Best Chocolate Cake for 40 years


Yes, she could bake. Ouma Mona, that is. My mother was a master baker. In the seventies and eighties she had her own home version of a “tuisnywerheid”, where she baked on order. Our kitchen was a production factory for five to six days per week. But, just as today, we do not create our own recipes from scratch. We collect recipes. And her collection of recipes is invaluable. It was collected over a period of fifty years. Better still, the only ones that she kept were the ones that she baked time and again. So “triple-tested” sound like a joke if you take Ouma Mona, who most probably would have baked a cake a thousand times.

Her annotations are everywhere. Initially converting pounds to kilos, even pounds to Rands, as her financial calculations on some of the recipes pre-dates the 1961 conversion to Rand. Reading her writing is a blessing to me. It’s a fingerprint in time. Reading the notes on her friend’s names brings back some sepia-coloured memories from a distant past. My past. It’s almost as delicious as the recipes itself.

This recipe – that she snipped from a newspaper – talks about Anne Harvey who turned 80 years old, and had a chocolate cake recipe that was named the “best tasting chocolate cake” for 40 years at her church’s annual bazaar. Yep, she won the award for 40 years in a row! No wonder my mom kept the recipe.

Anne Harvey was an African in heart and soul. Born and raised in Kenya, lived in Zimbabwe and then moved to South Africa. She also, like Mom, made a living out of baking. She even paid for her hair appointments with a chocolate cake!


Cake Flour 300ml
Castor Sugar 250ml
Salt 1/2 teaspoon
Baking Powder 2 teaspoons
Cocoa Powder 100ml
Eggs 2 large, separated
Vegetable Oil 250ml
Milk 300ml
Vanilla Essence 1 teaspoon

The icing:

Icing Sugar 4 x 250ml
Cocoa Powder 125ml
Butter 160g
Boiling water

How she went about it:

  1. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl and make a hole in the centre.
  2. Combine egg yolks, oil, milk and vanilla essence. Add to dry ingredients and mix with a metal whisk.
  3. Beat the egg whites ’till stiff and fold into the mixture.
  4. Pour int a greased 20cm cake tin and bake at 180 Celsius for 30 to 40 minutes. If the cake is drying out on the top, cover with a piece of greased foil.
  5. Cool in the tin before removing to cool completely. Cut into two when completely cold.
  6. To make the icing, sift the icing sugar and cocoa. Place in a bowl of a food processor and, using the metal blade, combine with the butter and add enough boiling water until you have the right consistency to spread easily.


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