May 15, 2014


The We Should Cocoa Challenge this month is to bake a chocolate cake for £1.  The idea is to raise awareness of the fact that so many people have very little money available to spend on food and have to survive on £1 or less per day.  You can read all about the challenge and the statistics here.

economical chocolate cakeI priced up my standard recipe for an everyday, all-in-one chocolate cake and it worked out at £1.39 if I used the cheapest own brand ingredients and also omitted the icing.  It then occurred to me that if I only had £1 to spend on a chocolate cake, would I bother to make one or just go out and buy a cheap one?

In both the Co-op and Tesco you can buy a chocolate cake for exactly £1 so I did, just to see what it was like.

economical chocolate cake5

It was a pathetic offering and looked pretty small on a tea plate, measuring barely 5” in diameter.  According to the information on the box it would serve six! 

So I decided it was worth a try to see if I could do better for my £1.  I was really aiming to bake a “normal” chocolate sponge, with regular cake ingredients so I used own brand versions of the usual things, the main substitution being Co-op Buttery spread instead of butter.  I then scaled down the ingredients in the recipe by a third.

economical chocolate cake1

I don’t have any 6” sandwich tins so I simply baked one 8” cake.  When I took it out of the oven it already looked a lot more inviting than the shop bought cake and I still had enough left from the £1 to put some chocolate butter icing on the top.

economical chocolate cake2 The bought cake weighed only 215g and mine weighed 500g, so when cut into six pieces the home made cake definitely won on size as well as appearance.

economical chocolate cake3 Of course the taste also had to be taken into consideration so Nick and my dad offered to do an unbiased assessment.  The feeling was that the bought cake tasted slightly more chocolatey but overall the home made cake was best because of its texture, appearance and the size of the slice.

Of course even if the ingredients only cost £1, you still have the cost of baking it in the oven, which I worked out to be 40-50p.  You need a cake tin or mould and, as you can’t buy just 100g of flour or sugar, if you have to invest in full packs of all the ingredients, that would be a total cost of £7.98.

But if I only had £1 and wanted to treat the family to something that looks nice on the table, it would definitely be worth going to the effort of baking, rather than just picking up a cheap version in the supermarket.


alphabakes Anyway, luckily my economical chocolate cake also fits in with this month’s Alphabakes Challenge, which is to cook something which has the letter “E” in it.  The challenge is run by Caroline of Caroline Makes and Ros of The  more than occasional baker and you can see the details here.

Ingredients (prices are given for own brand basic ingredients)

For the cake

100g self raising flour, 4p

100g caster sugar, 14p

100g Co-op Buttery spread, 20p

2 large eggs, 33p (I buy mine from the local farm, six free range for £1)

1tbslp (13g) cocoa powder, 10p

1tsp (5g) baking powder, 1p

Total for the cake 82p

For the icing

20g Co-op Buttery, 4p

40g icing sugar, 8p

½tblsp cocoa powder, 5p

Total for the buttercream icing 17p

Grand total for the whole cake …… 99p


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease and line the base of a 20cm (8”) round cake tin.

Mix the cocoa powder with 1 tblsp warm water until smooth then put into a large bowl with all the other cake ingredients and beat well until smooth.

Transfer to the prepared tin and level the top.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until firm and springy. 

Leave in the tin for a few minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely before applying the icing.

To make the icing, beat the Buttery and icing sugar together in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. 

Mix the cocoa powder with barely a teaspoon of water until it becomes a smooth paste.  Beat this into the icing and mix well.  Spread on top of the cake.

Cuts into six generous slices !!


  1. Keep it up Jean... Times are hard for us poor pensioners!! The real challenge would be to do a gluten free one for a £1... impossible... C

    1. Colin, I fear you could be right.......I feel compelled to research the idea!

    2. Colin, Dove's Farm gluten free self raising flour is 12p per 100g, (Amazon's price) which would add only 8p to the cost of the cake, so that's not bad!

  2. Well done! There are people for whom the cost of living is a real issue, especially when ingredients need to be sent into school for their children to bake. This could make a very useful project.

  3. Nice analysis and interesting research.

  4. Your research matches what I found - you can buy cakes for as little as £1 but they are not as satisfying as a homemade cake.
    Your cake looks great!

  5. A good looking cake for £1. I'm still trying to work out a recipe for the challenge!

  6. Your cake looks miles better than the bought cake. I like that you made a comparison and that you managed to make a buttercream icing to go on top with your tight budget! Thanks for entering AlphaBakes.

  7. Oh well done Jean, you managed to ice the cake too and it looks so much more special than my un-iced one. Glad you tried out the cheap supermarket cake and found it wanting, I've heard lots of people say it's so much cheaper to buy a cake than make your own. And the weight comparison was an interesting one too. Thanks for taking part in such a thorough way :)