Chocolate cake with cream-cheese icing

Makes 8–10 slices

This cake is sweet, dark and sludgy, with a contrasting American-style icing of whipped cream cheese, icing sugar and butter. It is not the sort of smoky-rich chocolate cake you find in a restaurant, but rather one that should be eaten at home as a teatime treat.

150g/5oz good-quality dark chocolate
185g/6oz unsalted butter at room temperature, plus extra to grease
375g/12oz plain flour, plus extra to dust
1 tsp baking powder
185g/6oz caster sugar
185g/6oz soft brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
185ml/6fl oz whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the icing

300g/10oz soft cream cheese
75g/3oz unsalted butter
600g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3. Break up the chocolate to encourage it to melt evenly, then place in a heatproof bowl set over a pan containing about 5cm of gently simmering water. The bowl should not be in direct contact with the water, or the chocolate is liable to overheat. Don't stir, as this can dull the shine. When it is melted, smooth and glossy, remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Now lightly grease and flour three 20cm sandwich cake tins (or two 25cm cake tins) and line with baking parchment. Sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter until light and pale – this will take about three minutes. Add the caster and brown sugars and cream until light and very fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Now incorporate the chocolate, mixing until they are evenly combined. Finally, fold in the flour alternately with the milk and vanilla, using a metal spoon or spatula. The batter should be smooth and glossy.

Divide the mix between the prepared cake tins and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Place the tins on a wire rack and leave to cool for five minutes or so, then turn out the cakes on to the rack and leave to cool completely before icing.

For the icing, using an electric mixer, beat all the ingredients together until soft and completely smooth. Spread the icing over the cake while it is still soft. Place in the fridge for an hour or so before serving.

Lay one sponge on a board and spread generously with a third of the icing. Place the second sponge on top and spread with another third of the icing. Position the final sponge on top and cover with the rest of the icing. Grate a little dark chocolate over the top to serve.

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