Celebratory Chocolate, Caramel and Mango Layer Cake

When I think of a showstopper, this is probably the cake I have in mind. With its 4 sponge layers, each with a varying intensity of caramel and chocolate, chocolate ganache coating, choux buns filled with cream and mango custard and meringues on top, you could hardly envisage such a cake for a non-celebratory occasion. The truth is, however, that as difficult, complicated and lengthy as it may look, this cake is in fact pretty easy to make. Ok, maybe not easy, but straightforward is the word here. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients. As it says on the tin, there are a lot of stages required here. Just make sure you read the whole recipe first and only then start making it. Believe me, you will love it.

The recipe for the cake appeared a while ago on a BBC Good Food magazine. I have saved it and keep on using time and time again, with minor tweaks here and there, as it’s such an easy and delicious one. The sponges are very moist thanks to the addition of natural yoghurt and the dramatic effect is ensured when you cut through the whole cake to reveal sponges of different colours. This time, seeing as I was making this cake for a birthday, I decided to push the boat out and top it with choux buns and meringues. Mango, caramel and chocolate go surprisingly well together, and the subtle acidity of the custard cuts through the richness of the cake beautifully.

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Ingredients (for the vanilla and chocolate sponges)

  • 225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 170g plain flour
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 150ml natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 5 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

Ingredients (for the caramel and chocolate & caramel sponges)

  • 225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 50g dark muscovado sugar
  • 170g plain flour
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 150ml natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

Ingredients (for the chocolate ganache)

  • 140g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
  • 140g milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 300ml double cream

Ingredients (for the choux pastry)

  • 100g plain flour
  • 75g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 175ml water
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • pinch of salt

Ingredients (for the mango custard)

  • 500ml whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 40g cornflour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 whole mango
  • 1/2 lime, juice only
  • 2 gelatine leaves

Ingredients (for the meringues)

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 240g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • orange food colouring (optional)

Ingredients (to assemble the cake)

  • 1 x 397g can of caramel (Carnation is a good brand)
  • 300ml double cream, whipped to soft peaks
  • 60g dark and milk chocolate, melted over a bain marie
  • Chocolate sprinkles, optional

Method

  1. First of all, start with the mango custard as it will need some time to set in the fridge. Peel and stone the mango, then transfer the flesh to a food processor with the lime juice and purée until smooth. In the meantime, heat the milk and the vanilla in a saucepan over a medium heat. Mix the caster sugar with the cornflour to disperse the latter evenly, then transfer to a heatproof bowl, add the egg yolks and whisk until fully combined and slightly paler in colour.
  2. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until soft. In the meantime, transfer the mango purée to a small saucepan on gentle heat and bring to the boil, then reduce by approximately half. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Once the milk has come to the boil, remove from the heat and, whisking continuously, slowly pour onto the egg yolk and sugar mixture. Make sure to scrape the sides, then gently pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over a medium heat. Make sure the heat under the saucepan is not too high or the eggs will scramble and, most importantly, stir the custard constantly until nicely thickened. You will be able to tell because the custard will cover the back of a spoon and small ridges will form when you stir it.
  4. Transfer the reduced mango purée to the saucepan with the custard and mix to combine. Squeeze the gelatine leaves to remove excess water, then add to the hot mixture and stir to dissolve. Transfer the mango custard to a heatproof bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to cool before putting in the fridge for a good 5 hours.
  5. Now, moving on to the sponges. Start with the vanilla and chocolate one, so as to get the hang of it. Grease the bottom and sides and line the bottom of 2 x 20cm round cake tins with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan).
  6. In the bowl of a freestanding food mixer equipped with the paddle attachment or in a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until slightly paler in colour and fully combined. Slowly add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla bean paste too. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, ground almonds and baking powder, then add to the bowl while mixing on low speed. Finally, add the yoghurt and mix well to combine. The mixture should be very creamy and full of volume.
  7. Divide the mixture into two, pouring half into one of the prepared tins (this will be the vanilla sponge). Pour the other half into a bowl, then sprinkle in the cocoa powder and mix well to combine with a rubber spatula, ensuring not to knock all of the air out of the sponge. Transfer the chocolate mixture to the other prepared tin. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, but do check them after 20 minutes to ensure they don’t overbake. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before removing from the tin.
  8. To make the caramel and chocolate & caramel sponges, prepare 2 more tins as outlined above. Cream the butter and sugars together, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients, then add them, together with the vanilla bean paste, to the remaining mixture. Pour in the natural yoghurt, then mix well to combine. Pour half of the mixture into one of the prepared tins, then add the cocoa powder to the remaining mixture, gently fold it in and transfer to the other cake tin. Bake as above, then set on a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. To make the choux pastry, combine the butter, water and salt into a saucepan set over medium heat. Bring the mixture to the boil, then remove from the heat and tumble in the flour. Use a wooden spoon to combine the pastry – don’t worry, it will look lumpy, but persist and you will be fine. Put the saucepan back on the heat to dry the pastry out. You are ready to go when the lump of pastry easily comes together and stays together, stops sticking to the sides and leaves a coating on the bottom of the saucepan. Transfer the warm lump of pastry to a heatproof bowl, flatten it out slightly with the back of the wooden spoon and leave to cool. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan). Line 3 baking sheets with baking parchment (or silicone mats).
  10. To make it easier, transfer the eggs to a jug. When the pastry has cooled down (you don’t want to end up with scrambled eggs), start adding a little bit of the eggs, then mix really well with the wooden spoon after each addition. As before, do not be put off by the way the pastry look. Continue adding eggs, a little at a time, and mixing well. You are aiming for a silky yet somewhat solid consistency. There are several ways to test the pastry: when you gather some on the wooden spoon then tilt the latter, the pastry should slowly fall back into the bowl leaving a triangular-shaped trail on the spoon; also, if you trace a line in the bowl, the pastry should divide evenly and keep the trail, not fall back on itself, etc.
  11. Transfer the pastry to a piping bag fitted with a plain round nozzle, then pipe even round mounds on the baking trays. I opted for two different sizes (one slightly bigger than the other) to add a dramatic effect to the cake. Bake for 30 minutes without ever opening the door to check on them, by which time they will be golden and puffed up. Quickly remove from the oven, make a small hole in the base or on the sides to let the steam escape, then put back in the oven to crisp up for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  12. Cool the oven down to 130°C (110°C fan) to bake the meringues. To make them, in the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until frothy. In a separate bowl, combine the caster sugar and cream of tartar, then increase the speed to high and slowly add the sugar mixture, one tablespoon at a time, until you get a very glossy and stiff mixture.
  13. Prepare the piping bag by adding a star nozzle at the end and using some orange food colouring to drag some lines on the inside of the bag (I used a toothpick, but a small brush is also fine). When ready, transfer the meringue mixture to the piping bag, then pipe small meringues (again, I went for two different sizes) on previously lined baking trays. Bake for 2 hours or until crisp. When done, turn the oven off and leave the meringues to cool inside the oven with the door ajar.
  14. To assemble the cake, start by making the chocolate ganache. Transfer the chopped chocolate to a heatproof bowl, then pour the cream into a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Transfer the hot cream to the chocolate, then mix to combine until smooth. Place in the fridge to set, mixing occasionally, while you assemble the sponge layers.
  15. Place a small dollop of caramel on the cake board/base/platter you will use to build the cake on. Gently peel the parchment off the back of the vanilla sponge, then place it upside down on the cake board. Use 1/3 of the caramel to cover the cake and spread it around using an offset spatula. Top with the vanilla & caramel sponge, cover with half of the remaining caramel, then top with the caramel & chocolate sponge, the remaining caramel and, finally, the chocolate sponge.
  16. Once the ganache has more or less set (but is still of a spreadable consistency), use it to cover the top and the sides of the cake and give it a smooth or a rough finish according to preference. Place in the fridge to harden while you get on with the decorations.
  17. In a bowl, combine the whipped cream with some of the mango custard, then fill a piping bag fitted with a small round nozzle and use it to fill the choux buns. For reasons of practicality, I decided to fill the small ones with the mango custard alone, thus leaving me with leftover whipped cream.
  18. When you are ready to proceed, take the cake out of the fridge. Spread some of the melted chocolate on the bottom of each choux bun, then gently pile them up on top of the cake and down the sides. Repeat with the meringues, ensuring there is a good proportion of them all around the cake. I shall leave it the final design up to you.
  19. Use the remaining melted chocolate to drizzle on top of the cake, then decorate, if you so wish, with some of the mango custard (also drizzled over) and chocolate sprinkles. Enjoy!

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Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cake

When one of my close friends has his/her birthday, I don’t mind trying to push the boat out and make a gorgeous cake. After all, you could argue, it is a celebration and a showstopper cake should be the perfect ending (or complimentary part) to a fun party. In this case, I had been given some instructions, namely that the cake needed to contain raspberries. After scouring on Pinterest, the perfect platform to actually see what the cakes look like, I ended up on this recipe, which looked perfect for the occasion. The cake is made up of mousse layers (chocolate, raspberry and vanilla, respectively), held together by gelatine and resting on a brownie base. Whoa, you could say.

There are some non-negotiable aspects which you should keep in mind when making this cake. As usual, they relate to the quality of ingredients, which needs to be the best you can get. Forget that cheap chocolate you normally find in supermarkets, go for a very good brand. I normally use Green and Black’s organic range. Their white chocolate, in particular, contains real vanilla seeds and is therefore perfect for the job. Please also go for very good raspberries. They clearly play the main role in this cake and the cheap, watery stuff you find in supermarkets would just not do. If you are put off by gelatine, please allow me to say these mousse layers are creamy and moreish, not gloopy and horrible. However, if you don’t want to use gelatine, then I suggest you either increase the amount of chocolate used or freeze the whole cake.

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Ingredients (for the brownie layer)

  • 95g plain flour
  • 80g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 115g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 220g golden caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients (for the chocolate mousse)

  • 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
  • 415ml double cream
  • 2 leaves of gelatine
  • 2 tbsp water
  • pinch of salt

Ingredients (for the raspberry mousse)

  • 200g fresh raspberries
  • 255g white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 355ml double cream
  • 2 leaves of gelatine
  • 2 tbsp raspberry liqueur
  • pinch of salt

Ingredients (for the vanilla mousse)

  • 255g white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 355ml double cream
  • 2 leaves of gelatine
  • 2 tbsp water
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste

Ingredients (to finish)

  • 150g fresh raspberries
  • 115g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • 120ml double cream
  • chocolate decorations (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 20cm springform round cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.
  2. Start with the brownie layer: in a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa powder until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-to-low heat. Add the sugar and stir until it melts. Don’t allow the mixture to come to a boil. Set aside to cool slightly. Once the mixture is at room temperature, add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well between each addition. Pour in the vanilla extract and fold in the dry ingredients, then scrape the brownie batter into the prepared tin and bake it for 20-25 minutes. Check the cake is cooked by inserting a toothpick in the middle – if it comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs attached, the brownie is ready. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  4. Once the brownie is stone cold, gently open the sides of the springform tin and line the sides with acetate – baking parchment is also OK, although acetate doesn’t tend to stick to the food and leaves a smoother finish. Ensure the acetate layer around the cake ring is at least 6-7cm, as the layers will be quite thick.
  5. Now move on to the mousse layers, starting with the chocolate one. The procedure will be very similar for each one of them, but I will repeat the instructions just to be safe. Soak the gelatine leaves in a small bowl filled with cold water and leave there for a good 15 minutes. Pour the chocolate shards/chunks and the salt into a heatproof bowl, then bring about 180ml of the double cream to the boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate, stirring to ensure all of the dark chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Let it cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the water to a small saucepan and place it over medium heat, then squeeze out as much water as you can from the gelatine leaves and add them to the saucepan. Ensure the gelatine melts, then pour it into the cooled chocolate mixture and mix well to combine. Whip the remaining double cream to soft peaks, then gently fold it into the chocolate mixture until smooth. Pour this mousse onto the brownie base and spread out to the sides in an even layer. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes until completely set.
  7. To make the raspberry mousse layer, make a quick puree by blending about 100g raspberries in a food processor. Pour them through a strainer to remove the seeds. Add this to the finely chopped white chocolate and the salt and transfer to a heatproof bowl.
  8. Soak the gelatine leaves in a small bowl filled with cold water and leave there for a good 15 minutes. Bring about 180ml of the double cream to the boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate mixture, stirring to ensure all of the white chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Let it cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  9. Add the raspberry liqueur to a small saucepan and place it over medium heat, then squeeze out as much water as you can from the gelatine leaves and add them to the saucepan. Ensure the gelatine melts, then pour it into the cooled chocolate mixture and mix well to combine. Whip the remaining double cream to soft peaks, then gently fold it into the chocolate mixture until smooth. Scatter the remaining raspberries onto the chocolate mousse, making sure to leave about 1cm around the egde of the cake. Pour this mousse onto the chocolate mousse layer and spread out to the sides in an even layer, ensuring all of the raspberries are evenly covered. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes until completely set.
  10. Finally, on to the vanilla mousse layer. Soak the gelatine leaves in a small bowl filled with cold water and leave there for a good 15 minutes. Transfer the white chocolate and vanilla bean paste to an heatproof bowl. Bring about 180ml of the double cream to the boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate mixture, stirring to ensure all of the white chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Let it cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  11. Add the water to a small saucepan and place it over medium heat, then squeeze out as much water as you can from the gelatine leaves and add them to the saucepan. Ensure the gelatine melts, then pour it into the cooled chocolate mixture and mix well to combine. Whip the remaining double cream to soft peaks, then gently fold it into the chocolate mixture until smooth. Pour this mousse onto the raspberry mousse layer and spread out to the sides in an even layer. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes until completely set.
  12. To decorate the cake, proceed as before to make a chocolate ganache. Unmould the cake and remove the acetate, then pour the cooled ganache on top of the cake and use an offset spatula to push it to the edge and let it drop down the sides. Arrange the raspberries on top and decorate with the chocolate curls, balls, etc. If you want, dust with icing sugar and use some berry jam to make the raspberry shine. Best kept refrigerated until it’s time to serve it, but remove it from the fridge at least 10 minutes before slicing it. Enjoy!

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Rocky Road

This recipe couldn’t be any simpler. There is a tendency in the baking world (much in the same way as there is elsewhere, really) to try and label everything. You have a torte, a cheesecake, a Danish pastry, etc. This, therefore, should be called a ‘fridge cake’ because it involves no cooking and it sets in the fridge. Call it as you wish, it still is rocky road. As usual, the origin of the dessert is lost in the mists of time. What is certain, however, is that an ice-cream by the same name predates the candy bar, which originated in the US. It was then exported and adapted for the British market to include staples which the Brits might find more palatable and domestic, such as raisins and/or sultanas.

The name ‘rocky road’ most likely refers to the bumps and humps of the chocolate bar. And that is exactly what I like about it. It looks homemade. The original recipe for this comes from the Gü Chocolate Cookbook, which is chock full of inspiration if you, like me, are a true chocolate lover. However, I have amended it to suit my taste better and use more chocolate (obviously). One word of warning: please use good chocolate. I always buy dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids (Green & Black’s is a good commercial brand and they do organic chocolate too). I know it might be more expensive than your average chocolate, but if you are planning to work with this sometimes fiddle ingredient, quality is essential.

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Ingredients

  • 500g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 6 digestive biscuits, roughly crushed
  • 50g mini marshmallows
  • 50g puffed rice
  • 50g pistachios
  • 20g candied cherries, halved

Method

  1. Cover a deep 20cm square cake tin with clingfilm or baking parchment, ensuring the clingfilm is left overhanging.
  2. Break the chocolate into smaller pieces, then put 300g of the dark chocolate, the milk chocolate, the butter and the golden syrup in a large heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan filled by one-third with boiling and simmering water. Ensure the bowl doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl or the chocolate will seize. Gently melt the chocolate mixture over bain mairie until the chocolate is smooth, stirring occasionally to evenly expose the chocolate to the heat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  3. In another bowl, combine the pistachios (no need to chop them), marshmallows, puffed rice, cherries and digestive biscuits. Drop them into the chocolate mixture, then mix with a rubber spatula to coat evenly. Pour the mixture into the lined tin and spread it evenly with the spatula, pressing to ensure the mixture is compact. Transfer to the fridge to set for a good 2 hours.
  4. Melt the remaining 200g dark chocolate over bain mairie, then remove the set chocolate bar from the fridge and pour the melted chocolate on top. Tilt the cake tin to spread the chocolate mixture evenly, but don’t be afraid if the surface still features dents and gaps, that adds to the charm.
  5. Put the completed cake back in the fridge to set (at least 1 hour), then remove from the fridge and use a warmed knife to cut through or break the bar to ensure an even more rustic look. Enjoy!

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Chocolate Layer Cake

The umpteenth chocolate cake, I know. But what can you do? Chocolate has such a soothing appeal to it, when I see a new way of using it, I’m all over it. I had planned to make this as we were supposed to have my partner’s nephew round for dinner. When that plan fell through as he had a football match the following day, I still decided to make it. A chocolate cake is the perfect ending to a busy week, especially if it’s a very rich one. Also, please use good quality chocolate, both white and dark. It makes a real difference to the cake and I found cheaper ones do not blend well with the cake mixture.

The sponges contain chocolate and the ganache is, well, a chocolate one. As if that wasn’t enough, I topped the cake with some chocolate Maltesers! The original recipe asked for white ones (and they would, indeed, provide for a more dramatic effect), but as I couldn’t find them, I settled down for standard dark ones. You could, however, prefer to use different candies or, in fact, omit them altogether. The cake is very rich as it is, you might want to keep the calories within a reasonable limit – not that this has ever bothered me. Also, the original recipe stated to halve both sponges, but I preferred to keep the dark chocolate one as a big lump because I thought it came out a bit on the thin side.

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Ingredients (for the cake)

  • 175g unsalted butter, softened
  • 100g white chocolate, melted
  • 100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 100ml whole milk
  • 175g golden sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 195g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp very strong coffee
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients (for the decoration and the ganache)

  • 300ml double cream
  • 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
  • 50g white chocolate, melted
  • 1/2 small bag of Maltesers, to decorate

Method

  1. Separately melt the white and the dark chocolate for the cake mixture in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the bowl. Once both mixtures are fluid, set them apart.
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 180C and line and grease two 20cm sandwich tins.
  3. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat on high speed until fluffy and creamy. Slowly add the eggs and beat until fully incorporated, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl. Finally add the flour, baking powder and the milk and beat until you get an even mixture.
  4. Divide the mixture into two. Add the dark chocolate and the coffee to one and the white chocolate and vanilla extract to the other. Fold the extra ingredients in with ample and gentle movements, then tip each mixture into a cake tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, until fully cooked. Check with a skewer if the sponges are done, then remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.
  5. In the meantime, prepare the chocolate ganache. Pour the cream into a saucepan and heat until small bubbles start appearing on the surface, then remove from the heat and tumble the finely chopped chocolate in. Swirl the pan to roughly mix the cream and the chocolate, then let it stand for a couple of minutes before finally combining the mixture with a rubber spatula. Transfer to a bowl and let it cool until it reaches a spreadable consistency. This might take a while, so you could also put it in the fridge, but keep on stirring and checking the mixture every 5 minutes to avoid it seizing or becoming too hard.
  6. On a work surface, cut the vanilla and white chocolate sponge in half, then set one of the two halves upside down on a cake stand. Top with about a third of the dark chocolate ganache, then cover with the chocolate sponge. Spread the second third of the ganache on top, then top with the last vanilla sponge and use the remaining ganache to cover the top of the cake.
  7. Transfer the melted white chocolate to a piping bag, then use it to zigzag it the top of the cake. Be creative and use as much as you want, then top with the Maltesers or your favourite candies/chocolates. Enjoy!

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A very moreish Chocolate Cake

Chocolate cake. Ok, I’ll say it again: chocolate cake. Honestly, I think a post about this should have no further introduction. What’s not been said about chocolate cake? And, most importantly, what’s not to like? To those of you do not like chocolate (and I know there’s plenty out there, my best friend’s boyfriend, to give you an example), I offer my deepest condolences. I recently watched an episode of The Taste – the new cooking TV reality show with Nigella in the judge panel – about comfort food. Well, for me, nothing evokes the image of comfort better than a big slice of dark, intense and creamy chocolate cake. Not even a bowl of pasta. Such a pity that no-one on the show actually prepared one.

Anyway, back to this cake. I always like to try out new recipes and this is no exception. The recipe for the cake comes from the Add a Pinch blog, which labels it “The Best Chocolate Cake Recipe {Ever}” (I reduced the amount of sugar if compared to the original). I decided to put my own frosting on it as I wasn’t impressed with the one which came with the cake. On that note, I also hope the quantities got a bit lost in translation, otherwise eeek! 340g of butter! I also did not like the fact there was no chocolate in a chocolate cake. Cocoa powder, yes, but no chocolate. That’s why my chocolate solid frosting has some good quality 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate in it. The cake is moist and crumbly, but utterly delicious. Maybe not the best chocolate cake ever, but a good contender for the title.

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Ingredients (for the cake)

  • 250g plain flour
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 88g cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 235ml hot coffee
  • 235ml whole milk
  • 118ml vegetable oil
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Ingredients (for the chocolate frosting)

  • 50g unsalted butter, softened
  • 250g icing sugar, sifted
  • 100g dark chocolate, melted
  • 3 tbsp whole milk
  • 1 tbsp creme de cacao blanc (or any other chocolate liqueur)

Method

  1. Start by greasing and lining 2 x 20cm round cake tin. Don’t use a springform tin here or the mixture will ooze out (it’s very liquid!). Pre-heat your oven to 180C.
  2. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer (or in a normal bowl), sift the flour, raising agents, cocoa powder and sugar, then mix together.
  3. In a small jug, combine the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and paste and vegetable oil. Pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix over low to medium speed until fully combined.
  4. Slowly add the hot coffee and beat on medium to high speed for a good couple of minutes to incorporate as much air as possible. Divide the mixture equally between the two cake tins and bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Check that the sponges are cooked through with a skewer, then remove from the oven and set on a wire rack. Remove from the tin after 10 minutes and leave to cool completely.
  6. Right before you are ready to ice the cake, prepare your icing.  In the bowl of a freestanding mixer combine the softened butter and the icing sugar, mixing well with the paddle attachment to combine. Add the milk to obtain a creamy consistency, then slowly pour in the melted chocolate and beat over high speed until light and fluffy. Lastly, add the chocolate liqueur and mix that in too.
  7. Transfer about half of the chocolate icing to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle, then spread the rest on one of the sponges, which you should have positioned on your cake stand. Sandwich with the other sponge, then use the icing in the piping bag to pipe small stars or rosettes on top. Work quickly as the chocolate will harden in no time. Dust the cake with some icing sugar and drizzle over any remaining melted dark chocolate (I had about a tablespoon left in the bottom of the bowl), then apply to face and enjoy.

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Chocolate Chess Cake

Remember last season of the GBBO when they asked them to make hidden design cakes on their very first episode? This is where this cake comes from. If you’re feeling overindulgent and wants to faff about in the kitchen a bit, then this is the right dessert for you. It might look complicated, but really it is just a matter of piping circles of cake batter and then assembling it all together. As easy as pie – or cake, you choose.

The name obviously derives from the effect you get once you cut into it, although I have to say it looks astonishing even whole. I used Cadbury flakes for the decoration on top as I still don’t know how to temper chocolate (but will make up for it soon!), but feel free to use all sorts of decoration. Whatever you do, please use a decent white chocolate here. I am now a convert of Black’s as their white chocolate contains real vanilla beans and tastes amazing. I tried it in an apricot and white chocolate tray bake and it was delicious.

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Ingredients (for the sponge mixture)

  • 350g unsalted butter, softened
  • 350g golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp creme de cacao blanc liqueur
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 350g self raising flour (or about 330g plain flour with the addition of bicarb and baking powder)
  • pinch of salt
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp milk

Ingredients (for the white chocolate ganache)

  • 175g white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 125ml whipping cream
  • 50g unsalted butter

Ingredients (for the dark chocolate ganache)

  • 300g dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 300ml whipping cream
  • 1 packet of Cadbury flakes

Method

  1. Line and grease 3 x 20cm Victoria sponge round cake tins. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
  2. Make up the sponge mixture by creaming the butter and the sugar together, then slowly adding the eggs one tablespoon at a time and adding a bit of flour if you see the mixture curdling. If it does curdle, don’t worry. Just add the rest of the flour in and give it a good beating (a freestanding mixer is best for this) to obtain a creamy and smooth consistence. Add the cacao liqueur and slowly fold in the rest of the flour.
  3. Transfer half of the  mixture (yes, I weighed it) to another bowl. Sift the cocoa into it, then add 2 tbsp milk. Mix to combine.
  4. Add the rest of the milk (2 tbsp) to the rest of the ‘white’ mixture, then also mix to combine.
  5. Now, transfer each mixture into a piping bag fitted with no tube, then snip off the ends of both piping bags and get ready.
  6. Starting with the chocolate mixture, pipe a ring around the edges of one of the tins, then grab the plain mixture and pipe another smaller ring just inside that one. Continue alternating the chocolate and the vanilla mixture until you have covered the whole bottom of the cake tin. Ensure the rings are touching when you pipe them. Repeat the process for the second cake tin, but invert the order of chocolate and plain mixture for the third one.
  7. Bake the sponges for 25 minutes, or until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven, let them cool slightly, then invert onto a wire rack and let them cool completely.
  8. In the meantime, make the white chocolate ganache by melting the butter in the cream over a low heat, then folding in the white chocolate and stirring until smooth. Also make the dark chocolate ganache by heating the cream up in a saucepan, then transferring it into the bowl with the chocolate. Let it stand for a couple of minutes, then stir to melt the chocolate and let it cool.
  9. To assemble your cake, set one of the sponges with the outer chocolate ring upside down on a cake stand/platter, then top with half of the cooled white chocolate ganache. Top with the outer plain ring, then spread the rest of the white chocolate ganache. Cover with the last chocolate outer ring sponge. Cover the top and the sides with the dark chocolate ganache, ensuring the surface is smooth. Crumble the flakes on top of the cake. Slice for a dramatic effect.

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