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Lia Townsend's Classic Chocolate Cake Recipe

Welcome to Put on a Spread, a recipe series that takes you inside the kitchens – and dining rooms – of some of our favourite home cooks. For this instalment, grazing table enthusiast and founder of Stories to Gather, Lia Townsend, shares her recipe for a classic chocolate cake.

We know, there are plenty of claims for the best chocolate cake recipe. But after one mouthful of this luxuriously decadent and moist cake, you can be assured that every single one of your guests will be raving about how good it is (and begging you to reveal how you made it).  

This classic chocolate cake is not a mud cake, so the texture of the sponge is light and fluffy. It's then paired with a morish chocolate icing which is a hybrid between a silky frosting and a rich ganache, giving you the best of both worlds. 

Aside from its mouthwatering taste, what we love the most about this cake is that it delivers all of the nostalgia of your childhood chocolate cake, but with the refinement in taste you seek as an adult.

It's basically the dessert that can do no wrong.


For the cake:

  • 75g cocoa, sifted
  • 225g plain flour, sifted
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, sifted
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 75g brown sugar, sifted
  • ¼ teaspoon salt flakes
  • 250g unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 150ml sour cream
  • 150ml milk
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda, dissolved into the milk

For the icing:

  • 200g quality dark chocolate
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt flakes
  • 150ml sour cream
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 140g icing mixture, sifted 


To make the cake...

Preheat the oven to 150°C (fan forced) and grease and line two 20cm round cake tins with baking paper.

In a large bowl, place the cocoa, flour, baking powder, caster sugar, brown sugar and salt flakes. Mix to combine.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour in the melted butter, eggs, sour cream and milk (with baking soda dissolved in it). Whisk together until combined.

Divide the batter between the prepared cake tins using a rubber spatula to spread the mixture in the tin.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for around 35 minutes, rotating the positions of the cakes after 20 minutes. A thin skewer comes out clean when it is ready.

Once baked, allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Let the cakes cool completely before icing.

To make the icing...

Melt the chocolate, butter and salt together. This can be done using the double boiler method (suspended over a pan of simmering water), in the microwave, or on the stove top if you have induction. Whichever option you choose, go slowly, have uniform sized pieces and stir with a rubber spatula.

Leave the chocolate mixture to cool. It is ready when it feels only a little warmer than your body temperature. Whisk in the sour cream, vanilla extract and sifted icing mixture. It will firm up slightly as it cools and should be able to coat a spoon without it dripping off.  If you would like it a little firmer, add in more icing mixture and if you would like it a little runnier, add a little warm water.

To assemble the cake...

To serve, trim the tops of the cakes to level them. Place one trimmed cake on to the cake stand or board and use a palette knife to spread half of the chocolate icing. Add the second cake on top and repeat the process of icing. Enjoy!

Shop Lia's look with our Mineral tablecloth, Lavender placemats, and Oatmeal napkins

For more from Lia, follow her at @stories_to_gather

Hungry for more? Explore more recipes from our favourite home cooks here.

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