Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Great Grandma Murphy's Chocolate Button Cake

When I read jibberjabber UK's brief of a vintage cake, I scrolled through webpages and recipe books. Didn't all cakes scream vintage? Without sounding like a cake xenophobe, apart from your panetone, French patisseries and fingle fangled American cupcakes, don't all British cakes come from a time when tea dances were the norm, cars were prettier and chilvalry (and institutionalised misogyny) was alive and well. Then I realised I was sitting on a recipe, a recipe that must date at around 1940, or even before that if my Great Gran got it from her mother. It's a proper vintage recipe, passed through the generations through word and aging yellow pieces of paper and it comes from my great grandma Nelly.
My great grandma Nelly was a culinary force to be reckoned with, she taught my grandad to cook, she taught my dad to cook and through a sort of osmosis, I suppose she taught me to cook.
I only met her once or twice as she died when I was quite young, and even then the memories are mainly of permed hair, hospital beds and cheap sandwiches. She was an English woman married to a stout ship builder from Port Glasgow and responsible for one of the hardest cakes I have ever tried to master - the chocolate button cake.
Now I hear you ask, what's so hard about chocolate button cake? Well it turn out a surprising amount. When I was young my dad and I spent weekend after weekend pouring over this small scrawled recipe that sounded so simple, after all it was essentially throw everything in a bowl, mix and bake. But time and time again there would be a beautiful sponge on top and a thick gooey layer of melted chocolate at the bottom, completely unlike the original where little pockets of chocolate heaven could be found evenly throughout.
But one magical weekend, we cracked it and now I present to you lovely readers, a Murphy family secret recipe.

You will need:
120g self raising flour (plus an extra couple of tea spoons)
150g caster sugar
3 small eggs or two large
60g chocolate buttons
150g butter/margarine
1)Begin by creaming together the butter and the sugar with a fork until it's smooth.
2) Add 2 of the eggs one by one until you've made a runny eggy paste
3) Now add the flour and beat until its all incorporated. You can use a mixer if you have one, but I don't so I use a wooden spoon (true to the vintage theme).
4) now toss your buttons in flour until they're coated and stir them into the mix
5) if your mixture looks too stiff add the final egg and give a good beat.
6) I place in a large cake tin and bake for 30mins, slicing in half to sandwich. But you could divide into two tins and bake for 20minutes, either way it's at gas mark 6, until golden brown. To check the cake's done insert a knife in the middle if it comes out clean (bar a bit of chocolate), it's done.
7) Leave to cool in the cake tin and then turn out to cool a little longer.
8) Decorate as you see fit.
I've halved mine and then sandwiched back together with strawberry jam, then topped with a lime icing (just a little lime juice and icing sugar), it gives it a little touch of a modern edge but without losing that all important vintage feel.


  1. This is the one i really like! :)
    Thanks for share it!

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  3. I hoping someone would unearth a family gem this month and you have come up trumps! Thanks for linking up with this month's Love Cake.

  4. What a fine use of choc buttons. That's a great family cake. I usually eat the buttons on the way back from the shop unfortunately.