As the food editor of the brilliant delicous. magazine I wrote many wonderful and exciting recieps and features, but of all the chocolate recipes i wrote in my 6 years there this has to be my favourite.
The Chocoate Wars was the first of it's kind in the mag - four competitors putting up their best recipe for a chocolate cake to a pannel of distinguised judges. It was mayhem, chocolate literally flew around the room - we had to repaint a wall of the office after the event! My fellow chocolate smeared competitors were none other than chocolate masters William Curly, Paul A Young and Will Leigh.
Needless to say, I didn't win. The winning cake (from Mr Curly) was a chocolate masterpiece full of techinque and skill - worthy of the award, if rather difficult to make at home so the rest of us admitted defeat with grace. That said - my recipe for the ultimate chocolate birthday cake is one that i am extremely proud of. It is simple and perfect, easy to make at home but showy enough for the maker to be extremely chuffed with themselves.
THE BEST EVER CHOCOLATE BIRTHDAY CAKE
If you’re making the cake the day before, you’ll need to add the sugar decorations on the day of eating, otherwise they’ll bleed into the icing and cause a disappointing sticky mess.
150g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
150g dark chocolate (Lizzie used Willie’s Cacao Venezuelan 72), broken into pieces
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
50g cocoa powder
160g soured cream
200g golden caster sugar
150g soft light brown sugar
4 medium free range egg
For the chocolate icing
2 gelatine leaves
500g double cream
300g dark chocolate (Lizzie used Willie’s Cacao Madagascan 71), broken into piece
Hundreds and thousands and a 30cm acetate sheet to decorate
For the buttercream
175g unsalted butter, softened
300g icing sugar
100g dark chocolate (Lizzie used Willie’s Cacao Indonesian 69), melted as in step
Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Grease and line 3 x 20cm sandwich tins with baking paper. Melt the 150g chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt, twice. In another bowl, whisk the cocoa with 250ml boiling water until smooth, then whisk in the soured cream.
Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer and large bowl, beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Crack in the eggs one at a time, beating well.
Beat in the melted chocolate, then beat in the soured cream and flour mixtures bit by bit, alternating between them. Divide among the tins, then bake for 20-25 minutes. Leave in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
For the chocolate icing, soak the gelatine in cold water for 2 minutes. Heat 250g of the cream in a pan until almost boiling, then take off the heat. Squeeze the water from the gelatine, then stir into the hot cream to dissolve. In a food processor, whizz the 300g chocolate, add the hot cream and whizz until smooth. Chill for 30 minutes. Whisk the remaining cream to stiff peaks, fold into the chilled chocolate mixture, then chill, covered, for 2-3 hours.
For the buttercream, beat the butter and icing sugar with an electric hand mixer until fluffy. Beat in the melted chocolate. To assemble, spread one of the sponges with half the buttercream. Add a second sponge, spread over the remaining buttercream, then top with the final sponge. Use a palette knife to spread the icing evenly over the top and sides. Wrap the acetate around the side of the cake, leaving the bottom third uncovered, then sprinkle the hundreds and thousands over the exposed icing. Brush off any excess, then remove the acetate. For a smooth finish, dip a spatula in hot water, wipe dry, then run it over the icing. Leave for 10 minutes, then serve.