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Kitchen Queries

Welcome to Kitchen Queries, where the nigella.com team will answer your cooking or food related questions.  We’d love you to submit some of your recipe problems, dilemmas or queries for us to get our teeth into!

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Please note, we are only able to answer questions selected for publication and aren't able to enter into personal correspondence.

Latest Queries

  • Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake

    Hi! I recently made Nigella's Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake (with sour cream), which asks you to use an electric mixer (which I don't have), to combine the flour etc with the butter. I used a hand held electric whisk instead, but the result was very heavy and dense. Is there a better way of making this cake by hand, or where did I go wrong? The icing was delicious though! Many thanks, Judith

    From the nigella team:

    The Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake (from Feast) is usually made in a food processor with all of the ingredients being mixed together at the same time. If you don't have a food processor then the manual method, combining the flour and raising agents with the butter then beating in the cocoa, sour cream, vanilla and eggs can be done with a freestanding mixer or an electric hand whisk and should also be possible with a wooden spoon and lots of elbow grease.

    Although this may sound slightly unusual, many professional cake makers believe that combining the flour and butter first can help to give the cake a more tender crumb, as the fats in the butter coat the flour molecules and help to prevent gluten from forming when liquids are added. It usually gives a fairly light cake so if it is heavy it is worth making sure that the raising agents are still fresh and also that the cake batter isn't left sitting around before it goes into the oven, as the raising agents will expire after a period of time (particularly bicarbonate of soda/baking soda).

    Otherwise you could try the more classic method of creaming the butter and sugar, beating in the eggs and then adding the flour and raising agents and the sour cream, cocoa and vanilla. If you do this we would suggest adding the flour mixture in 3 batches and the sour cream/cocoa in two batches, alternating between addition of wet and dry ingredients and beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

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