Hi everyone! It’s the week back to work after the Christmas holidays… The new year is looming, full of possibility and yet vast and unknown at the same time. I don’t know about you but to me the idea of a blank page can be overwhelming. So let’s ease into January, and 2015 with a slice of cake.
This cake is not only a mixture of flavour, but also of texture. We are mixing it up with real homemade praline (don’t be scared) and slathering on chocolate ganache, you know, for good measure. This is the kind of cake that looks super impressive, but is actually pretty simple to make – so get your oven gloves out and let’s make something spectacular!
We begin by making caramel. Again, this is not a scary thing, you can do it! It’s just a case of watching it closely, not stirring it once the sugar is dissolved and taking it off the heat as soon as you reach that perfect caramel colour. Then we’re going to smash it into pieces and pick out the most arty looking little shards for decorating the top. Fancy.
The rest of the praline is going to be blitzed up in a food processor and mixed in with a smooth buttercream for an extra dimension. Next to the soft chocolate sponge, this caramel crunchiness is a lovely surprise. Trust me, this cake is anything but boring!
And just because we’re that obnoxious, let’s pour chocolate ganache over the top. You know, just for fun.
Decorate as you please, and devour. Hi 2015, let’s make it a good one.
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Chocolate Praline Cake
Chocolate Cake Mix
160g Butter (at room temperature)
400g Plain Flour
1 Tbsp plus 1 Tsp of Baking Powder
560g Caster Sugar
80g Cocoa Powder
1 Tbsp Vanilla Essence
240g Caster Sugar
4 Tbsp Water
40g Flaked Almonds
200g Butter (at room temperature)
400g Icing Sugar
1 – 2 Tbsp Milk (Check the consistency after each addition, the icing should be easily spreadable but not runny)
150ml Heavy Cream (Double Cream)
170g Dark Chocolate (Preferably 70% cocoa solids)
You will need 3 8-inch sandwich cake tins (or 2 if you have one set and you can bake in 2 batches!). A saucepan to make the caramel, and a large flat baking tray lined with parchment paper.
1. First off make the praline. Lay the flaked almonds on the baking tray lined with parchment paper in a thin layer and put to one side.
2. Put the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat on a low to medium heat. Stir gently until the sugar dissolves, then do not stir anymore. Once the sugar is dissolved turn the heat to high. Swirl the saucepan to keep the caramel moving but do not stir it with a spoon. It will start to bubble and will look white at first, keep it bubbling until it starts to turn a golden brown. As soon as a medium golden brown colour is reached, take the pan off the heat and immediately pour all over the almonds on the tray. You can use a knife to spread the caramel out but do this immediately as it will start to set extremely quickly. Put the tray to one side to cool.
1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius. To make the chocolate cake, place the room temperature butter in a stand mixer with the sugar and beat on high for about a minute. Then add the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder and incorporate. The mixture will look like fine breadcrumbs.
2. Mix the milk, eggs and vanilla essence in a jug and add to the dry mixture in two batches while the mixer beats on a low speed. Beat for a further minute then turn off the mixer.
3. Grease the sandwich tins and line with parchment paper. If you have 3 tins you can bake the mixture all at the same time, but if you only have two, you can bake two first, then the third layer later. Divide the mixture into three even parts and place in the sandwich tins.
4. Bake at 175 degrees celcius for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Place on a cooling rack to fully cool.
5. Once the cakes are fully cooled, use a bread knife to slice off any dome that has formed on top of the cake so that you are left with 3 perfectly flat cakes. This makes them much easier to stack.
1. At this point, break the praline slab into several pieces. Reserve 8 small shards for decoration and place the rest in a food processor. Blitz on a high speed for approximately 1 minute so you have a fine crumb mixture. Put aside.
2. Put the softened (room temperature) butter in a stand mixer and beat on a high speed for 5 minutes. Then add the icing sugar in three parts, incorporating fully between each addition. Once all the icing sugar is incorporated, beat again on a high speed for a further 5 minutes gradually adding the milk until you have a nice spreadable consistency.
3. Add the praline crumb mixture from the food processor to the buttercream and incorporate by mixing on a low speed in the stand mixer.
1. Place one layer of the cake on a cake stand or a plate and add a dollop of the buttercream mixture on top. Spread evenly and add the next layer of cake. Do the same until all 3 layers are stacked. Then cover the entire structure with a very thin layer of the buttercream. This is called “crumb coating” and will allow you to more easily cover the rest of the cake with buttercream without tearing the surface of the cake. After the initial crumb coat, place the cake in the fridge for 15 minutes, then remove and cover with a second layer of buttercream. This layer will look much smoother and more solid. I like to use a normal cutlery knife to spread the buttercream on to achieve a really smooth layer.
2. Place the covered cake back into the fridge for 30 minutes. After 20 minutes make the chocolate ganache. Chop the chocolate into small chunks and place into a heatproof jug. Heat the cream in a saucepan on a medium heat until it is just bubbling around the edges. Do not let the cream boil. Once it reaches this stage pour directly into the jug containing the chocolate and leave for about 1 minute. Stir until thick and shiny and combined. Remove the cake from the fridge and slowly pour the ganache over the top in the middle until it just reaches the edges. Stop at this point and allow to drip a little down the sides. Place the cake back in the fridge for 10 minutes to allow the ganache to set a little.
3. Optional decoration – Pipe some of the remaining buttercream with a star shaped piping tip around the edges, and press the shards of praline you saved earlier into the buttercream.
4. Serve and enjoy!