I work in a film archive and all of my colleagues are just LOVELY. It’s such a fab place to work and there is always fun to be had when a birthday comes around. A big pretence is made that we’ve all forgotten all about it and nothing is said until about 3pm when someone switches all the lights off, a cake is produced and we all sing happy birthday.

Irene doing something cooking related, who knows what?!

When it is Obi’s birthday, it has to be Irene Dunne’s Chocolate Vinegar Cake.

Obi sits diagonally opposite me and it is his opinion of anything I cook and take into work that I seek first. He is ALWAYS complimentary but it is Irene’s cake that always gets the most praise.

I have to agree with Obi that this is a brilliant chocolate cake recipe. I am hereby making a note to myself to line the cake tins next time as the cake is quite a soft texture and some stuck to the sides but NO MATTER. The cake was gone in no time and much appreciated by hungry archivists. My top tip for this one is to get the cake into the oven as soon as you have mixed everything. I don’t understand the science but the vinegar reacts somehow with the baking soda and bicarb to make the cake rise. Basically it in the oven with as little delay as possible.

Also, I am using smaller cake pans these days, originally I used bigger pans and the cake was still good but quite flat..

But I think it looks more impressive when cooked in smaller tins.

Sometimes I put buttercream in the centre but usually just jam. Cherry is good, or blackcurrant or raspberry.

Are you drooling yet?! I’d better give you the recipe eh?! I was pleased to see that the last time I made this, I was pretty THOROUGH with my notes. I am quite proud of myself – haha! I should do this more often.

Irene Dunne’s Vinegar Chocolate Cake

400g / 2 cups brown sugar

60g / ¼ cup butter

2 eggs slightly beaten

56g / 2 squares bitter chocolate, melted

5 teaspoons vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)

1 teaspoon soda / bicarbonate of soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

260g / 2 cups cake flour (I used ordinary plain flour)

235ml / 1 cup water

Cream sugar and butter thoroughly.  Add eggs, melted chocolate and vinegar, in the order named, stirring constantly.  Add a quarter of the flour, into which has been sifted soda and baking powder, then a quarter of the water, then some more flour, water again, alternating in this fashion until all the ingredients have been added to the mixture.  Bake in two layers in a moderate oven about 325 degrees F / 160 degrees C / gas mark 3. Any favourite icing may be used.

  • I used two springform cake tins that are 7.5 inches wide.
  • I used butter to grease the sides and bottoms of the tin.  Next time I will line the bottoms of the tin with buttered greaseproof paper, the sides were fine, but the bottoms did stick a tiny bit.
  • I baked my cake for 35 minutes on the middle shelf but I recommend checking after about 30 minutes, as all ovens are different.  I do the press test like my mum showed me.  Press the middle of the cake, if sponge springs back, it’s done.  If you make a dent in it, put it back in!
  • If you have a fan oven you may wish to bake the cake at a lower temperature – maybe 140?  
  • I always use the cup measurements when making this cake as it makes life easier than weighing everything as we Brits normally do.  
  • The gram measurements have been gleaned from the internet so the next time I make this cake, I vow to weigh all the ingredients to double check they are correct. (ha ha – I see I said this the time before last when I made it too – will do next time, promise!)*
  • If you don’t have a set of cup measures, I highly recommend having some!
  • I usually put jam in the middle of this cake rather than icing as I’m usually making it before work, so the jam saves time. 

    * um, I didn’t. Next time maybe!
Love your sparkles, love your cake!
Thanks Irene!

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