DEAR C Row,
I write to inform you that your chocolate cake recipe which appears on page 41 of a locally-produced high school ladies auxiliary cookbook from 1984, does not work.
In a quest to turn out the perfect chocolate cake, I turned to the tattered, yellow-covered, hand-bound document, hoping there would be a forgotten gem within.
At least five recipes greeted me, including yours.
Some promised to be “quick”. Others included brave baking moves like adding vinegar to evaporated milk and a list of ingredients that was as long as the method itself.
I selected yours, C Row, because it seemed short and convenient.
It was only halfway through, between the adding of two eggs and the 1 ½ cups of self-raising flour, that I noticed your direction to add “½ tsp coca”.
Now, I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that you meant “cocoa”, as per the traditional English spelling of the word.
Or did you actually mean the inclusion of coca, the main ingredient in cocaine? If so, then clearly I’ve muffed this recipe and the cake did not provide the desired kick as per your intentions.
Apart from that, I can’t say I’ve seen coca on the shelves of Woolies much. Maybe Aldi would have it.
If it is cocoa of which you speak, then without any formal cooking training, I’m suggesting that it simply wasn’t enough.
Other recipes have quantities like half a cup of cocoa or two tablespoons, or for serious flavour impact, 100g of cooking chocolate.
This prompted me to question your half teaspoon quantity, but not wanting to be too hasty in my analysis, I went with your prescribed amount.
The result was disappointing. What emerged from the loaf tin was a pale, cream-looking substance - not surprisingly the same colour as the batter that went into the tin.
It tasted less of chocolate and more of good intentions, if it’s possible to put emotions into a flavour.
Perhaps you were aiming for a subtle flavouring. The chocolate was a bit too subtle, like serving a glass of water and saying it has a subtle hint of water to it.
What intrigued me further is a comment at the end of the recipe: “This cake has won first prize in show.”
I’m not sure what show that was, perhaps a dog show, but there can’t have been many other entrants.
Should this letter find you and you are still sharing your prize-winning chocolate cake recipe, please, up the cocoa.