this recipe, I hope you take the opportunity to pause and really enjoy the everyday alchemy that is baking.  From swirling melting chocolate to the leavening magic of baking soda, baking is full of miraculous moments and practical chemistry.

This cake is best made with Ploughman’s Lunch dark chocolate bars (any variety will do, so pick your favourite). 

I know that after patiently waiting for them to return from their exciting travels, we are glad they are open again to bless us once more with the best chocolate and croissants on the South Shore (dare I claim all of Nova Scotia??).

This recipe calls for a little over one bar of chocolate, so you’ll have to buy two and snack on the extra. The original instructions for this recipe were one line: “Bake in sheet on two layers about thirty minutes.”

I played around with a couple different techniques and settled on one that results in a springy spongy milk chocolate flavoured snacking cake. I’ve topped it with the easiest icing possible and some chocolate curls for garnish. You could skip the chocolate curls and add chopped nuts, sprinkles, sea salt, or whatever your heart desires (or your cupboard is in excess of).

If you are a coffee drinker, I highly suggest swapping out the boiling water for hot coffee to add a deeper chocolate flavour to your cake.

Scotch Chocolate Snacking Cake

Chocolate Cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup unsalted butter, room temp

1½ cups granulated sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

½ cup “sour milk” (could be buttermilk or half yogurt/half milk)

½ cup boiling water or hot coffee

2 ounces Ploughman’s Lunch dark chocolate, chopped

Chocolate Icing:

½ cup unsalted butter

2 ounces Ploughman’s Lunch dark chocolate, chopped

¼ cup milk or cream

2½ cups icing sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup dark chocolate curls

Bake the Chocolate Cake:

1.      Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with canola oil cooking spray and line it with parchment paper.

2.      In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3.      In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla for 5 minutes on medium-high speed, until it looks like wet sand. Stop and scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl twice while mixing.

4.      Add 1 egg and beat for 2 minutes on high speed.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the second egg and beat on high for 5 minutes until light and fluffy.

5.      Add the flour and sour milk and mix on medium-low for 30 secs until a thick batter forms.

6.      In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, stir ½ cup of boiling water into the chopped dark chocolate and stir vigorously until the chocolate is melted completely.

7.      Keep the mixer running on medium low speed and slowly add the water/chocolate mixture. Turn the mixer up to medium and mix for 30 seconds. Scrape down the bottom and sides and continue mixing on medium high for 30 secs The batter should be light, fluffy, and pudding-like in texture.

8.      Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the cake has puffed up and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out dry. Allow the cake to cool for an hour before topping with the icing.

Make the Chocolate Icing:

9.      Add the butter and milk to a small heat-resistant bowl and heat in the microwave for 1 minute.  Add the chopped chocolate and vigorously stir until all the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is glossy and smooth. If you see any lumps, heat in the microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until smooth.

10.   Place chocolate mixture, icing sugar, vanilla, and salt  in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on high for 7 to 10 minutes until light and thickened.  Stop, and scrape down the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl twice during mixing.

Ice the Cake:

11.   When the baked cake is cool, spread the chocolate icing evenly over the top and use a small offset palette knife to spread it level to the edges of the pan.  Sprinkle the dark chocolate curls evenly over the icing. 

12.  Let the cake rest for 1 hour to allow the icing to set up before serving. You can store the cake, covered, at room temperature for up to 5 days.

N.B. Celia, you can use your hand mixer for this one and reduce the mixing times a little.  Just make sure it’s very fluffy after you add the eggs.

Josie Rudderham is a local cookbook author and baker living in West LaHave. She is the co-owner of Cake and Loaf Bakery in Hamilton, Ontario. Her passion for sustainable food and community building led her and her family to the South Shore where they are building Rivercroft Regenerative Farm. She collects old cookbooks and loves to share old recipes rebuilt with local ingredients.


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