Speckled Mocha Sponge

This cake is a little beauty – pale golden sponge speckled with dark chocolate, and decorated with chocolate buttercream and white chocolate buttons. Even if you don’t normally drink coffee, I’d recommend this to you anyway – honestly, there is a huge difference between the flavour of ingredients on their own, and their flavour when combined with other things. In this case, the coffee makes the flavour of the dark chocolate deeper and richer, and the sweetness of the white chocolate will counteract any bitterness from the coffee, leaving a lovely mellow flavour.

3 eggs
Approximately 200g margarine
Approximately 200g caster sugar
Approximately 200g self-raising flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1½ tablespoons instant coffee, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water
50g Green & Black’s dark chocolate with espresso (or something similar)

For the buttercream:
Five good big tablespoons of margarine
Icing sugar to taste
A tablespoon or so of cocoa powder
White chocolate buttons, to decorate (or white chocolate Maltesers, if you can get hold of them!)

You might be wondering why so many of the ingredients are approximate – this is thanks to my mum’s excellent sponge-making trick, where you weigh your three eggs, make a note of the weight, and then use that amount of margarine, caster sugar, and self-raising flour. This makes sure your sponge is always perfectly moist. You can use this trick for any sort of sponge cake; just remember that if you’re adding something dry like cocoa powder, it’s best to take a bit of the flour out to balance it up.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C and then start by combining the margarine and caster sugar with a wooden spoon. Next, add your eggs one at a time and beat them in, and then add your flour and baking powder. I have to mention at this point that I never bother to sift my flour beforehand.  I have always maintained that this is entirely pointless because lumps are going to reappear when you mix the flour with any kind of liquid (like the eggs), and the excellent chaps on The One Show recently backed me up on this – well, not me personally, but they agreed that it was pointless. So if you don’t trust me, trust them.

Once you have a smooth, well-combined mixture, get your coffee ready and stir that in (it’ll seem like a lot of liquid to start with, but don’t worry). Finally, grate in the chocolate and stir well. I like to grate most of it with a very fine grater and then use the coarser side (i.e., the one you would usually use for cheese) to create some bigger bits too. If you’re using a normal box grater you won’t be able to do the very last corner of the chocolate so snaffle it for yourself – one of the perks of being the cook. I must admit at this point that the idea of using grated chocolate in the sponge instead of cocoa powder is not mine, but comes from How To Cook, the book which accompanied the second series of the Great British Bake-Off (click here for more information).

Grease two cake tins and line with greaseproof paper, and then divide the mixture evenly between the two. Spread it out a bit so it’s not all in one dollop, but don’t worry about getting it perfectly distributed – I find it generally evens out as it rises anyway. Pop it into the oven for twenty minutes, and then test it by sticking a fork into the middle. If it comes out clean, your cake is done.

Allow the cake to cool completely before you decorate it – don’t be tempted to jump the gun or you’ll end up with a melted buttercream mess. To make the buttercream, pop the margarine into a large bowl and then start adding icing sugar until it tastes right (you might have to taste it quite a few times… it’s a thankless task). Then add the cocoa powder and stir it through really well. Divide the buttercream in half, spread one of the sponges with it and layer with the other sponge, and then spread the remaining buttercream on top and decorate with white chocolate. Buttons are easiest to get but white chocolate Maltesers are so sweet they’re perfect for the job of counteracting the coffee. Serve a big fat slice with a cup of tea, and if you can stop at just one piece, you’re a better person than I am.