Last week in honour of the Great British Bake Off we had a staff bake off at work and, after spending many hours flicking through cookbooks, I decided to make up a new ‘showstopper’ recipe – mainly because I didn’t have some of the ingredients Mary Berry and friends required. I crossed my fingers as the bake went into the oven, in the hope that my new concoction using my substitute ingredients would become a beautiful bake, and was pleasantly surprised with the results, landing myself first place with this chocolate masterpiece!
Chocolate cake has, and will probably always be, a firm favourite of mine, so I didn’t really think I should bake anything else.
Combining the fluffy chocolate sponges with a layer of thick caramel and decorations of dark chocolate ganache, chocolate buttons, spun sugar and caramel shards, I didn’t set myself a quick or easy task, but it paid off!
I decided to create an ombre cake, with layers of varying colours and flavours. The bottom sponge was dark chocolate, which was smothered in a layer of rich, chocolate ganache before being sandwiched together with a caramel sponge. On top of the caramel sponge was a layer of creamy caramel sauce, then the third and final vanilla sponge sat on top. Once the cake was sandwiched together, it was time to get out the piping bag to add a simple but effective decorative layer of the ganache enclosed by a crescent of chocolate buttons (stuck on with melted chocolate).
The final details were actually quite simple. Piped chocolate stars were left to set in the fridge before being decorated with edible gold and silver lustre. Spun sugar was made into an arch to sit around the edge of the cake, and golden caramel was drizzled onto baking parchment to set, creating the decorative window-like decorative shapes surrounding the cake.
For the sponges:
- 270g butter (at room temperature)
- 270g caster sugar
- 4 eggs (beaten)
- 150ml semi-skimmed milk
- 1.5tsp baking powder
- 300g self-raising flour
- 25g muscavado sugar
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 2tsp cocoa powder
For the ganache:
- 350g dark chocolate
- 300ml double cream
- 30g liquid glucose
For the caramel sauce:
- 140g caster sugar
- 300ml double cream
- 30g unsalted butter
For the decoration:
- 200g caster sugar
- 100ml water
- 100g milk/white chocolate
- 100g assorted chocolate buttons
- Start by making the ganache to give it time to thicken as you make the rest of the cake. In a saucepan heat the cream until just simmering, then take off the heat and pour into a bowl containing the broken up squares of dark chocolate and liquid glucose. Stir until combined and then set aside to set. Whisk the mixture to create more air, which will thicken the ganache.
- Heat the oven to 180C and line 3 circular, 8inch cake tins with greaseproof paper.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and caster sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.
- Once the butter and sugar are combined, start adding the egg and milk mixture bit-by-bit, alternating with folding in the self-raising flour. Once the mixture is combined add the baking powder and fold one final time.
- Split the cake batter into 3 equal portions. To one portion add the vanilla extract, to the second portion add the muscavado sugar (this will provide the caramel flavour and colour) and to the third portion add the cocoa powder.
- Pour the 3 types of cake batter into their individual cake tins and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes until springy to the touch and golden brown.
- Whilst the cakes are in the oven make the caramel sauce: In a saucepan heat the caster sugar until it starts to turn a light brown (straw) colour – this should take around 10 minutes. In a separate pan heat the butter and cream until the butter fully dissolves into the mixture. Once the sugar is melted, take it off the heat and mix rapidly with the cream mixture. It will bubble up initially but this is perfectly normal. Place in the fridge to firm up.
- Make the solid caramel decorations and spun sugar. Place the caster sugar in a saucepan with the water and place over the heat. It is important not to stir the mixture whilst over the heat. Allow the sugar to dissolve and the mix to simmer until it begins to turn a straw shade of caramel (usually around 160C). When it reaches the correct colour, take off the heat and allow to cool and thicken slightly. Once the caramel has a similar consistency to golden syrup use a spoon to drizzle the caramel onto greaseproof paper into the shapes you wish to use around the edge of the cake. Ensure the caramel shapes are tall enough to cover the 3 tiers.
- With the remaining caramel in the pan, use a fork and a clean bowl to quickly drizzle the caramel back and forth, creating thin, wispy golden strands in an arc shape (following the curvature of the bowl) – it might be helpful to watch this youtube video.
- Melt some chocolate in the microwave and pipe out star shapes onto greaseproof paper. Leave in the fridge to set whilst you assemble the cake.
- Assemble the cake. Start with the chocolate sponge on the bottom and smooth over around 1/3 of the chocolate ganache. Then add the caramel sponge on top and smother with the caramel sauce. Finally add the vanilla sponge on top. Pipe the remainder of the chocolate ganache, covering around 3/4 of the cake, leaving a crescent shape for the chocolate buttons – which are stuck on using the remaining melted chocolate.
- Once the star shapes are set, cover in edible gold and silver lustre and place on top of the cake, with the spun sugar arc. Peel the set caramel shards away from the paper and use melted chocolate to secure to the side of the cake.
- Serve at room temperature and enjoy your show-stopper cake!