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malted milk chocolate birthday cake

There can be a lot of pressure to whip up a homemade birthday cake that rivals the masterpieces you see on TV cooking shows, but the fact is, sometimes simple is best. This no-stress choccie cake keeps well if you want to bake ahead of time, fills us with a glowy sense of nostalgia, and is deliciously chocolatey but not too rich. Yummo!



For the cake
140g soft butter
350g plain flour
25g good-quality cocoa powder
2 tbsp malted milk powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
300g light brown soft sugar
300ml milk
150ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the icing
200g dark chocolate, about 50% cocoa solids
120ml milk
25g cocoa powder
2 tbsp malted milk powder
140g soft butter
250g icing sugar
a handful of chocolate sweets, and candles



1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan/gas 4). Make the cake batter first. Put the butter in a saucepan and melt it gently. Using a pastry brush, use a little of the butter to grease a 23 x 33cm traybake tin. Line the tin with baking paper.

2. Mix the flour, cocoa, malted milk powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt, then sift into a large bowl. Add the sugar and break up any lumps with your fingers. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pushing most of it to the sides of the bowl. Whisk the milk, oil and vanilla into the melted butter and pour them into the well.


3. Using the whisk, mix the flour mixture into the well, slowly at first. Once mixed, give it a good beat until smooth and evenly blended. Pour into the prepared tin.


4. Bake for 30 minutes, until the cake has risen, is firm and slightly shrunken from the sides. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Leave in the tine for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

5. For the icing, break the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and place it over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water. Let the chocolate melt for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice until smooth. Alternatively, microwave in 20-second bursts, stirring each time. Leave to cool a little.


6. Heat the milk in a small saucepan or the microwave until steaming hot. Sift the cocoa and malted milk powder into a large bowl, then slowly stir in the hot milk to make a smooth paste. Leave to cool for a few minutes.


7. Now add the butter to the paste, sift in the icing sugar, and beat together with an electric mixer until very creamy. Follow with the melted, cool chocolate, to make a silky, soft icing.


9. Sprinkle the cake with the sweets and top with coloured candles. Let the icing set for a little while if you can, although it's delicious - if a little more messy - eaten straightaway too. The cake can be made up to 2 days ahead and kept in a cool place, well wrapped or, if frosted, loosely covered on its board.


This recipe comes from the new cookbook What To Bake & How To Bake It by Jane Hornby. It's out now through Phaidon, and as a special treat we have five copies to give away! To enter the draw, email your details here with What To Bake in the header.

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