Oh, Delicious Death. When making an Agatha Christie menu, is there any dessert more suitable? This decadent dessert plays a significant role in one of Christie’s most popular novels, A Murder is Announced. The exact recipe isn’t shared in the book, but we know it’s chocolate cake “of a melting richness,” which, let’s be honest, is enough to make most of us drool already. I made mine from this delightfully rich, almost brownie-like cake recipe, topped with dark chocolate frosting and bats silhouettes made of powdered sugar. If death by chocolate is truly possible, this is how I want to go. 🙂
P.S. We’re taking a vote to see which detective is better, Poirot or Marple. Vote here!
“Yes. It is rich. For it I have nothing! Impossible to make such a cake. I need for it chocolate and much butter, and sugar and raisins…It will be rich, rich, of a melting richness! And on top I will put the icing – chocolate icing – I make him so nice – and write on it Good Wishes. These English people with their cakes that tastes of sand, never never, will they have tasted such a cake. Delicious, they will say – delicious-”
— A Murder is Announced
- For the Cake
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- a little under 1/2 tsp kosher salt (exactly 0.45 tsp)
- a little under 1/2 tsp baking powder (exactly 0.45 tsp)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten and room temperature
- 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature (if you don’t have any, you can mix 1/2 tbsp lemon juice into room temperature 2% milk and let it sit for 5 minutes before using)
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1/3 cup raisins, optional (I didn’t use them since I’m not the biggest fan of raisins in desserts, but you can totally add them if you want the cake to be truly authentic)
- For the Frosting
- 6 tbsp butter
- 3 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted into the powdered sugar
- 1/6 cup milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- extra milk, if necessary
- 3 /12 – 4 tsp black liquid food coloring (As you can see, this is a LOT of food coloring. I didn’t have any gel coloring, but I recommend using that if possible, since you can get away with using a lot less.)
- For the Decorations
- 5 bat stencils (I made my own with a cookie cutter and card stock)
- 1 parchment paper ring (I made mine by tracing the outer edge of the cake pan and the outer edge of the cake itself then cutting out the center)
- 25 inches of spooky spider ribbon
- powdered sugar, for dusting
- orange flowers or another equally festive topper
Makes a 8″x2″ one tier cake
- To make your cake, preheat your oven to 350°. Spray your pan, line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment paper, and spray the paper. Bring your water to a boil.
- Whisk your sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk your egg, buttermilk, and oil. Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and stir with a spatula until just combined (scrape the bottom and sides several times to make sure there are no dry clumps left). It will have a texture like very thick brownie batter. Stir in your boiling water until just combined, scraping again to make sure everything is completely incorporated.
- Transfer the batter to your cake pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn the cake out of the pan (it should come right out without coaxing). Allow the cake to cool completely on the rack.
- While you wait, make your frosting. Start by beating your butter in a large bowl until smooth. Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar mix a little at a time, beating continuously until smooth. Gradually beat in the 1/3 cup milk and vanilla. Beat in the remaining powdered sugar mix a little at a time. If necessary, beat in extra milk 1 tbsp at a time to reach spreading consistency. Stir in your food coloring with a spatula until it’s completely incorporated.
- Transfer the cake to your frosting station or serving plate (I like to frost on my serving plate and clean up the edges when I’m done). Spread your frosting as smoothly onto your cake as you can.
- To decorate, wrap your ribbon around the base of your cake. Place your parchment ring lightly on top of your cake and arrange your bat stencils as desired. Dust the powdered sugar over the top and remove your ring and stencils. Arrange your topper or other decorations as desired. Viola! A completed cake!
- Serve at an ill-fated dinner party to unsuspecting guests! 😉