Outback Danís Never-fail Chocolate Cake

31 October 2019 Outback Dan

Outback Danís Never-fail Chocolate Cake

Photo by Pablo Martin

Serves 8

1½ cups (225g) self-raising flour
1¼ cups (275g) caster sugar
1 cup (250ml) milk
125g butter, chopped,
at room temperature
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon baking powder
Chocolate icing
1 cup (125g) icing sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
30g butter, melted
2 tablespoons milk


Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 20cm round cake tin and line with baking paper.

Using an electric mixer, beat the flour, caster sugar, milk, butter, eggs, cocoa, vanilla and baking powder in a large bowl on low speed for 1 minute, until combined. Increase the speed and beat for 4 minutes, until smooth and paler in colour.

Pour the batter into the cake tin. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and enough of the milk to make a smooth, spreadable icing. Spread over the cake.


To make a coffee cake, replace the cocoa with 1 tablespoon instant coffee, dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water.

For a vanilla cake, omit the cocoa, increase the vanilla essence to 2 teaspoons and add an extra 2 tablespoons of flour.

Outback Dan says…

We’re the fifth generation here in Longreach in the centre of Queensland. We’re pretty proud of our little community. Agriculture is our primary industry but with the dry season upon us, we’re putting it on the map as a tourist destination. A little further north we have the ancient dinosaur bones.

Now we have the newest addition to the sixth generation, a six-week-old little boy. My wife is a local girl, her grandparents were born in Longreach Hospital, where all our babies have been born. Our oldest boy, Harley, is in Grade 3. He’s a big fella who loves his dancing.

We had a little girl called Willow, who was tragically taken from us two years ago. She was a beautiful little girl. The community picked up the whole family during the hardest period of our lives. We feel indebted to them for that. It’s a good community and we have each other’s backs. The weather makes us resilient. We’ve seen our forefathers and mothers get through it, so we know we can stand together before any challenges life brings.

Never-fail Chocolate Cake comes from Mum. Every birthday for my brother, sister and me would feature this chocolate cake. We’d get into the kitchen with Mum while she whipped one up, lick the spoon and help out. Dad always took the biggest slice. And after every party there would never be any cake left, that’s for sure.

Nowadays it’s my son’s favourite cake. Hopefully he’ll make it for his kids. But no-one can make it as good as Mum. I’ve had a good go, my wife’s had a good go at it, even my sister-in-law, but we just can’t make it the way Mum makes it. I think that’s the old style of cooking. And the love that mothers put into it, that extra ingredient.

The blowing of the birthday candles, the wish that’s made, and if you touch the bottom when cutting the cake you might have to kiss the person closest to you – it’s a symbol of prosperous times. Food is a celebration and it’s always better sharing it with somebody.

» Outback Dan’s recipe is from Farmer Cookbook, a collection of recipes and stories from the heart of rural Australia, with all sales going towards CWA. It’s out now. You can visit Outback Dan and his family at Camden Park Station, Queensland.

» Article first published in ed#598