Chocolate Birthday Cake

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“Last but not least, a large porcelain platter was arranged with mouth-watering biscuits and smiling jammy faces around a chocolate birthday cake, glossy dark icing still dribbling down the sides.

When he finally looked up they were all staring at him: Maggie and Rose and Eliza, and even the kitchen hands had stopped work and come to watch. His mind whirled at the thought of what to eat first.”

Maggie’s Kitchen, page 275

Birthdays would not be the same without cake and cakes would not be the same without chocolate. Children celebrating during the Second World War had to make do with all sorts of mock meals and eggless puddings, but when it came to cake, there was still Bournville cocoa.

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Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Cream butter, sugar, vanilla extract and warmed golden syrup. In a separate bowl, sift flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa. Gradually add eggs to the creamed mixture, beating well between each addition. Then slowly add the flour mixture, stirring in enough milk to bind the ingredients. Gently fold in the beetroot and divide cake batter between two 18cm/7-inch greased and floured cake tins and bake for 25 minutes. Test with a metal skewer to check they are cooked. Combine ingredients for icing and set aside. Once cooled, sandwich cakes together with jam, then spread icing across the top of the cake.

*The combination of chocolate and beetroot is delicious, and since it was one of the staple vegetables of the wartime garden it seems appropriate to use it still.

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