Valentine’s Chocolate Cake with Italian Meringue Buttercream

choc cake italian meringue 2choc cake italian meringue 3

I’m going to start this post by confessing my new love for Yolanda Gampp, aka. the lady behind How To Cake It. She makes the most amazing cakes on her Youtube channel – from BB8 to flowerpots to burgers and fries and an anatomically correct human heart! Adding to that, she has an awesome cake-based T shirt collection and is just hilarious on camera. Swoon ❤

I decided to give her ‘ultimate chocolate cake’ recipe a go and it’s fab. The best thing is that along with the recipe, there’s a list of tin sizes and then how much batter each needs and how long to cook it for!  = what a babe.

In a further ode to my new crush, I also made Italian Meringue Buttercream for the first time. I’ve been scared of it for a very long time as it requires making a sugar syrup and a meringue and then combining the two at a specific temperature in order to cook the egg whites. The internet has horror stories of soupy curdled messes, but Yolanda also has a tutorial on it here so I felt a little more confident.

Would I make it for every cake? I’m not sure. It’s great to say that I’ve given it a go and I can tick it off the to do list and feel accomplished, but I don’t think I’d go to that much effort for just an everyday sort of cake. It’s less sweet, which I like, and spreads much more nicely… but takes a heck of a lot more time and organisation. Of course, the next thing to do would to try Swiss meringue buttercream, which is the same ingredients but in a slightly different order. But I think I’ll save that for another time – I’m a bit caked out at the moment 😉


chocolate cake:

  • 225g / 1 cup unsalted butter {room temp.}
  • 2½ cups caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups just-boiled water
  • 2¾ cups plain flour
  • 2 tsp bicarb. soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt


  • approx. 7 tbsp Nutella

Italian meringue buttercream:

  • 200g caster/granulated sugar
  • 4 egg whites {room temp.}
  • 230g unsalted butter {room temp.}
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • food colouring
  • confectionery thermometer



Preheat your oven to 175*C and line a 10″ (25cm) circular tin with greaseproof paper.

Put your water on to boil, and then add it to the cocoa in a smallish mixing bowl. Whisk together until the cocoa is dissolved, and then set aside.

Sift together all of the other dry ingredients (flour, bicarb, baking powder salt) and set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar in your biggest mixing bowl for at least 5 mins {or until you get bored, Yolanda’s recipe says 8-10 but my patience didn’t stretch that far}. Add the eggs one by one and beat.

Next add roughly ¼ of your dry ingredients to the butter-sugar-egg mixture and fold through with a spatula. Add about a third of the warm cocoa, and mix through gently. Repeat this process, alternating between dry ingredients and cocoa until you’ve used them both up – you should finish on dry.

Tip the cake mix into your tin, and bake in the oven for 1 hour and 20 mins, checking with a skewer to see if it’s done. {I covered the top of my cake with foil about 45 minutes into the bake because I was worried it would burn, but 1 hour 20 as Yolanda suggests was perfect for this size tin 🙂 }

Leave to cool in the tin.

choc cake batterchoc cake baked

Italian meringue buttercream:

{I definitely found that having all my ingredients measured out before I started this was really useful, because you haven’t got much time once things kick off. You need your egg whites in a clean mixing bowl, sugar and water in a saucepan, butter chopped into small pieces and electric beaters ready}

In a smallish saucepan {like I have a choice of saucepan 😉 }  heat your sugar with ¼ cup water. Put your thermometer on the side so you can keep an eye on the temperature, and stir occasionally.

As the temperature climbs past 200*F, start whipping the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, but try not to overdo it.


When the temperature of the sugar syrup reaches 240*F {the soft ball stage – whatever that means} it’s go-time. Take it off the heat and pour into the egg whites as you continue to beat. At this point, the mixture went really shiny, which I can only presume was a good thing.

sugar syrup 2

italian meringue

Once I’d added the syrup in, it went all nice and shiny…

Continue to beat until the bowl cools down to room temperature.

Add the butter in small chunks until it’s fully combined into the mixture. This was where my mixture curdled, but not to worry – it’s still fixable. Keep beating for 10 mins or so and see if it comes together. If not, I took a small amount of the mixture out in a mug, then microwaved it for 10 seconds until it melted. I then poured this back into the main mixture, kept beating, and it came together. {I figure that the curdling was because the flat was chilly?!}.


Horrible curdley mess 😦

buttercream 1


Finally, add in the vanilla and your desired food colouring. I kept a small amount plain and tinted the rest pink.


Carefully cut the cake in two and put the bottom half on a serving plate. Spread a generous amount of Nutella on top, and then put the second half back on top.

Spread a thin coat of buttercream onto the cake, and then put it in the fridge to set up for around 10 minutes.

crumb coat choc cake italian meringue

Spread the rest of the buttercream on the cake, and decorate with whatever passive-aggressive sentiment you please in the plain coloured stuff!

2 thoughts on “Valentine’s Chocolate Cake with Italian Meringue Buttercream

  1. What a great looking cake Hannah! ‘How to bake’ certainly does sound a babe, with all that fabulous info about cake tin size and baking time!
    I too have never made Italian Buttercream, though I now have a digital thermometer so I have no excuse now ;-)!
    Angela x
    PS love the comment on your cake 🙂


    • She’s great, I’m absolutely head over heels 😉 and absolutely, get on it! 😛
      Loved your recent quinoa salad post by the way – my boyfriend has recently become vegetarian so I’m going to give it a go when he next visits. Will let you know how it goes!
      Hannah 🙂 x


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