A decadent fudgy chocolate cake you will make time and time again
A pinch of salt in the buttercream enhances the rich chocolate tones
Chocolate fudge layer cake. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography
A decadent, moist chocolate cake, like the one you longed for as a child, is such a beautiful thing. It is the kind of cake that you dreamed of having at your birthday party. Chocolate cake should be fudgy, not a dry crumb in sight.
This recipe gives you three layers of the softest, most delicate chocolate sponge sandwiched together with chocolate buttercream. A pinch of salt in the buttercream enhances the rich chocolate tones and perfectly balances the sweetness. We’re using cocoa powder and dark chocolate here so this cake fulfills those nostalgic desires but is a much more refined version.
I used to really dislike dark chocolate. Anything other than a sugary commercial bar was too harsh, too bitter for my adolescent palate. It wasn’t until I began training as a pastry chef that I really learned to appreciate the notes, the texture and the layers of flavour within each ingredient. My palate changed. Tasting desserts every day meant I learned to appreciate a dish for its flavour, rather than for its sweetness.
I entered a chocolate competition during my time as head pastry chef at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud and won with a dessert made with not just one, but four different types of chocolate. My prize was an opportunity to train at the world renowned Valrhona École du Chocolat in Paris, where I got to work with some of the best chocolatiers in the world and play with chocolate for a whole week. It’s hard to complain when you feed people treats for a living.
Chocolate is something that is nostalgic, soothing, and one of life’s simple pleasures. This recipe elevates the classic chocolate cake by paring it back, and ensuring each element is fuss-free, but executed perfectly. It has all the flavours in balance and is not sickly sweet. I guarantee you’ll make it time and time again.
CHOCOLATE FUDGE LAYER CAKE
For the chocolate sponge:
150g unsalted butter, softened
400g caster sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
75g cocoa powder
260g self raising flour
For the chocolate buttercream:
560g unsalted butter, softened
90g icing sugar
165g dark chocolate, 60-70 per cent cocoa solids
1 For the chocolate sponge: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, or 160 degreesif using a fan oven. Grease 3x20cm sandwich cake tins and line the base of each with a disc of parchment paper.
2 Sift the cocoa powder into a bowl and add 135ml boiling water to make a paste. Whisk until smooth and set aside to cool slightly.
3 Cream the butter and sugar together using an electric beater, stand mixer, or by hand, until pale, creamy and soft. Add the eggs one by one, letting each incorporate fully into the mixture before adding the next.
4 Scrape the cocoa paste into the butter, sugar and egg mix, continuing to beat until fully combined. Sift the flour into the mix and add the salt and mix on a low speed until the flour is incorporated.
5 Divide the mix between the three cake tins and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
6 Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool slightly in the tins, before turning out onto a wire rack and leaving to cool fully.
7 For the chocolate buttercream: Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, ensuring that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Alternatively, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl in a microwave for 30 seconds, giving the chocolate a little mix, repeating until the chocolate is fully melted. Remove the chocolate from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.
8 Beat the butter with an electric beater, stand mixer, or by hand, until pale and creamy. Sift the icing sugar into the bowl, add the salt, and continue to beat until fully incorporated.
9 Scrape the chocolate into the buttercream and mix well until fully combined. Loosen the buttercream with the milk, adding a tablespoon at a time until it is silky.
10 To assemble: Spread a quarter of the buttercream onto one of the chocolate sponges and place the second sponge on top. Repeat with another quarter of the buttercream and place the remaining sponge on top. Cover the cake with the remaining buttercream, and store in the fridge until ready to serve, or serve immediately.