This chocolate and salted caramel cake is the ace up my sleeve, and my greatest secret. Until now.
From the rich and fudgy chocolate cake, to the impossibly light and creamy frosting, to the decadent drips and the care-free decoration, this cake is a winner through and through.
This cake never lets me down. And now it’s yours to rely on, too.
Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cake
- 150 g cocoa powder
- 650 g plain flour
- 900 g caster sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp fine salt
- 500 ml whole milk
- 4 large eggs
- 150 ml vegetable oil (unflavoured)
- 2 tsp vinegar
- 4 tsp vanilla extract
- 250 ml black coffee
- 300 g caster sugar
- 300 ml double cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp sea salt
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 250 g egg whites
- 500 g sugar
- 750 g unsalted butter (soft)
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 150 ml double cream
- 300 g milk chocolate, finely chopped
- 40 g Cinder toffee
- Preheat oven to 180c (160c fan)
- Prepare four 8-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray and lining the bottom with baking parchment.
- Sift the cocoa powder into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using the paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until ‘sifted’ and well combined.
- Measure 500ml milk out into a large jug. Add the eggs and whisk lightly to break up the yolks. Add the vegetable oil, vanilla and vinegar, and whisk again to combine.
- With the stand mixer running on low speed, pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients in a steady stream.
- Once the jug is empty, measure 250ml strong black coffee into it. Add this to the cake batter, and stir again.Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on high speed for another 30 seconds.
- Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans – about 725g in each.
- Bake for about 45 minutes, until the top of the cakes feels firm to the touch.
- Remove from the oven and set the pan on a cooling rack. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then invert the cakes and peel off the baking parchment.Leave to cool completely.
- Weigh the sugar into a large saucepan, and cover with just enough water to give it the consistency of wet sand.Be cautious with the water, or making the caramel will take a lot longer!
- Place the saucepan over a medium-high heat, and use a wet pastry brush to wash any sugar crystals off the sides of the saucepan.DO NOT STIR THE CARAMEL AT ANY POINT!Periodically wash down the insides of the saucepan as the caramel cooks.
- Add the vanilla extract to the cream, ready for later.
- As the caramel starts to colour, begin to swirl the pan regularly; the caramel can easily burn.
- When the caramel has reached a deep amber colour, remove the pan from the heat, and slowly whisk in the cream and vanilla.The formation of lumps is almost unavoidable at this point.
- Once the cream is all added and the spluttering has subsided, return the pan to a low heat, and gently melt the hard caramel back into the sauce.
- Add the sea salt and stir to incorporate.
- Place a dollop of the hot caramel onto a saucer, and after a couple of minutes give it a taste. Add extra salt to the caramel if desired, but be careful not to add too much!
- Leave to cool completely
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Place the egg whites and sugar into a heatproof bowl, and set over a bain-marie. I use the bowl of a stand mixer, to make everything cleaner and easier.
- Stir gently over a medium heat until the sugar has all dissolved.
- Whisk the meringue mixture for about 7 minutes, until cool and thick.
- Add the butter, a little at a time, and continue whisking until the buttercream is smooth.
- Once all the butter is incorporated, add the vanilla extract, and whisk again to incorporate.
- Add the cooled caramel to the buttercream, and whisk thoroughly. Scrape down the bowl and whisk again, to ensure everything is completely homogenous.
- Level off the top of the cakes with a bread knife. Either use a turntable, or a piece of baking parchment on a flat surface. Turn the cake slowly and keep the knife fairly still, for best results.
- Use a little of the buttercream to glue an 8-inch cake board to the centre of a cake drum, or flat serving plate, on which you will present the cake. With a good coating of buttercream, affix the bottom cake to the cake board. If your cakes are slightly different thicknesses, use the thickest cake on the bottom.
- Spread a good thick layer of buttercream in between each cake and stack all 4 on top of each other, leaving the top bare for now.
- Take a moment to make ensure that the cake stack is as neat and tidy as it can be. Satisfy yourself that the sides are straight up and down, and that the top is level. If there are any bulges or overhangs, you can trim these carefully with a bread knife.
- Once you are satisfied with the result, take a big dollop of buttercream and stick in on top of the cake to make the crumb coat. Carefully spread this all over the cake stack, making sure it fills every crevice. The bottom of the cake is the hardest place to ensure a good coating, so I tend to start there.
- Smooth the buttercream all the way around the cake, checking for any exposed sections or bluging. Once everything is coated in a thin layer (this doesn't need to be perfect) transfer the cake to the fridge, and allow to chill for at least 30 mintues.
- Take the cake out of the fridge and place a thick layer of buttercream all over the top and sides. Using a palatte knife, spread the buttercream all around the cake, filling every gap, all the way up to the rim of the cake board that the cake is placed on.
- Use a cake scraper, and hold it against the cake board at the base, making every effort to keep it upright as you move the turntable, or spin the cake on some baking parchment.
- Take your time here, adding more buttercream if needed, to get as smooth a surface as possible.
- When the sides are straight, then use a clean pallatte knife to pull the top edges inwards and neaten things up. You will cover the top of the cake, so it doesn't need to look perfect.
- Put the cake back in the fridge for 30 minutes while you prepare the ganache.
- Place the cream into a saucepan, and heat on a medium heat until it is steaming hot.
- Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and leave for 2 minutes to allow the chooclate to start melting.
- Use a small whisk to make small circles in the middle of the ganache mixture. YOu must incorporate gradually as you are creating an emulsion; DO NOT immediately stir everything together, or the ganahce will very likely split.
- Transfer the ganache to a piping bag or squeezy bottle, and wait until it has cooled to the point that it is comforable to hold.
- Remove the cake from the fridge and carefully squeeze the ganache over the edge to create drips. With experience you will be able to get an attractive look my varying the length of your drips, although anything dripping with chocolate will look delicious!
- When the ganache has set, place some of the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a large open star tip. Create 12 peaks of buttercream around the outside of the cake – I like to make mine look like those soft-serve ice creams you'd have as a child.
- Break up a bar of cinder toffee (or any other candy bar you deem appropriate), and sprinkly it over the top. Sometimes I adorn each peak with a chunk, sometimes break it up small and sprinkle it in the middle. The choice is yours!
- Cakes are easiest to assemble when everything (including the cakes) are cold, however they will taste best at room temperature.
- This recipe will likely leave you with some leftover buttercream. It freezes very well, do not throw it away!