For this month’s Random Recipe challenge Dom of Belleau Kitchen is celebrating two years of blogging and has asked us to bake him something lovely but random. For some reason I don’t have any cookbooks purely on baking (well, I probably do but I couldn’t find any). So instead I thought I’d randomly select from a folder of recipes that I’ve taken from magazines over many years – there’s plenty of baking in there. When I opened this, though, I came up with something that might not be an obvious choice, but which I just couldn’t resist baking – Michael Barry’s Crafty Chocolate Cake.
For those who don’t live in the UK or who are too young to remember, Michael Barry was a chef (actually, I’m sure he’d say cook) on radio and TV, notably on a very successful BBC TV show ‘Food and Drink’ in the eighties (and nineties, I think). He specialised in simplified and easy recipes that he described as ‘crafty’. This particular recipe was one of his best known but I have a feeling that it might be in danger of fading away. Sadly Michael Barry died last August. (In fact, his real name was Bukht and he was primarily a broadcasting executive rather than a chef, but I’ll try to stick to the food since this is a food blog, after all.)
Way back in the early eighties Michael Bukht/Barry lived very near me in London and I got involved in the campaign to get him elected during a brief and probably ill-advised sortie into politics. Did he get elected? No, not even close. But this cake reminds me of strange and oddly enjoyable days knocking on doors, folding leaflets, hanging around polling stations and trying to get over the defeat by spending what seemed like several days in a pub. (Mr. Bukht wasn’t there – he was probably off somewhere starting up another radio station).
So sorry, Dom, this bends the Random Recipe rules a bit and has even turned elegiac rather than celebratory but the important thing is that this is a remarkably easy (sorry, I should say crafty) and very pleasing cake. In the eighties I’d probably have filled it with cream but in these more restrained times I decided on apricot jam instead. Despite being so well known once, this recipe is getting a little hard to find but there’s a version of it available on this Oxfam site. The site promotes the use of Fair Trade products and, yes, I did use Fair Trade products when making this cake. One word of warning, though: I’ve made versions of this cake in several different ovens over the years and it’s never taken as long as the recipe suggests, so be careful not to overcook it.
Thank you Mr Bukht for some interesting memories and canapés.