This is a super indulgent chocolate cake that is a perfect family treat and a real crowd pleaser, particularly for a birthday celebration. Try decorating it with Cadbury’s mini eggs for Easter or for Christmas use a box of luxury chocolate truffles. The sponge is rich and moist and gets layered up with fudge-like chocolate icing before being covered in a layer of chocolate ganache. It’s so rich that a little goes a long way. My mum always said that if you are going to treat yourself, do it properly! Sometimes feeling good is about pure indulgence, and chocolate is sure to hit the spot.
350g (12oz) light muscovado sugar
200g (7oz) butter, softened
seeds of ½ vanilla pod or ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp coffee essence (optional)
6 eggs, at room temperature
300g (11oz) self-raising flour
50g (2oz) good-quality cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
200g (7oz) crème fraîche, at room temperature
FOR THE CHOCOLATE FROSTING
100g (4oz) plain chocolate, broken into squares
350g (12oz) icing sugar, sifted
175g (6oz) butter, softened
2 tbsp cream
FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE
150ml (¼ pint) cream
150g (5oz) plain chocolate, broken into squares
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4). Line 2 x 20cm (8in) non-stick cake tins with non-stick baking paper.
Cream the sugar and butter together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon (or using a freestanding electric mixer) until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla seeds or extract along with the coffee essence (if using) and two of the eggs, then beat like mad again. Add another two eggs and continue to beat. The mixture may look less than perfect at this stage, but keep going and it will come good. Add the last two eggs and beat well again.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Using a large metal spoon, fold the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture in alternate batches with the crème fraîche. Mix well between each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Using the spatula, divide the batter evenly between the prepared tins, smoothing down the tops. Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes, until the cakes are springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle of each one of them comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the tins, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely. The cakes must be completely cool before you ice them, otherwise the icing will melt.
When the cakes have cooled down completely, make the chocolate frosting. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Leave to cool a little, then mix with the rest of the chocolate frosting ingredients. I put them all in my freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat it for a good 5 minutes, until it’s light and spreadable, but it can also be done by hand.
Place one of the cakes on a plate or cake stand with a blob of frosting underneath so that the cake doesn’t move, then spread the top with a little more frosting. Cover with more frosting, then top with the remaining cake, flipping it over so that the flat side of the cake is now at the top, giving a good flat base for the frosting. Lightly press the cake layers together, then use a palette knife to spread the remaining frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake so that the sides are nice and straight and the top is flat. I like to do a thin layer first, which is called the crumb layer. If you have room in your freezer, place the cake in the freezer for 10 minutes for the layer to firm up.
Take the cake out of the freezer and add another, thicker layer of frosting. Have a good play around with the knife so that the frosting is really smooth. Sometimes it helps to run the palette knife under the warm tap and then carry on smoothing the frosting. Leave to set a little while you make the ganache drizzle.
Heat the cream in a pan but don’t boil it. You want it to be just steaming. Take the pan off the heat and add the chocolate, leaving it to melt for a few minutes. Stir the chocolate gently and let it cool down a little. Pour the chocolate ganache over the cake so that it drizzles in a nice smooth layer all over the top and comes nicely down the sides of the cake. Leave to set at room temperature for at least 1 hour or overnight is fine. Serve with a flourish!
NEVEN’S TOP TIP
Sometimes icing a cake like this can seem like a daunting prospect, but if you give yourself plenty of time and stick to a couple of basic rules, it’s a lot easier than you think. It’s important to always flip the top cake over so that you end up with a good flat base for frosting the top and sides. For a clean finish, don’t press down too much on the cakes, as this can cause the frosting to bulge out between each layer. Then follow the instructions in this recipe and you can’t go far wrong.