fabulous and heavenly: chocolate chiffon cake with salted caramel buttercream

Chocolate chiffon cake with salted caramel buttercreamAs always, we divided the preparation of the courses for the family Easter lunch under the family member (I have a small family, so we don’t end up with a ten course meal). It’s a little predictable, but I’m usually in charge of dessert. Of course, I have to do better than last year to wow the judges, and this totally did the trick. Chocolate is always a winner and I’m totally addicted to salted caramel, so this just couldn’t go wrong! You need a bit of time (I prepared both the cake and buttercream a day in advance and assembled in the morning) but it’s well worth it and not hard at all. The recipe is for my recent GoodFood issue and is by John Whaite, winner of the Great British Bake Off. Here’s how to do it:

First, bake the cake:
Heat the oven to 140 C and grease and line a 25 cm round deep cake tin with baking parchment. In a large bowl, mix 125 ml sunflower oil, 7 egg yolks (you need 7 eggs in total, separate them and set the whites aside for later), 1 tsp vanilla extract, 375 g sugar and 200 ml water until well combined. Sift in 50 g cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Sift in 300 g plain flour, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (if you don’t have it, replace by 1 and 1/2 tsp of baking powder) and 1 tsp salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold into the batter and mix until everything is well combined. Gently pour the mixture into your cake tin, then bang it on the work surface twice to expel any large air pockets. Bake for 1 hr 10 mins or until the cake springs back when gently prodded and an inserted skewer comes out clean. (Cover with foil after 1 hr if the cake starts to get too dark.) Remove from the oven, cool in the tin for 10 mins, then transfer to a large wire rack and peel off the parchment. Leave until the cake is completely cool.

For the salted caramel buttercream:
Make the salted caramel icing while the cake bakes. Heat 250 g soft brown sugar, ½ tsp salt and 150 ml double cream (or full-fat cream) in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Bubble for a few mins, then leave to cool completely (stir every now and then so it cools evenly. Of course a taste test is an excellent way to determine wether it’s cool enough – I tested constantly :-). Beat 140 g softened butter until smooth, pour in the cooled cream mixture and continue mixing until softly whipped. Chill until needed (this will allow it to firm up a little – if you leave it overnight, it will be too solid to spread, so take it out of the fridge half an hour before using or pop it in the microwave for 15-20 sec).

Make the ganache for the topping
To make the ganache, heat 250 ml double cream (or full-fat cream) until just boiling. Remove from the heat and pour over 250 g dark chocolate (chopped). Leave to stand for a few mins until the chocolate has melted and you have a smooth sauce consistency. Leave to cool at room temperature until the ganache is a pipeable thickness, then transfer to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle (I added the chocolate to hot cream instead of vice-versa, meaning it tool a little more to cool as the saucepan was still hot – I found it took about 2 hours to cool down to pipeable thickness – once you’re there, you’ll have to work rather fast or it will become too solid).

You’re ready to assemble
To finish the cake, slice in half and fill with the salted caramel buttercream. If, like mine, your cake has risen to unbelievable new heights, you may want to slice it in 3 and divide the buttercream. Pipe tall spikes of chocolate ganache on top and decorate with the sea salt crystals. Will keep for up to 2 days in a cool place (not that it stands a chance of being around for that long). I usually end my blog post by suggesting you how to use up left-over ingredients but really, will you have left-overs?! Enjoy!