For some time I have owned The Hummingbird Bakery’s ‘Cake Days’ cookbook and I am a big fan. When Mr MAC and I first started dating, he told me I was an excellent cook but I couldn’t bake to save my life. This only changed in the last year or so and I think that the ‘Cake Days’ cookbook is largely responsible.
Just flicking through ‘Cake Days’ makes my mouth water. There are so many gorgeous sounding cupcake recipes as well as for traybakes, biscuits and more traditional ‘big cakes’. I had my eye on the recipe for ‘Sweet and Salty Chocolate Cake’ for sometime however, I didn’t have an excuse to bake it up until about a month ago….
My lovely friend Lucy and her boyfriend Joe were coming over for dinner a few weeks back and, as Lucy had recently had her last day at work to move on to exciting pastures new, I thought it was an excuse for a celebration and what is no celebration complete without? Chocolate cake!!! It was time to tackle the Hummingbird Bakery’s epic recipe.
Sweet and Salty Chocolate Cake
For the sponge:
300g unsalted butter
300g caster sugar
140g soft light brown sugar
100g cocoa powder
Tsp vanilla essence
330g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Half tsp salt
For the salty caramel:
200g caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
120ml double cream
60ml soured cream
Tsp sea salt
For the frosting:
200g caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
360ml double cream
450g dark chocolate (70% solids) plus extra to decorate
450g unsalted butter
First make the salty caramel. In a small saucepan bring the sugar and golden syrup to the boil with 60ml (2fl oz) of water, allowing the mixture to boil for about 10 minutes, during which time it should become quite syrupy and a rich caramel colour.
- 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 completely dissolve in the cream.
- When the sugar syrup is ready, remove it from the heat and carefully add the hot cream. It will bubble up as you pour in the cream, but smooth out again quickly after that, becoming a creamier golden colour. Pour the caramel into a small bowl and set it aside to cool while you make the frosting.
- In a small, clean saucepan, bring the caster sugar and golden syrup to the boil with 60 millilitres of water, again letting this boil for approximately 10 minutes or until it is syrupy and caramel-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 settle again shortly afterwards. Set this caramel aside to cool slightly.
- Once it has cooled, add the chopped chocolate, stirring constantly while the chocolate melts. 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 sponge.
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3, and line the bases of the sandwich tins with baking parchment.
- Using a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, or a hand-held electric whisk, cream together the butter and both types of sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl.
- In a jug stir together the cocoa powder, buttermilk and vanilla essence with 60 millitres of water to form a thick paste. Sift together the remaining sponge ingredients, then add these in stages to the creamed butter and sugar, alternating with the cocoa powder paste and mixing thoroughly on a low-to-medium speed until all the ingredients are incorporated.
- Divide the batter between the three prepared cake tins and bake for approximately 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 on to a wire rack and cooling completely before assembling.
- Once the sponges feel cold to the touch, place one on a plate or cake card and top with approximately two tablespoons of the salty caramel, smoothing it over the sponge using a palette knife. Top the caramel layer with three to four tablespoons of the frosting and smooth it out as before.
- Continue this process, sandwiching together the other two sponges with the remaining salty caramel and a layer of frosting and leaving enough frosting to cover the sides and top of the cake. To finish, decorate the top with chopped chocolate and a light sprinkling of the sea salt flakes.
From first glance at the recipe, you will be able to see that this recipe is not for the faint hearted. Only true choc-a-holics and sugar lovers need read any further!! This cake is no where near good for you and should definitely only be eaten in moderation. It is a monster of a chocolate cake and I would say it would stretch to far more than 10-12 servings. It was huge and contained, what I suspect would be, one persons sugar allowance for at least a month!!!
This recipe also has a lot of steps and should not be tackled lightly. I decided to stretch the preparations over two days, making the caramel sauce and sponges one evening, making the frosting and assembling the cake the next day.
The cake took me quite a while to make, much longer than the suggested 50 minutes preparation time. This was purely my fault as I did have a few cooking disasters. Whilst waiting for the caramel sauce to become syrupy I got a little distracted by the television in the living room. The result? A burnt caramel sauce and a house which absolutely reeked of burnt sugar!! Not pleasant.
On to mistake number two! I was rather heavy-handed with the baking powder which meant I was left with two rather over inflated layers which quickly sunk when left to cool. In the end, this wasn’t so much of a disaster after all and I managed to use at least one of the layers. A basic mistake which I was really cross with myself for.
The final mistake was probably the (potentially) most disastrous. I only have two of the correct sized cake tins therefore, I couldn’t bake all three layers at once. Whilst trying to remove one of the cake layers from its tin whilst it was cooling so that I could move on to the third layer, I managed to drop the cake on the floor!!! Luckily I had enough cake mix to make two more layers and did not have to start from scratch all over again.
This cake was definitely a labour of love. Assembling it was rather tricky, I think I could have left the frosting in the fridge a bit longer so that it wasnt quite so runny. It certainly wasn’t as well presented as the picture in the book and wouldn’t have won any beauty contests however, it was SCRUMPTIOUS!!!! We all thoroughly enjoyed it – I even gave some to Lucy and Joe to take home and some to other visitors the following day!
The overall verdict: A fantastic cake for chocolate lovers but a recipe not for the faint hearted!! This cake is worth the effort if you are a keen baker and it will easily impress.
P.S – We decided to take the remainder of the cake to a picnic the next day with Mr MAC’s family (especially as it is dangerous to have anything so incredibly fattening yet delicious in our house for too long….it doesn’t last!) which seemed to be a good idea at first. Apparently this cake does not like to be transported so we ended up presenting everyone with a pile of chocolate mush instead of wonderfully decadent chocolate cake! Needless to say there weren’t any takers!!