Elaine’s Chocolate Cake – Ben Shewry – Dani Valent


In my experience, the fanciest chefs often like the simplest food! After a night of preparing high-falutin’ fine dining you’ll often find top chefs eating fried chicken, stir-fried greens or a cheese toastie. Adding to the evidence is Attica chef Ben Shewry’s love of lasagne and this chocolate cake, passed on to him by his grandmother Elaine.

This recipe has been in the Shewry family for 50 years and it always makes an appearance at birthday celebrations. If you have your birthday at Attica (the highest ranked Australian restaurant in the world), it will also be the cake they serve you.

For the first time, Ben has shared the recipe with my community at Dani Valent Cooking. I’m super honoured as you will see in the video.

It’s a really simple recipe with common pantry ingredients but there’s something about the proportions and the addition of vinegar that makes it extra special. The portions here make enough mixture for two cakes, and there’s ganache to spare, so you can easily use this recipe to make a double-decker chocolate cake. I recommend you do, even if there’s no birthday to be celebrated.

Serves: 8-10
Time: 1 hour, plus time for cake to cool and ganache to set


Cake: Dry ingredients

  • 300 grams plain flour
  • 350 grams castor sugar
  • 40 grams Dutch cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

Cake: Wet ingredients

  • 200 grams canola oil (Ben seeks out non-GMO)
  • 150 grams water
  • 230 grams milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence


  • 250 grams pouring cream*
  • 350 grams dark chocolate pieces*

*Ben uses more but he left me with a restaurant-quality batch of ganache that I ate with a spoon over the following week #winning


1. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line the base of 2 x 22 cm (approx.) cake tins, grease base and sides and set aside. If you only have one tin, you can bake the cakes one after another.

2. Place dry ingredients into mixing bowl and blitz for 2 sec/speed 10.

3. Add wet ingredients to mixing bowl and mix until combined for 10 sec/speed 5. Scrape down sides of mixing bowl with spatula and mix again 10 sec/speed 6.

4. Divide mixture between the 2 cake tins, filling to 3/4 full. Bake in oven for 25 minutes (180ºC). Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before turning out. Place cake onto serving dish and set aside. Clean and dry mixing bowl.

5. Place cream into mixing bowl and heat for 5 min/70ºC/speed 2.

6. Add chocolate to mixing bowl and gently heat for 5 min/37ºC/speed 1, until ganache is glossy and smooth.

Remove cooled cakes from tins and place on plates. Cover generously with ganache. If desired, form a two-layer cake by sandwiching the cakes with the ganache. You may need to slice the peak from the bottom cake to make it flat. (The cook gets to eat the cake trimmings, of course!)


  • Ben seeks out ingredients of the highest quality for his dishes. Here he recommends high quality Dutch cocoa, Australian chocolate from Daintree Estates and non-GMO canola oil.

Ben also shares his Egg Fu Yong with us at Dani Valent Cooking. This creamy egg dish with a crunchy chicken topping is also inspired by his grandmother Elaine. Watch the video to find out why.

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