Whenever I bake a chocolate cake (the layered kind, not the flourless, fudgy sort) I’m looking for a sponge which actually tastes of chocolate, is really moist without being overly dense and isn’t too sickly sweet. I’m always tweaking my go to chocolate cake with these characteristics in mind and think I’ve pretty much cracked it with this recipe. I’ve teamed the light chocolate layers with honeycomb toppers, salted toffee cream filling and a rich ganache coating here, but you could definitely fill it with chocolate buttercream if you want a pure chocolate fest.
Note: this cake is so extra and is definitely one for a special occasion- you could half the recipe and just coat with ganache if you’re after something indulgent but a little more modest
Ingredients (makes a tall 8 inch celebration cake- feeds 12-14 people)
For the cake:
375g plain flour
300g caster sugar
85g cocoa powder
2tsp baking powder
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
large pinch sea salt
175ml vegetable oil
2tsp vanilla extract
100g dark chocolate
325ml just boiled water
2tsp instant coffee granules
For the toffee cream filling:
325g soft light brown sugar
225ml double cream
pinch sea salt
For the ganache:
200g dark chocolate
150g milk chocolate
300ml double cream
For the honeycomb (this makes more than enough- I use about half and store the rest in a jar for my many weak snacking moments):
120g caster sugar
60g golden syrup
1 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
Preheat the oven to 170c (325F / gas mark 3). Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in the microwave in short stints, stirring often). Set aside.
In a large bowl stir together the flour, caster sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. In a jug, lightly whisk the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the contents of the jug into it. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together until well combined then add the melted chocolate and stir again (I just use a balloon whisk for this- nothing electric is required as you don’t need to incorporate much air).
Pour your just boiled water over the instant coffee granules and once they’ve dissolved, gradually add to the chocolate batter, stirring gently with your whisk as you go. The final cake batter will be very thin but don’t worry, it bakes beautifully.
Split the mix evenly between the prepared tins and bake for 45-55 minutes (until a skewer comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached). Once baked leave to cool completely in the tins.
While your cakes are cooking and cooling you can get on with the filling, ganache and honeycomb toppers.
For the filling, place the cream and sugar in a saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved and you are left with a smooth caramel coloured cream. Set aside, add the salt (to taste) and cool completely. Once your cream has cooled take the butter and whisk (in a stand mixer or with electric beaters) until it reaches a light, whipped consistency then gradually add your cream mixture. Keep whisking this until it has thickened and is spreadable. Set aside for later.
For the ganache chop up the chocolate and scrape into a heatproof bowl or jug, then heat the cream until it just reaches boiling point and pour directly on top. Leave for a couple on minutes then stir to make sure the chocolate has melted into the cream leaving you with a smooth ganache. Set aside to cool and thicken.
For the honeycomb line a baking tray with some lightly oiled baking paper then place the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan. Gently heat until all the ingredients start melting together then stir to combine. Turn up the heat and leave to bubble until it reaches a deep golden colour then add the bicarbonate of soda and briefly mix to make sure it’s evenly distributed- it should now start bubbling up and becoming lacy in appearance. At this point pour it quickly onto the lined baking tray and leave to set hard.
Once you’ve made all your elements and they’ve cooled to room temperature you’re ready to assemble the cake. To do this slice any uneven tops off your sponges then slice in half horizontally, leaving you with four layers.
Sandwich the layers on top of one another, filling with the toffee cream as you go. Once stacked, spread any remaining toffee cream all over the cake and then chill for 10 minutes (this setting time makes it easier to cover the cake neatly in ganache).
After chilling the cake spread the ganache all over its surface. I used a palette knife to create a line pattern on my cake to tie in with the honeycomb theme but you could make it super sleek and smooth or go for a really rustic look- it’s up to you. To finish it off break up the honeycomb and use as decorations; I also made some toppers by setting melted chocolate over bubble wrap, but it really isn’t necessary!
I hope you all enjoy this recipe- my family and friends went absolutely mad for it so it’s definitely worth the effort if you’re up for a little bit of a baking project!
This recipe takes the classic chewy chocolate cookie and turns it into something altogether more grown up with a little help from crushed pistachios, orange zest, dark chocolate chunks and ground cardamom. Stash them away from kids (and other adults- let’s be honest) and enjoy when you’ve got a quiet moment to yourself, preferably with a strong coffee.
Place the butter, sugars, zest and ground cardamom in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and cream together until light and fluffy using electric beaters (or a wooden spoon if you’re slightly mad/ less lazy than me).
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Once the eggs are fully incorporated, tip in the pistachios and stir. Now sift the bicarbonate of soda, flour and salt into the batter and beat briefly to form a soft dough.
Finally, add the chocolate chunks and stir with a spoon to evenly distribute. The dough won’t be firm and to make cooking easier I like to freeze it before baking. To do this simply lay a long rectangle of cling film across your work surface, spoon on the dough in a long line and roll up, shaping into a log. Chill for half an hour and at this stage preheat the oven to 180c and line some baking trays.
Once your cookie dough logs have firmed up a bit, unwrap them and cut into slices (about 1.5 cm thick). Place the slices on the prepared baking trays with generous spaces between them for spreading (I usually put about 4 on each tray).
Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden but still soft and chewy in the middle. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Yes this is really a roulade but I can’t bring myself to type that word (in my head it’s associated with hostess trolleys, raspberry pink table runners and, worst of all, glace cherries), so let’s settle on meringue roll. Regardless of the terminology though, this is delicious; hazelnut studded meringue, smooth milk chocolate cream, dark chocolate ganache and to top it off, caramel covered hazelnuts- it’s pretty much a guaranteed winner (plus it’s not as complicated to make as it looks, providing you’ve got a good whisk… or guns of steel).
For the meringue:
4 egg whites
225g caster sugar
50g icing sugar
For the chocolate filling:
400ml double cream
3tbsp cocoa powder
3tbsp icing sugar
For the topping:
100g dark chocolate
100ml double cream
100g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a 20cm x 30cm (roughly) shallow baking tin with a little butter then line with greaseproof paper. Set aside.
Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown. Once golden cool a little then blitz in a food processor to create a corse crumb texture. Set aside to cool for later.
Whisk the egg whites to form medium peaks then add the caster sugar in three additions, whisking well between each. Once you’ve added all the sugar continue to whisk until the meringue reaches stiff peaks, then add the crushed and cooled hazelnuts. Fold the nuts in carefully then tip the meringue into your prepared tin. Spread out evenly to the edges with a spatula or palette knife. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until it has some light colour.
When your meringue is ready, place on a wire rack and leave to cool in the tin. Dust the icing sugar in an even layer over a large rectangle of greaseproof paper, ready for when you turn out the meringue.
While the meringue is cooling, make the chocolate cream filling. To do this sift the cocoa and icing sugar into the double cream and whisk to soft peaks with electric beaters.
When the meringue has cooled turn out onto the prepared paper. Spread the chocolate cream all over the surface, leaving a gap of about 1cm around the edge.
Using the paper to help you, roll up the roulade lengthways. I always find it’s easier if you do this away from you, using the paper to help tease up the meringue. It will crack, but don’t worry, it’s meant to!
When your roll is complete, make the ganache. To do this just chop up the dark chocolate and place in a bowl, then heat the cream to just below boiling and pour directly over it. Leave it to melt together then give it a stir to completely combine. Set aside to thicken a little then pipe down the centre of your roll.
For a final (completely optional) flourish, pour the sugar into a heavy bottomed pan and heat gently. Allow the sugar to melt (do not stir, just swirl), then take it to a golden amber colour. Once it reaches this colour remove it from the heat and keep an eye on it’s consistency. Once it thickens and begins to form sugary threads, dip the whole hazelnuts in and pull out to create spiky caramel coated nuts- the perfect decoration!
Each Christmas I make a gingerbread house, so here’s the 2016 effort. My inner perfectionist would say I’ve done better in previous years and that it’s a bit messy, however, I should probably just get over it (big life problems..) and accept that it’s pretty good considering it’s nearly 2ft tall and all edible. Hope you like it, and Merry Christmas!
To give the illusion of someone being home, I built fairy lights into the house and created windows with melted sweets (there were lots more windows at the back… I probably should’ve given their placement a bit more thought). The lights have a strobe setting as well which I enjoy- kind of makes it look like a weird woodland acid rave house (but a festive one).
All the best for the new year everyone, and happy baking!
These brownies are rich, dense and studded with cranberries and white chocolate chunks- a great (and easy) festive treat to whip up for visiting family and friends over the coming weeks…
300g dark chocolate
310g caster sugar
3 eggs, 1 egg yolk
3tsp vanilla extract
120g plain flour
150g white chocolate, chopped into chunks
100g dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a square baking tin/ brownie tray.
Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over a pan of gently simmering water. Do not allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl or it could cause the chocolate to seize.
Stir the butter and chocolate occasionally until melted then set aside to cool for a few minutes. Once the chocolate has cooled a little, add the sugar and salt then whisk (with electric beaters or in the bowl of a stand mixer) until well combined.
Now add the eggs and whisk on high until the mix has lightened in colour and is glossy (about 5 minutes- whisking well at this stage is what gives you that classic flaky top!).
Sift in the flour and fold then finally stir in the white chocolate and cranberries. Tip into the lined baking tin and spread out. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set but still very moist in the middle.
This four layer ginger cake filled with lightly salted toffee sauce and tangy cream cheese frosting is a great alternative to the classic Christmas fruit cake, and is usually the preferred option in my house.
The Scandi-style flowers I’ve used for decoration were sent to me by Bloom & Wild, a brilliant flower delivery company who focus on carefully selecting the best seasonal blooms. The bouquet I received ( the Sadie)is part of their Christmas range and I would definitely recommend you check out their other options; I don’t know about you, but I find it tricky to find a wide range of good quality cut flowers outside of London (I know, first world problems), so it’s great to know I can choose more unusual varieties online and have them delivered straight to my door the next day by Bloom & Wild.
I hope you like how I’ve made use of the flowers and perhaps this could inspire some other botanical themed Christmas cakes!
220g black treacle
80g golden syrup
340g dark brown soft sugar
380g self raising flour
3tbsp ground ginger
2tbsp ground cinnamon
60g soured cream
6 pieces stem ginger, grated (from a jar)
For the toffee sauce: 50g butter, 50g dark brown soft sugar, 50g golden syrup, 75ml double cream, large pinch sea salt
For the cream cheese frosting: 200g unsalted butter (soft), 250g cream cheese, 900g icing sugar, seeds of 2 vanilla pods
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
Place the butter, treacle, syrup and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a standing mixer). Beat together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs in one at a time along with a little of the flour to prevent curdling. Mix well between each addition. Once the eggs are fully incorporated, sift in the remaining flour, cinnamon and ginger. Fold gently then finally stir in the stem ginger and soured cream. Split between the 2 prepared tins and bake for 30-40 minutes.
While the cakes are cooking, make the toffee sauce. Place the butter, syrup and sugar in a saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Once melted pour in the cream and add the salt. Mix to create a smooth sauce then set aside to cool and thicken.
Now make your cream cheese frosting. Put the butter in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until fluffy and light in colour. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat once again until well combined. Now, still beating, gradually add the icing sugar. Once all the icing sugar has been added increase the speed and mix until the consistency is light, thick and spreadable.
When the cakes are ready, a skewer should come out clean when inserted. Rest in their tins for 10 minutes then remove and leave on a wire rack until they are completely cool.
Now you are ready to assemble your layer cake. Level off the sponges as best you can then slice in two (you should be left with 4 layers). Place one layer down on your plate or cake board. Secure with some cream cheese frosting if it’s a little slippy. Now spread over a few tablespoons of the toffee sauce. Allow it to sink into the sponge then apply a thick even layer of cream cheese frosting. Top with the next sponge and repeat until the sponges are used up.
With the remaining cream cheese frosting, cover the cake all over and smooth down with a cake scraper. Decorate with fresh flowers dusted in frosty edible glitter or get creative and come up with your own design to suit the occasion.
More decorating ideas:
Leave the cream cheese frosting rough and decorate with mini gingerbread houses to create a snow drift scene.
Top with traditional/vintage Christmas cake decorations.
Make little white meringue kisses and cover the top of the cake with them, then dust with gold edible glitter.
If you know me you will be well aware that chocolate is my kryptonite; if it’s there, I will eat it/ drink it/ not share it. In winter I naturally move onto hot chocolate and drink it by the bucketload (this year I’ve had to reign it in as last winter I got into an at-least-once-a-day habit… don’t tell me how bad that is for me. I know).
Anyway, addiction aside, I thought it was only right for me to share my recipe for the best, most luxurious hot chocolate you can make at home (tis the season after all)…
3tbsp cocoa powder
1 litre milk (I use semi skimmed)
100g dark chocolate (chopped)
50g milk chocolate (chopped)
4tbsp granulated sugar
For serving (optional): torched marshmallows, chocolate stirrers, whipped cream
Bring the water to a simmer in a large saucepan. Add the cocoa and whisk out the lumps, then add the milk gradually, constantly stirring.
Bring back to a simmer and add in the chocolate, sugar and salt. Whisk until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Distribute into 4 mugs and if you want to be really fancy, top with whipped cream, marshmallows and more chocolate.