There are lots of chocolate cakes in the world; each with its own characteristics. This particular example is not perfect for every occasion in life; it is not hugely rich, or sophisticated, or unusual...but it is easy to make, nicely chocolatey, economical, keeps well, and is suitable as a weekday cake, or even, as Isaac proved recently, as a birthday cake.
When made into cupcakes it bakes helpfully to a flat finish, making it easy to ice. It's safe to say this cake currently makes a regular appearance in our house justnow.
The original recipe came from the much maligned 'Celebrate' by Pippa Middleton. I have switched the margarine for butter, considerably reduced the amount of water (yes, water), increased the oven temp, and changed the method. I leave you to decide if it's still Pippa's recipe.
I also always double the quantities, so I end up with either a large double layer cake (made in 2 deep 8" tins) or several loaf-tins worth/ cupcakes and a big cake, and permutations thereof. Once fully cold, the cake/s freeze well, wrapped well, uniced, so I always like to make a big batch. Quantities given below are those that I use. Of course half them if you wish.
170g butter at room temp.
570g caster sugar
4 L. eggs
110g cocoa powder
340g self-raising flour
300ml cold water
Preheat oven to Gas 4/180c. Grease and line 2x 20cm round cake tins.
Cream butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
Add the eggs one by one, ensuring they are thoroughly blended.
Sift the self-raising flour and cocoa together.
Add the sifted ingredients and the water alternately until all fully incorporated, and the mixture is smooth and creamy. (If using stand mixer, take a spatula round the bottom of the bowl to ensure all is fully mixed.)
Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 50-60 minutes, checking at 45 minutes, until nicely risen, and a cocktail stick insterted into the centre comes out clean.
Cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely before covering with the icing of your choice, or dusting with a mixture of cocoa and icing sugar. Or plain.