Get ready to drool – it’s the last recipe in our series of all time favourites and it certainly is a showstopper…Our resident master baker Donna has done it again and pulled out all the stops with this Stranger Things inspired Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake.
It’s certainly got the wow-factor with three different elements to conquer: a chocolate cake, salted caramel AND a salted caramel buttercream. But once you master it, it’s pure chocolate heaven.
Donna chose this bake because it’s the most versatile recipe in her repertoire – it can be used to make a ‘showstopper’ piece like this one, but it can also be simply poured into a loaf tin, baked and served with a fudge glaze or divided between cupcake cases and adorned with silky ganache.
We can’t wait much longer – all this talk of chocolate, fudge and ganache has got our mouths watering. So without further ado, it’s time to start the show…
About the bake
A classic complaint when baking cakes is that the butter, sugar and egg mixture curdles, producing quite a heavy cake, but this can be avoided by making sure the butter and eggs are at room temperature. Ideally, you should be able to lay a piece of baking paper over the butter and easily push your finger straight through it. If you’ve not been able to get the butter and eggs out the night before then here’s a little cheat’s tip: cube the butter, place in a microwavable bowl and blast it for five seconds intervals. Do NOT judge it by eye – the butter may look solid one minute but can be a runny mess the next. To warm the eggs, place them in a bowl and cover them with warm (note: NOT BOILING) water while you gather the rest of your ingredients.
Whilst softened butter and room temperature eggs will go a long way towards combatting the dreaded curdle, some degree of what looks like curdling is absolutely normal just due to the eggs being mixed in. Another top tip is to add a spoonful of flour with each additional egg after half the eggs have already been mixed in.
Donna is also begging us to make sure you use vanilla extract and quote, “Not the cheap and synthetic tasting vanilla essence!” Apparently all major supermarkets sell it at a little over £1.
Chocolate cake – the ingredients
110g cocoa powder
1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract
180ml boiling water
225g caster sugar
225g soft dark brown sugar
6 medium eggs
420g sifted plain flour
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon good quality salt
270ml whole milk
1. Preheat oven to 170⁰c and line two 20cm round baking tins.
2. Mix the cocoa powder with the vanilla extract and the boiling water until it forms a smooth paste. Set aside to cool slightly.
3. Cream the butter and sugars together until they are light, pale and fluffy. If you’re using an electric mixer this should take around five minutes.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition (add a spoonful of flour with the fourth, fifth and sixth egg).
5. Add the cooled cocoa mixture and beat well.
6. Add a third of the dry ingredients and mix gently before adding half of the milk.
7. Continue like this until all the flour and milk are incorporated.
8. Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
9. Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
Whilst the cakes are cooling, it’s time to turn your attention to the salted caramel…
Quite frankly, it’s the stuff of dreams and is surprisingly straightforward to make at home so don’t be afraid to make it from scratch. Just don’t mix in the sugar whilst it is melting; instead swirl the pan, and if the mixture starts to form lumps of crystallised sugar once the cream and butter are added, simply place the pan back on the heat and the lumps should disappear. Don’t worry too much – you can strain the mixture through a sieve to catch the last remaining lumps anyway.
Salted caramel – the ingredients
375g caster sugar
450ml double cream
75g unsalted butter
4 teaspoons of Cornish Sea Salt
1. Place the caster sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan on a medium heat.
2. Once the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan to incorporate the liquid areas.
3. Gently warm the cream and butter in a separate pan until the butter has melted, almost reaching a simmer.
4. Once the sugar has completely melted and has reached a dark amber colour (think of an old penny!), remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cream and butter. Be careful – the mixture will splutter and rise before calming.
Finally, leave the salted caramel to cool whilst you make the final part of the showstopper – the buttercream…
Donna started singing frantically when we asked her how the method goes for making her moorish salted caramel buttercream. We think we managed to decipher it as Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It,’ as after she’d finished bursting into song she said, “The secret is to beat the mixture for approximately 10 minutes with an electric mixer on high speed.” That’s that cleared up then.
Salted Caramel Buttercream – the ingredients
250g soft unsalted butter
400g icing sugar
150ml of your cooled salted caramel
1. Beat the butter briefly with an electric whisk or mixer, before gradually adding the icing sugar.
2. Turn the mixer up to full speed and beat for ten minutes until super pale and fluffy.
3. Add the cooled salted caramel and mix.
That’s all the individual components done and dusted so now it’s time for the exciting part. If you have a cake leveller, now’s the time to whip it out – otherwise a good eye and sharp serrated bread knife will do.
Level the tops of the cakes and hide them to eat when no one is looking – you’ve totally earned the offcuts – and split each cake in half to make four layers in total.
Use a bit of the buttercream to ‘glue’ the first cake layer to your cake board or stand, spread a generous amount of the salted caramel buttercream on the top and drizzle some of the salted caramel sauce all over.
Repeat this layering process until you get to the fourth and final layer and get ready to unleash your creativity…This is the time when you can decorate the Showstopper however you wish. Donna made this cake for our Directors’ children, with a galaxy, Stranger Things-esk ‘mirror glaze’ completely covering the sponge, topped off with homemade chocolate shards.
There might be a few components to this recipe, but the end result is more than worth it. Send pictures of how your showstopper turned out to firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to see them!