One September many years ago, my mother took me on a holiday to the Cotswolds. We stayed in the most beautiful converted granary at Grove Farm in Cold Aston, Gloucestershire, and when we arrived the hostess had laid out the perfect chocolate cake just for us on the big farmhouse table. Each day we'd come in from walking, boil the kettle and cut ourselves a generous slice to relax with under the old beams in the late summer light. It's what we both remember best about that time together, and before we left Grove Farm we asked (no, begged really) for the recipe. We were obliged, and the handwritten note with its precious directions has lived tucked into our family recipe book ever since. I went hunting for it when I was back home in Toronto last Christmas and copied the steps faithfully so I could bake it for my birthday... 9 months away. I've been excited about this cake ever since, and in homage to its lovely, rustic origins I decorated it this morning with wildflowers from our cottage garden and natural beeswax candles that smell faintly of honey.


  The Perfect Chocolate Cake


175g butter 175 g dark soft brown sugar 3 eggs 50g cocoa powder 175g plain flour 2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 cup milk*


1. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) and grease 1 or 2 7 inch cake tins (depending on whether you want to make a layer cake).

2. Beat together butter and sugar. Whisk in eggs and slowly add sieved flower and cocoa powder.

3. The recipe didn't call for any milk, but I added it at the end when I found the batter was too stiff to work for a cake... up to you!

4. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and leave on wire rack to cool.


For the Icing:

50g butter 100g icing sugar 100g melted dark chocolate

1. Melt chocolate in a bowl over a simmering pot of water. 2. Add in butter and sugar and whisk until smooth and fluffy. 3. When the cake has cooled, spread the icing artfully over the top over each layer and sandwich them together. Or, if you've only made one cake, just pile it all on top!

Catherine Roberts