Thursday 9 April 2009

Double Chocolate Birthday Cake

We have always made the same chocolate cake on birthdays - Mum even swears my Grandma made the same recipe for her. The only thing that changes is the toppings. So when it came to making another big cake for mum's birthday party I couldn't bring myself to change the cake itself, but decided to try a different topping/filling. Before we've often used a egg white based chocolate topping, creating a mousse-like filling (though it sometimes curdled a bit!) We sometimes added Mars bars to the mix when I was little. We've also played with the cocoa/hot chocolate powder ratio over the years - as I child I liked it with just hot chocolate powder. After making the white chocolate tart the other day I decided to play with the ganache-like mix with the creme fraiche, cream and white chocolate for the filling, and look at a normal dark chocolate ganache for the outside topping. I bought some white chocolate roses from Squires to decorate it - the theme of the party is Black & White - so I wanted to contrast the dark chocolate with the white roses and some white chocolate buttons I had.

Last year I made a similar size cake with just a hand electric whisk - was so lovely to have a big kenwood chef to do some of the work for me! It always seems to make a lighter cake, too - that big whisk really does the job. Having said that, one of the spokes came off mine yesterday and so I had try and wind it around the top - hence the photo! Last years cake had the egg-white based topping and filling and was covered in raspberries - I really thought hard about including raspberries again, perhaps as a filling, but in the end it was expensive and I decided to keep it simple.

I got up early and started baking at 8am - I had decided to not bake any layers before the day, especially as I didn't have big tins or freezer space to keep them really fresh. So I just baked all day until 5pm - it was exhausting! I had four 'tiers' as such, though they were on top of each other - 8 layers of cake. The top was 8", then 10", 13" and 16" - it's bigger than it looks in the photos! As I don't have any circular tins bigger than 10", I had to do both the bottom layers as four batches of rectangles and then use templates to cut out each half and assemble it all. I used foil to try and reduce the waste by creating a more semi-circular tin. Overall I made 11 batches of cake mix! I used a 2 egg mix for both the 8" halves , then multiplied it up so that the 10" was 2 egg mix in each half, 13" had 3 egg mix for each quarter, then the 16" had 4 egg mix for each quarter. I'll give the basic 2 egg mix below.

I multiplied up the ganache recipes in a pseudo-mathematical exercise with lots of areas of circles that just meant I ended up with far too much, but that isn't too much of a chore! We've had plenty of dinner parties since - my best friend is staying in town for a week - so we've just been serving up offcuts of the cake with the rest of the ganache and chopped up pears or strawberries and more cream and ice cream. I've melted some of the ganache down with a little more cream to pour it over the fruit and ice cream too. I'm just experimenting with freezing it too.

I was feeling very happy about my time keeping (the cake had to be picked up and taken to the club where the party was being held by 5pm) until I realised that the clock in the kitchen I had been keeping time with had stopped as the batteries had run out and it was 4:15! So I had to put the cake together in about 35 minutes. Luckily I had already got all my templates and things together and so it didn't take too long to cut out the other layers and build the cake. I switched the halves position on each half so the cake didn't just have a great split down the middle. I had some sticks in the drawer - think they might be kebab sticks - that I used to pin it all together.

As I was so rushed I didn't get any photos of it being put together or the crumb coat etc. The photos at the top and bottom of this post are of the cake being lit at the party and were taken by the photographer we hired, Thomas Roulin at Alpimage. I have to admit I turned them into black and white. I wish I had had time to take more myself!

Double Chocolate Birthday Cake

For the cake:
130g self raising flour
130g caster sugar
130g butter
45g cocoa
40g hot chocolate powder
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
3 tbsp milk
3 tbsp boiling water
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 170C and line two 8" tins with greaseproof paper. Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add an egg and a tbsp of flour and mix, before following with the other egg and more flour. Beat in well. Sift in the rest of the flour, baking powder, cocoa, hot chocolate powder and salt. Fold into the mix lightly - the mixture will be dry and almost flakey. Add the milk and fold again quickly - it should soak up most of the dry bits, but don't worry too much - it's a fairly lumpy mix. When you are totally ready to whip it into the oven, measure in the boiling water and fold in the water - it will seem like lots and swill around but it will mix in. Quickly transfer into tins and into the oven and bake for around 25-30 mins or until a skewer comes out clean and it is springy to touch. Cool on a rack.

For the filling:
100g white chocolate
75ml creme fraiche
75ml double cream

Break the chocolate up and put in a bowl. Measure out and heat creme fraiche and cream in a pan on a medium heat till nearly boiling. Pour over the chocolate and leave for a minute before stirring until smooth. Chill in the fridge for around 2-3 hours.

For the coating/ganache:
200g best quality dark chocolate
200ml double cream

Chop up the chocolate into half-squares and put in a bowl. Heat cream and pour over the chocolate. Leave for a minute and then stir. When smooth leave to cool - but don't put in the fridge.


  1. WOW how did you make it i think i might have to go shopping !!!!!!!

  2. What do you use in Switzerland instead of self rising flour?
    Thanx, Mia

  3. Mia - I make my own by adding 1tsp baking powder and using plain flour. Hope that helps.

  4. I just made a smaller version of this for my boyfriends 24th birthday, sparklers and all! It went down an absloute storm, and I think I owe you my thanks for sharing this with us. At first I was worried the whole thing would be too heavy, but it came out perfect. I spedthings up a bit by sticking the layers and the filling in the freezer to cool, so I could assemble is much quicker. (I had to be at his parents at 9am) So once more, THANK YOU!

    1. I'm so glad it went well! The freezer trick is a great idea.


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