Chocolate Layer Cake
Updated: Feb 13
Decadent chocolate cake filled with delicious whipped milk chocolate and salted caramel ganache.
This cake is semi-sweet, with a nice balance between cake-y and fudge-y textures. Thanks to reduced sugar content you can really taste the richness and depth coming from Dutch Cocoa. Sour cream, oil and freshly brewed coffee intensify chocolate flavour. The crumb is moist and soft. On top of that - it’s a fairly quick bake with few simple steps. Dry ingredients are mixed with wet and the cake batter is ready to go into the oven. Sour cream keeps this cake fresh for longer. We are also using sour cream as a base for ganache - it knocks back some of the sweetness and complements salted caramel really well.
All in all - this is a delicious chocolate cake with fantastic milk chocolate/salted caramel frosting, decorated with crunchy hazelnuts and salted caramel. Quick chocolate cake for any celebration! You will love it if you like decadent but only semi-sweet chocolate cakes and stress-free baking.
For a good bake:
Plan ahead - this is a quick and simple bake. To make it stress-free - you may opt to bake sponges an evening before, cool down fully, wrap in clean kitchen towel or cling film and refrigerate overnight. If your cake happen to bake unevenly at the top or the top cracked - don’t cut or even out (you will do it in the morning). Similar with frosting - prepare ganache an evening before (it needs few hours to chill before whipping) and then whip and decorate in the morning. You may opt to assemble the cake in the morning, then refrigerate for 4-5 hours (don’t skip that step as this will give the cake a chance to infuse the flavour) and serve after dinner or in the afternoon.
Cake - use ingredients at room temperature. Mix and sift dry ingredients to ensure even distribution of raising agents. Try to minimise mixing - few swift moves will combine wet and dry ingredients. Otherwise - it’s as easy as it can be.
Dutch Cocoa - alkalised cocoa - why it’s worth to use it in your chocolate bakes? In Dutch Cocoa the beans have been washed in alkaline solution which makes them less acidic, mellow in flavour, darker. Dutch Cocoa will also dissolve easier into liquid. All this makes it a great addition if you like decadent/dark/rich chocolate bakes. If you want to read more on the science behind it - here is a great article on Serious Eats.
Coffee - use freshly brewed strong coffee or espresso coffee for this bake. You will mix it when lukewarm with the rest of wet ingredients.
Baking tin - use whatever round tin you have - 21cm or 23cm round tin will give you 3 layers (layers baked in 3 separate tins or baked consecutively). You can also opt to bake as a tray bake (22cmx33cm) - you will get two layers (baking time is 25-27min; until skewer comes out clean). Don’t stress if you don’t have 2 or 3 tins of the same size - nothing will happen to the batter if you have to bake one layer after the other. You may opt to prepare cake collar or otherwise - remove excess cake when dividing into layers.
Baking time - bake until skewer comes out clean, timings are indicated in the recipe.
Salted caramel - part is used in frosting but also a small part is reserved for serving and decoration. Salted caramel from this recipe is fairly thick (proportions are kept that way so that ganache sets into delicious, non-melting frosting). Prepare caramel in a pot with heavy and bright/white bottom (you will be able to see sugar changing its colour). Watch not to burn sugar - you are going for golden brown shade here. If you see sugar is browning too quick, reduce temperature (better to take it nice and slow) or set aside the pot for few seconds, stirring vigorously. When adding butter - the mixture may split. If it does happen - take the pot off the heat and stir vigorously (it may take 3-5 minutes of energetic whisking to bring it together but eventually it will come together!). You will cook the mixture for about 1 minute longer and then add cream and at the end, coarse sea salt (off the heat). Caramel will have light golden brown colour, will have thick sauce consistency and will set fully when cooling.
Frosting - use good quality milk chocolate (with Cocoa content of 30% or more - we usually use Lindt or Callebaut). You will mix melted chocolate with portion of salted caramel and sour cream. This will then set in the fridge (dark colour) and after few hours will be ready for whipping (factor in the chilling time when planning your bake). You will end up with bright coloured (milk chocolate colour) ganache. It will be easy to spread or pipe and will set in the fridge into firm frosting when chilled.
Storage - after assembling, this cake needs about 4-5 hours in the fridge - this will give the chance for frosting to set and flavours to fully infuse the sponge. The cake can be stored refrigerated for up to 4-5 days.
Serving - before serving, make sure to leave cake at room temperature for 30-45 minutes to maximise the flavour.
Chocolate Layer Cake Recipe
Yield: 12-16 servings
Time: 1hr 30min prep (+ chilling)
Tin: 3x 21cm or 23cm round tin
380g all-purpose (plain) flour
80g Dutch Cocoa
1 and 1/2 tsp (7g) baking soda
1 and 1/2 tsp (5g) baking powder
1 tsp (3g) coarse sea salt
400g sour cream, room temperature
300g freshly brewed strong coffee (or espresso), lukewarm
150ml neutral-scented oil (canola, sunflower)
4 large eggs (240g), room temperature
2 tsps vanilla bean paste or extract
100g salted butter, room temp and cut into pieces
100g cream (38% fat), room temp
1 tsp coarse sea salt
Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel Frosting:
400g milk chocolate (30% Cocoa content or more)
200g salted caramel (portion of caramel prepared)
200g sour cream
+ 100g hazelnuts to decorate
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan forced). Line bottom of your baking tins with parchment paper and grease the sides with butter.
Prepare Chocolate Cake: Mix together flour, Dutch Cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt. Sift all dry ingredients (whisk in coarse sea salt if leftover). In your mixing bowl, mix sour cream with coffee, oil, eggs, vanilla bean paste. When combined, add dry ingredients (all at once) and mix only until combined (handheld mixer, lowest speed or paddle attachment, low-medium speed). Don’t over-mix. Divide batter into 3 tins (or bake consecutively) and bake at 180C (160C fan forced) for 30-34 minutes (until skewer comes out clean). When baked, let the cake cool in the tin for 5 minutes then gently transfer to the cooling rack to cool fully. When cooled fully, wrap sponges in clean kitchen towels or cling film and refrigerate until ready to proceed (up to 12-18 hours).
Prepare Salted Caramel: In a pot with heavy bottom melt sugar (about 10 min, medium-low heat), stirring frequently (use wooden spoon or heat-resistant spatula, scrape sides of the pot every so often if there is sugar residue). Watch not to burn sugar (it should have light golden brown colour). Then, add butter and stir vigorously until combined with melted sugar. Continue cooking on medium heat (stirring constantly) for about 2 minutes. If the mixture splits - take off the heat and stir vigorously (this may take 3-4 minutes but the mixture will come back together eventually), then continue cooking for 1-2 minutes. Add cream (mixture will start splutter) and whisk vigorously to combine, bring to boil and cook for another 30 seconds. Then, take off the heat and whisk in coarse sea salt - and stir vigorously until combined. Set aside to cool (you will use lukewarm).
Prepare Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel Frosting: Melt chocolate and cool until lukewarm. Then, transfer to a small pot, add sour cream and whisk both until combined. Measure 200g salted caramel (you will use the rest for decorating and serving) and whisk in with chocolate/sour cream mixture until smooth and combined. Set aside to cool fully, then cover the mixture and refrigerate for at least 5 hours (preferably overnight).
Whip frosting: When ready, transfer solidified frosting into your main mixing bowl. Wait until it comes to room temperature (about 30 min, when pressed with a finger it will show a clear dent - like butter at room temperature). When ready, using handheld mixer with whisk attachments or in stand mixer, beat frosting on high speed for about 6-8 minutes. It should become fluffy and light.
Assemble and decorate: Prepare 3 equal sponges, fill in with whipped frosting and assemble the cake. In a meantime, toast hazelnuts at 180C (160C fan forced) for about 8 minutes (until dark golden brown). Remove skins and crash or cut into pieces. Decorate the cake with leftover frosting, toasted hazelnuts and caramel. If caramel is fully set - warm it up a little bit.
Chill and then bring to room temperature before serving: Chill decorated cake for 3-4 hours before serving. Leave at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before plating for maximum flavour. Refrigerate leftover cake for up to 4-5 days.