Friday, 13 April 2012

Sweet & Salty Chocolate Cake

I don't like salt. I don't like adding a large amount in baking, and I don't like sprinkling it over food. Yet this recipe, from the Hummingbird Bakery: Cake Days book, looked interesting as I had heard about the wonders of salted caramel. I was curious as to how salt would work in caramel, let alone this cake, so I made it. It took hours - I started at around 5:30pm on Wednesday, first making the salted caramel, then the silky chocolate caramel frosting. Then it was time to bake three layers of intensely chocolaty cake, one layer at a time as I only had one tin. After a thorough cleaning of the kitchen, it was almost midnight, so I thought I would wait until the morning to assemble the cake. The frosting had hardened in the fridge overnight - waiting on it to soften was agonizing as I couldn't wait to put all the yummy elements together (as it turns out, I love salted caramel). Assembling the cake was exciting. Each layer of chocolate cake was spread first with the salted caramel, then the frosting. The result? A moist chocolaty cake with a twist: caramel that oozes from each layer with salt that only serves to complement a unique, decadent flavour. After one bite, my sister declared it the best thing I have ever made. And I've made a lot of stuff.

Sweet & Salty Chocolate Cake

For the salted caramel
200 grams (7oz) caster sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
120 ml (4fl oz) double cream
60 ml (2fl oz) soured cream
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the frosting
200 grams (7oz) caster sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
360 ml (12½ fl oz) double cream
450 gram (1lb) dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), chopped 
450 grams (1lb) unsalted butter, softened
Sea salt flakes, for sprinkling, optional
For the layers
300 grams (10½ oz) unsalted butter, softened
300 grams (10½ oz) caster sugar
140 grams (5 oz) soft light brown sugar
3 eggs
100 grams (3½ oz) cocoa powder
160 ml buttermilk - I used sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
330 grams (11½ oz) plain flour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon salt
To make the salted caramel
In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and golden syrup to the boil with 60ml (2 fl oz) of water, allowing the mixture to boil for about 10 minutes or until golden and syrup-like. 
Put the double cream, soured cream and salt in a separate pan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. The salt should be completely dissolved in the cream. When the sugar syrup is ready, remove it from the heat and carefully add the hot cream. It will bubble up but smooth out again quickly, becoming a creamier caramel colour. Pour the caramel into a small bowl and set it aside while you make the frosting.
To make the frosting
In a small, clean saucepan, bring the caster sugar and golden syrup to the bowl again with another 60 ml (2 fl oz) of water, again letting this boil for approximately 10 minutes or until it is golden and syrupy coloured. In a separate pan, bring the double cream to the boil. Carefully pour the hot cream into the caramel; as before, it will bubble up but will settle down again. Set this caramel aside to cool slightly.
Next add the chopped chocolate, stirring constantly while the chocolate melts. Transfer to a mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric whisk  mix the frosting for about 10 minutes or until the bottom of the bowl feels cool.
Add the butter to the chocolate caramel frosting and whisk together until the mixture is light and looks slightly whipped. Place the frosting in the fridge to cool and set for 40-50 minutes while you make the layers.
To make the chocolate layers
Preheat your oven to 170C and line the bases of three 8" sandwich/cake tins with baking parchment. I baked each individually as I only have one 8" tin.
Using a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand-held whisk, cream together the butter and both types of sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scrapping down the sides of the bowl.
In a jug, stir together the cocoa powder, buttermilk (you could use sour cream, natural yoghurt or add lemon juice to regular milk and allow it to curdle) and vanilla essence with 60 ml (2 fl oz) of water to form a thick paste. Sift together the remaining sponge ingredients, then add these in stages to the creamed butter, alternating with the cocoa powder paste and mixing thoroughly on a low-to-medium speed until all the ingredients are incorporated. I forgot to add the 60ml of water, instead added enough milk to make the paste a buttercream-like texture. 
Divide the batter between the three prepared cake tins and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until the top of each sponge feels springy to the touch. Allow the sponges to cool slightly in their tins before turning out to cool completely.
To assemble the cake, place one layer down and spread about 2 tablespoons of salty caramel on the top, smoothing it over the sponge with a palette knife. Top the caramel layer with 3-4 tablespoons of the frosting and smooth it out as before. Place your second cake on the top and repeat the process, spreading the remaining frosting over the sides of the cakes of the cake. Top with anything you like - chopped chocolate, drizzles of's up to you!

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