Devil’s (Improv) Cake


A great thing about Jaipur is that I always land up meeting interesting people & have memorable encounters each time. I don’t think I’ve ever been entirely lonely & friendless in the Pink City in the past 6 years! (Lucky me!)

I’ve watched very corny Bollywood blockbusters at one of Jaipur’s oldest movie theatres with French & British volunteers from school! Spent cold evenings swapping recipes, music & stories with a Russian teacher while her hair-dryer warmed up the room! I’ve joined a large group of American exchange students on the precarious roof tops of 2 storey buildings in Tripoliya Bazaar, watching the Teej Festival procession of camels, elephants, horses & dancers. This one afternoon, I learnt the ghoomar, the traditional Rajasthani dance. My “teacher”, a traditional folk dancer lived with her family in a tiny, tiny unfinished home but had performed the world over.

Teachers like me, who came to the school from Delhi & Bombay every once in a while to teach drama, photography, puppetry, who I met “coz we were sailing in the same boat”, are now good friends. After class or on weekends we’d drive up to the forts or walk around exploring the bazaars or even better grab a beer & kebabs at the street stalls on a chilly winter night! And the best part… it’s always a surprise; I never know who I’m going to meet!

This time round though, I was very excited to catch up with an old, friend whom I was going to meet after nearly 15 years! I last met Reema at her wedding. She has moved to Jaipur now & invited me home for dinner, the day I reached & then again on my last night there! A home cooked meal is always welcome! And when someone offers to cook mutton for you, the Bengali way, you’ve got to love her! And what better way to demonstrate that love by baking for her & her family 🙂

Reema & Amit have 2 gorgeous daughters Arushi & Ayesha, who love chocolate. So I found a Nigella Lawson recipe for Devil’s Food Cake & gave the list of ingredients to Reema, who organized it all. Ask me where you can get gorgeous block print razais (blankets) or the best lassi (a thick, sweet, yogurt based drink) in Jaipur, & I’ll be able to tell you with my eyes shut! But basic groceries… absolutely clueless!

I volunteered to buy the chocolate… very optimistic, I know. Of course, I couldn’t find any dark cooking chocolate… so I improvised*… that’s what theatre people do best, don’t they?

So ingredients in place, our equipment in order, my eager 12 year old assistant, Arushi & I began our Devil’s Improv!



  • ½ cup Cocoa Powder
  • ½ cup (packed) dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup Boiling Water
  • 9 tablespoons Butter (softened), plus some for greasing
  • ¾ cup fine Powdered Sugar
  • 1½ cups Flour
  • ½ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Eggs


  • ½ cup Water
  • 2 tablespoons dark Brown Sugar
  • ¾ cup Butter (cubed)
  • *350gm dark Chocolate (chopped)/ 2 cups Chocolate Chips

*My Improv Ingredients

  • 4 Orange Silk Cadbury Chocolate Bars (chopped)
  • 4 Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate Bars (chopped)

(The grocer gave me very strange looks when I asked for 8 bars of Chocolate!)

  • Zest of 1 Orange
  • 2 tablespoons Orange Juice
  • 1 tablespoon Instant Coffee Powder

Image        Image



  1. Heat water, brown sugar & butter in a pan over a gentle flame, till it melts.
  2. When the mixture bubbles, take it off the heat & add the chocolate.
  3. Leave it to melt for a bit & then add the coffee powder & orange juice.
  4. Whisk the mixture well till it is smooth & glossy.
  5. Leave the frosting to rest, whisking it every now & then. It will thicken as it cools.


I had cut down the amount of water since I was going to add the orange juice, but I still found the frosting on the thinner side. It would be a good idea to reduce the amount of water, even if you aren’t adding the juice.

It helps to make the frosting first, as it has enough time to thicken while you make the cake.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 180 C. Grease & dust or line the bottom of 2 8 inch round cake tins (We had just 1, so went with that)
  2. Pour the boiling water into a bowl with the cocoa & sugar. Whisk & set aside.
  3. Get your “sous chef” to cream the butter & powdered sugar together. Peep over her shoulder to see if she’s beating well until pale & fluffy 🙂
  4.  Sift the flour, baking powder & baking soda in another bowl & set aside. (We realised at the time we started that we were out of baking soda so I increased the quantity of the baking powder to about 1¼ teaspoons… it worked!)
  5. Add the orange zest & vanilla essence to the creamed butter & sugar, mixing all the while.
  6. Now add an egg, quickly followed by a large spoon of the flour mixture; continue mixing as you add the 2nd egg & the rest of the dry ingredients.
  7. Finally fold in the cocoa mixture & mix well.
  8. Divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans (or 1) & bake for about 30 minutes or till a cake tester comes out clean.
  9. Set the cake tin on a wire rack for about 5-10 minutes & then turn out to cool.

Putting It Together

Carefully slice the cake in half. Set one half on a plate. Spread a generous amount of the frosting on it & set the other half on it. Cover the entire cake with the rest of the frosting.


Nigella’s Notes

  • The cake can be baked 1 day ahead & assembled before serving. Wrap tightly in cling-film & store in an airtight container. With our weather, it might make sense to refrigerate.
  • Un-iced cakes can be frozen the day they are baked, for about 3 months. Thaw for 3-4 hours at room temperature
  • Iced cake will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container in a cool place or the fridge.Image    Image

The Review

Our Devil’s Improv worked!! The taste of orange was a pleasant surprise for our “audience”. It balanced the otherwise too sweet milk chocolate. And coffee added richness to the flavour. The cake was soft, light & melt-in-your-mouth.

Did I hear “Encore!”? 😉


This recipe serves 8-10 people

One response »

  1. Pingback: (Almost) Whole Wheat Focaccia with Goan Sausages | The Odd Hour Kitchen

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