CHOCOLATE CAKE – The ULTIMATE Recipe

Usually when I get food cravings, it’s one of three things – cookies, pancakes, or chocolate cake. Chocolate cake is one of those desserts that is so indulgent, and it is very hard to find a store bought one that is perfect in texture and flavour. After years of trying out different chocolate cake recipes, this is by far the best one! The sponge itself is in a way light and dense at the same time, and the buttercream is to die for! The recipe is quite straightforward and the ingredients are fairly basic, however there are some technical steps. I also explain how to achieve the best shape cake and if you look at the gallery below, you can see that the decorating possibilities are endless!

Make sure all of your ingredients are room temperature so everything is properly emulsified. If you can, use a stand mixer or a handheld one, otherwise the buttercream is going to be hard to make. Special equipment include: stand mixer, candy thermometer, pastry brush.

Ingredients:

For the chocolate sponge:

  • 90 g cocoa powder
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 300 g dark brown sugar
  • 180 g sour cream
  • 75 ml vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp salt

For the chocolate buttercream:

  • 250 g caster sugar
  • 60 g water
  • 70 g egg yolks (about 4 eggs)
  • 25 g whole egg (break up the egg and whisk it, measure out 25 grams)
  • 500 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 300 g dark chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a large cookie sheet tray with parchment paper. I like to use a flat thin tray with straight sides to make sure the sponge bakes quickly and evenly without drying out. Then I cut out the desired circle sizes from the sponge.
  2. For the sponge, in a large bowl whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, coffee and salt. To make sure there are no lumps of flour and cocoa powder, I suggest you sift these ingredients.
  3. In another large bowl, or a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, place the egg, egg yolk and sugar, and mix until all the sugar is broken up. Add in the sour cream, oil and vanilla, and mix until combined.
  4. Finally, mix the dry ingredients into the wet until thoroughly combined, for about 1 minute. Pour the batter out onto your baking tray and spread out evenly. Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the centre and the top of the sponge springs back to the touch. Let cool completely.
  5. While the sponge is cooling, make the buttercream. In a saucepan place the sugar and the water. Using a pastry brush, brush the sides of the pan with cold water to get rid of any stray sugar crystals. Bring to a boil, then place a candy thermometer into the centre of the mixture, and wait until it reaches 115 degrees Celsius.
  6. At this point you want to have your egg yolks and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Start whisking the eggs when the sugar mixture reaches 115 degrees C. Wait until the sugar mixture reaches 121 degrees Celsius, then take off heat and slowly pour into the eggs, while the mixer is still running. Once all of the sugar syrup is mixed in, turn up the speed and whisk until the bowl is cool to the touch, and the mixture is thick, fluffy and pale.
  7. With the mixer still running, and the mixture cooled, start adding in the room temperature butter, little by little. Once all the butter is added, the mixture should be a beautifully fluffy and thick buttercream. Finish it off by adding vanilla and melted chocolate, and mix until thoroughly combined.
  8. Now you’re ready to assemble the cake. Using a cutter, a plate or a bowl of a desired size as a template, cut out circles from your baking tray. I always get two full circles, and make up the third one with all the cut off scraps (this one is used in the middle of the cake). Place a small dollop of buttercream onto the plate or board you’re using and place the first layer of sponge on top. I like using a piping bag to pipe an even layer of buttercream on top of the first layer. Place the middle layer of the sponge on top of the first layer of buttercream, and again pipe an even layer of buttercream on top of the second sponge. Finally, top it off with the final sponge layer and crumbcoat the whole cake with buttercream. This means you spread a very thin layer of buttercream all over the cake to lock in all the crumbs. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to set that layer.
  9. After a quick chill, using a piping bag, pipe buttercream all over the cake. Using an offset spatula, or a straight sided bench scraper, even out the buttercream on the sides and the top. If you have buttercream leftover, you could pipe stars or blobs on the top and the sides of the cake, and decorate as you’d like. I like to place my cake in the fridge for another hour to set the buttercream, then I slice it while it’s cold, and eat it when the slice comes slightly to room temperature. Enjoy!

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