It’s been a while since I made a proper layer cake…10 months to be exact. I couldn’t believe that the last cake I made was last Christmas/my birthday. It’s very unlike me, but to be perfectly honest this year has carried many ups and downs so I’ve rarely been in the mood. It started with a with a family tragedy we are still recovering from so celebrating wasn’t often on our minds. As the year picked up I plunged myself into work and got so busy learning a new job I barely had time to cook let alone bake a multi-layered cake.
But this week has marked the end of something great, something I am proud of and although there is no actual “occasion” – something I can announce to the world – in my heart I know it’s worth acknowledging. I felt like sometimes you just gotta stop in your tracks in celebrate the moment as someone very wise once said, “We have to celebrate things that are meaningful to us”.
So I spent the day baking this cake and then another day putting it together. It was a labour of love just like what I’ve been doing for the last 8 months, and just like that it made me feel tired but very accomplished. In other words, it was well worth it.
I know I mentioned before it’s incredibly hard for me to choose what cake to make – there are so many options but because this cake was special I wanted it to be about all of our favourite things. I asked Brad what he loved to eat in a cake and he listed chocolate, caramel and something crunchy. They say all happy couples eventually morph into one, which is apparently true as those things were exactly what I wanted in MY cake.
I started by making a chocolate stout cake, one of my favourite cake recipes. It produces dense chocolate sponge that stands up well to the rich caramel frosting. The filling for this cake comes from my childhood, something every Russian child grew up with-caramel buttercream. A pinch of flaky Maldon salt gave it a modern update. The much desired crunch came from crushed honeycomb pieces, which are hard caramel bits, folded into caramel buttercream. Then I covered the entire cake into dark chocolate ganache and sprinkled with more honeycomb and salt flakes. If honeycomb candy is not available in your supermarkets feel free to use Butterfinger bars, although not exactly the same they will be a fair substitute.
- ¾ cups Guinness or any other stout
- ¼ cup strong black coffee
- 1 cup/ 250 gr unsalted butter
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ tablespoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoons salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ⅔ cups creme fraiche or sour cream
- 300 gr butter, softened
- 397 gr Carnation caramel or dulce de leche
- pinch of Maldon salt
- 50 gr crushed honeycomb
- 1 cup whipping cream/double cream
- ½ pound dark chocolate, chopped
- a handful of honeycomb pieces
- a pinch of Maldon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350F/180C and butter 3 8″ cake pans and dust them with some flour to prevent the cakes from sticking.
- In a large saucepan heat stout, coffee and butter together until the mixture comes to a gentle simmer.
- Add cocoa powder while whisking continuously to avoid lumps until smooth. Set aside to cool.
- Blend flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a different bowl. Mix eggs, vanilla and creme fraiche with an electric mixer in bowl no 3.
- Now check on your chocolate mixture and make sure it’s cool enough to continue the process.
- Add the chocolate mixture to the egg and creme fraiche mixture and blend them together. Add flour mixture a little bit at a time and beat on low speed until combined. Divide batter equally among the pans.
- Bake cakes in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. (I baked mine one at a time.)
- Remove the cakes from the oven and cool on a wire rack. (Once cooled I usually wrap my cakes in a plastic wrap and chill my cakes in the fridge overnight.)
- Make salted caramel buttercream by whipping butter in a bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy and then adding prepared caramel or dulce de leche with a pinch of flaky salt until completely incorporated.
- Wrap honeycomb pieces in a clean tea towel and crush with a rolling pin or process in a food processor.
- Fold in crushed honeycomb pieces into salted caramel buttercream.
- (If Carnation caramel is not available in your supermarkets you can make your own by boiling a can of sweet and condensed milk in a pot of water for 3 hours.)
- Fill the cake layers with salted caramel buttercream, then cover the entire cake with a crumb layer and chill in the fridge for 30-40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make a chocolate ganache. Bring heavy cream to a boil and take it off the heat immediately, then add your chopped chocolate into it and stir until melted! Cool it and whip it with an electric mixer until paler in colour and fluffy.
- Cover the chilled cake with chocolate ganache and decorate with more honeycomb pieces and flaky salt.
Here’s the recipe for homemade caramel or dulce de leche:
* Remove the label from the can of sweet and condensed milk and put it in the pot completely submerged in water. Bring to a boil and continue cooking for 3-4 hours. Make sure your can is completely covered in water through the duration of cooking or it will explode. Cool until it’s ready to use. When you open it you will discover that your “ole” plain can of sweet and condensed milk got transformed into glamorous and silky dulce de leche.