salted caramel + chocolate layer cake

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Three working days left this year… THREE. I am so looking forward to bundling myself onto a CrossCountry train on Thursday and heading north for the holidays.

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This will be the first Christmas we’ve had in the U.K. in about six or seven years, so we don’t have many traditions to contend with. My grandparents are going to come and stay for a few days, and I think the rest of the time will be spent going on walks, cooking, eating and watching festive TV. That’s got to be one of the nicest things about being a working woman {LOL, I still can’t believe it} now; this holiday will be just a holiday. There’s no revision or essay writing to be done. That hasn’t been the case in about six or seven years either.

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My housemate Alex is a Christmas baby and will be celebrating on the 29th, which never works out well for partying with university friends. I decided for him {he didn’t mind too much, honest 😉 } that he’d have a ‘birthday – in – lieu’ on Friday night, and then mentally kicked myself because it meant making a layer cake after work on Wednesday and Thursday night. Trust me, there’s a reason why I now bake on the weekends; lying in bed around midnight with a timer set on my phone for the cake to have just 10 more minutes in the oven ain’t much fun.

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The request was for a salted caramel and chocolate cake, or a trypanosome {the parasites that Alex studies}. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I went with the first option and gave the ‘tall and thin layer cake with drips’ another go with a new 6″ tin. This was my first time making caramel and I got there on the 2nd attempt – make sure your butter is room temp, people – or prepare to chisel bits of solidified sugar out of your saucepan for what seems like eternity.

Salted Caramel and Chocolate Layer Cake

  • Difficulty: a little complex
  • Print

Four layers of rich, dark chocolate cake, sandwiched with salted caramel buttercream, frosted with dark chocolate ganache and topped with a salted caramel drip

  • The salted caramel recipe is from the always-wonderful Sally’s Baking Addiction.
  • Having just one 6″ tin and due to the long bake time, I halved the chocolate cake recipe below, baked one cake, then made up another half-mixture and baked the second.

Ingredients

Chocolate cakes:
  • 225g plain flour
  • 345g caster sugar
  • 85g cocoa powder
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1½ tsp bicarb. soda
  • 2 eggs {room temp.}
  • 250ml milk
  • 125ml flavourless oil {i.e. sunflower, vegetable}
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250ml just-boiled hot water
Salted caramel:
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 90g salted butter {room temp., in small chunks}
  • 120ml double cream
  • 1 tsp salt
Salted caramel buttercream:
  • 160g soft, unsalted butter
  • 540g icing sugar
  • ½ tbsp vanilla extract
  • approx. ½ of the salted caramel from above {I used a third of a cup + an extra tbsp}
  • 2 tbsp milk
Chocolate ganache:
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 200ml double cream

Method

Chocolate cakes:

Preheat your oven to 140*C and line two 6″ cake tins with greaseproof paper.

Whisk together the flour, raising agents and cocoa in a large mixing bowl.

In a jug, whisk together the milk, oil, eggs and vanilla. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Mix in the hot water in small additions. The mixture will be very runny.

Divide among the tins and start checking with a skewer for doneness after 1 hour. If not ready, return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Cover with foil if the top is starting to burn.

Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Salted caramel: 

Add the sugar to a medium-sized saucepan and heat on a medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula. The sugar will start to clump together and melt; keep stirring.

When the sugar is fully melted i.e. an amber-coloured liquid, add the butter and stir carefully but rapidly.

Let the mixture bubble for 2-3 minutes.

Slowly drizzle in the cream and stir. The mixture will bubble and spit so be careful. Let it cook for a minute or so.

Take off the heat and stir in the salt. Leave to cool.

Salted caramel buttercream and the first stages of assembly:

Beat the butter in a large mixing bowl until pale and fluffy.

Gradually add the icing sugar and beat. Add the salted caramel, vanilla and milk, and beat for a further 3+ minutes until soft and fluffy. Add more milk to thin it out if necessary.

Use a serrated knife to cut each cake into two equal layers. Put one onto a serving plate, and put a splodge of buttercream on top. Spread the buttercream out, and add the next layer. Repeat until you’ve got your four layers. Reserve some of the buttercream for rosettes, and use the rest to crumb-coat the cake.

Put the cake in the fridge to chill.

Chocolate ganache:

Break the chocolate into small pieces and put in a heatproof bowl.

Heat up the cream until hot, but not boiling. Pour it over the chocolate and leave for a couple of minutes.

Whisk until smooth and glossy – if a few lumps remain, put the bowl over a pan of simmering water for a minute or two.

Leave the ganache to cool and thicken until spreadable.

Final assembly:

Retrieve the cake from the fridge and coat with the chocolate ganache.

Heat up the remaining caramel a little so it’s a bit more runny, and spoon into a piping bag.

Pipe the caramel over the top of the cake, encouraging it to drip down the sides.

Pipe rosettes of the salted caramel buttercream on top to finish.

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