Best-Ever Chocolate Nutella Layer Cake

Chocolate, chocolate everywhere!

I was looking through some older posts the other day, and I came across these Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes with Nutella Cloud Frosting. And while I’ve never been fixated on Nutella desserts, I had almost forgotten how much I loved the way the sweet and hazelnutty flavour and creamy texture of Nutella added a much-welcome addition to these otherwise classic (but awesome) chocolate cupcakes.  So this week I decided to make a super-simple, quick and easy cake version of those cupcakes, embracing quality dark chocolate, extra dark cocoa powder and, of course, Nutella.

Simply put, the frosting is magical. Like unicorn and rainbows magical.

I have this thing about chocolate frosting. I kind of need it to be airy and satiny, as opposed to super-fudgy and dense–I think it pairs so well with a deep, dark moist chocolate cake, such as this one. This frosting is a take on that same Nutella Cloud Frosting I had used on the cupcakes, but I decided to add much more Nutella and a generous amount of sour cream to balance out the sweet. Rather than using the mixer, I just popped everything into my food processor and gave it a 60-second spin or so. The result was the creamiest and richest sweet chocolate frosting I’ve ever tasted.

In addition to the Nutella, we add a good dose of extra dark premium melted chocolate (I used a 70%) to help keep some of the intense chocolate flavour. The Nutella lends to the satiny texture, but because it is already quite sweet, the overall quality of this frosting is on the sweet side, but with a dark decadence. If you can’t get Nutella, or if you find you prefer a deeper flavour with minimal sweetness, you could even skip the Nutella and add a handful of ground hazelnuts. Of course the texture would change to a more rustic one, but the taste would be notably more sophisticated.

But Nutella seems to bring a nostalgic element for some, and if this cake is going anywhere near a little cakelet’s belly, I think Nutella is the way to go, because kids go, well, nuts for this stuff.

And because this cake, as simple as it is, is a celebration of chocolate, I opted for a medley of pure chocolate sprinkles as the finishing touch. It adds an interesting visual and delightful chocolaty crunch to each slice. For the piped border, I went with an unfussy shell-style border, but extended each one for a few extra seconds to create a more elongated shell look. Nothing fancy, but quick, easy and pretty. Because this frosting pipes like a dream, it makes for the perfect frosting border.

So this photo just goes to show that not all cakes look picture-perfect when sliced (this is what happens when I frost a cake and take photos 10 minutes later, rather than refrigerating it for some time to set), but holy Easter-bunny this chocolaty madness is divine. And it couldn’t be easier to create. You’ll see!

Best-Ever Chocolate & Nutella Layer Cake

Yield: One 3-layer, 7-inch round cake

Super-moist, dark chocolate cake filled and frosted with satiny dark chocolate & Nutella sour cream frosting and covered in a medley of chocolate sprinkles.

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 2 1/4 cups (285 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/3 cups (470 grams) superfine sugar
  • 3/4 cup (90 grams) dark Dutch-process cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Extra Brute)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (12 grams) baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (8 grams) salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) brewed coffee or espresso
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Frosting:
  • 4 1/2 cups (565 grams) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (340 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (280 grams) Nutella (or other hazelnut spread)
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) full-fat sour cream
  • 11 ounces (330 grams) best-quality dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare three 7-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray and parchment rounds.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, sift all dry ingredients, including sugar. Combine eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla in a measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork.
  3. Add milk mixture to the dry ingredients mix for 1 minute on medium speed (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer). Divide batter evenly among prepared pans--each pan should contain about 600 grams of batter.
  4. Bake the first 2 layers for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Continue to bake until toothpick or skewer comes almost clean (a few crumbs), about 5 more minutes. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes. Repeat with remaining layer, and then gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
  5. For the Chocolate Frosting:
  6. Put all of the ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until smooth and glossy, about 1 minute. The frosting will be very soft. Refrigerate the frosting until it thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.
  7. Assembly of the Best-Ever Chocolate & Nutella Layer Cake:
  8. Put a dollop of frosting on a 7-inch round cake board (or cake plate) or 8-inch scalloped cake board.
  9. Put your first layer top-up on the cake board or plate, and spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly across layer. Put the second cake layer on top and repeat with another layer of frosting. Put the final cake layer top-down. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and wiggle the layers into place. Refrigerate the cake for about 30 minutes.
  10. Using a turntable, if possible, frost entire outside of cake with a thin layer of frosting to seal in the crumbs. Chill until the frosting begins to firm-up, about 15 minutes. Repeat with another thin layer of frosting, this time working to achieve a smooth finish. Chill for another 15 minutes.
  11. Apply a third coat of frosting to the cake. Holding a tall pastry comb in your dominant hand, press it gently against the side of the cake and keep it steady. Use the other hand to slowly rotate the turntable until you have gone all the way around the cake. Gently press some chocolate sprinkles around the bottom edge of the cake.
  12. Fit a medium pastry bag with a medium-large closed star tip, such as 1M, and fill about 2/3 full with frosting. Pipe a border around the top of the cake. Chill the cake until the frosting border firms up, at least 30 minutes.
  13. Cover the top of the cake (but not the piped border) with chocolate sprinkles. Once frosting softens again, the sprinkles will adhere to top. The cake will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • If you don’t have 7-inch round cake pans, you could also use 8-inch cake pans. The layers will just be ever-so-slightly shorter.
  • For the cake layers, I use Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Brute–it adds so much depth, chocolate-y flavour and a wonderfully dark hue.
  • For the frosting I used Callebaut Dark Callets 70.4 %  to balance the sweetness of the Nutella.
  • I used one of the Wilton Decorate Smart 3-Piece Icing Comb Set for the sides of the cake (the furthest comb to the right in the image).
  • I used a medley of chocolate vermicelli sprinkles on top, including India Tree Chocolate Vermicelli and De Ruyter Chocoadehagel. Any kind works well, but I prefer to keep it to pure chocolate vermicelli, as opposed to just chocolate jimmies.
  • Because the frosting has sour cream in it, it’s best to refrigerate this cake if it hasn’t been gobbled up after a day. Keep refrigerated at that point, and serve at room temperature (although it tastes pretty great cold too).

Happy Easter to you and your family!

Good luck & enjoy!



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Easter Extravaganza Bark

I think it’s safe to say that treat-wise, Easter is my best-loved time of year. The endless chocolate, the bunnies of all shapes and sizes, pastel marshmallows, Peeps, candy-coated eggs, cream-filled eggs, pastel everything, sprinkles and more–all of the flavours and colours make me giddy. I’ve seen some pretty colourful Easter Candy Bark on Pinterest, but I decided to create my own version and go a little crazy with the toppings. There’s something so delightful about full, but small, peanut-butter filled bunnies, bunny marshmallow and peeps bound to swirls of Callebaut Dark Chocolate 53.8% along with Callebaut white chocolate, and then surrounded by a flurry of mini treats and sprinkles. I incorporated Rice Krispies into the bottom layer of the bark because those crispy chocolate bunnies were my favourite as a little girl, and I’d say even still.

And while I think it makes perfect sense to use leftover Easter candy, I can’t help but feel that this sort of treat is so much more appealing right before or during Easter time. I just feel that it’s kind of the last thing people want to see after a few days of indulging in all things Easter, you know? And since it takes almost no time at all, it’s a simple way to bring the unexpected to Easter celebrations without spending hours in the kitchen (you know, I’d never recommend that . . . ahem. #letsmaketoweringcakes).

I also think this would be such a great addition to any Easter basket–my girls’ eyes were as big as saucers when they came home and saw this Easter sugar explosion in the kitchen. And why not include your cakelets and make it an Easter weekend activity–you layer the chocolate, and let them do all of the toppings? Or even let them come shopping and decide what’s going to land upon the sea of chocolate bark themselves.

So when I decided to create this Easter Extravaganza Bark, I headed for the Easter section of Target for inspiration and to pick up an array of toppings, and then I tied that in with some of the sprinkles and sugar decorations I had here at home. I went with a few Marshmallow Peeps 60th Anniversary Vanilla Creme marshmallows (these are amazing, and I fear only around for a short time), Wilton Silhouette Bunny Icing DecorationsReese’s Easter Mini Peanut Butter Reester BunniesM&M’s White Chocolate Easter CandyCadbury Mini EggsDare Marshmallow Rabbits, and then just some white sugar pearls, pink nonpareils and jimmies.

Afterwards, I realized that I had wanted to use my all-time favourite Easter candy: Whoppers Easter Mini Robin Eggs. I love the speckled candy coating and I’m a Whopper (similar to Maltesers) fanatic. Forgetting to include them may have had something to do with the fact that the almost-empty bag was in my, um, purse. While I usually resist most candy on daily basis, I cannot resist anything malted-milk related. I’m going to make another batch and include those along with a few jelly beans and mini cream eggs. Oh yes.

When I make bark of any kind, I temper the chocolate. You’ll probably notice that in many bark recipes the instructions simply call for melting the chocolate and then storing the bark in the refrigerator. While this does work just fine, I tend to love to gift my bark, so I prefer to temper the chocolate first, which takes no extra time (when you do it the easy way, in the microwave) and gives the chocolate that gloss and snap we all love (I also much prefer to eat chocolate at room temperature). Once tempered, the bark can stay at room temperature and makes it a little prettier with its sheen and snap.

For the marbling, I tinted the Belgian white chocolate a pastel shade of teal (even pink or yellow would be amazing) using a bit of AmeriColor Flo-Coat mixed with AmeriColor turquoise gel paste (see Sweetapolita’s Notes), because while using colourful candy compound melts would be a fraction easier, I like to keep the quality of the bark the best it can be, since it’s all about the chocolate when it comes to bark. An alternative would be adding a few coloured candy melts to the white chocolate before melting/tempering for the same effect.

Since no two batches are ever the same, I’d love to see what Easter Extravaganza Bark creations you come up with! Share them on my Sweetapolita Facebook page or even send me a photo via email. I’d love to hear from you!

Easter Extravaganza Bark

Dark Belgian chocolate and Rice Krispie bark covered with swirled dark & white and topped with a medley of Easter chocolate, candy, sprinkles, marshmallows and more.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound plus 2 ounces (600 grams) best-quality dark chocolate, chopped or callets
  • 2 cups (50 grams) Rice Krispies (or other puffed rice cereal)
  • 6 ounces (180 grams) best-quality white chocolate, chopped or callets
  • About 8 turquoise candy melts (such as Wilton brand), chopped, OR few drops AmeriColor Sky Blue gel paste colour plus Flo-Coat (see Sweetapolita's Notes)
  • Variety of Easter candy (such as mini filled chocolate bunnies, marshmallow bunnies, white chocolate m & m candy, candy-coated mini eggs, Peeps, etc.)
  • Sprinkles of choice

Instructions

  1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
  2. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, heat 10 ounces (300 grams) of the dark chocolate in 20-second bursts, stirring well after each interval, until the chocolate is almost melted but still has some solid pieces. Stop heating and stir until smooth--this can take a few moments (see Sweetapolita's Notes). Stir in the rice cereal until combined, and use a small offset palette knife to spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet in a very thin layer. Let sit until slightly firm, about 30 minutes. In the meanwhile, prepare your candy toppings (unwrap foil-covered chocolate, etc.).
  3. Using the same tempering method, heat the remaining dark chocolate and stir until smooth. Spread the chocolate overtop of the first layer. Temper the white chocolate (this only takes about 50-60 seconds), including the candy melts if using. If using gel paste to colour, combine the Flo-Coat and gel paste in a small bowl and stir into the tempered white chocolate. Pour the tempered and tinted white chocolate into a few lines across the dark chocolate, and swirl with a toothpick.
  4. While the dark and white chocolate are still soft, add all of your candy toppings. Let sit until completely set, about 2 hours, and then cut into wedges using a large, sharp knife. Store at room temperature.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • To learn about how to temper chocolate the “easy way,” in the microwave, check out these simple instructions from Callebaut. In addition to those steps, if you have a digital candy thermometer, just be sure that your dark chocolate never exceeds 32-33°C (90°F), and 30°C (86°F) for white or milk chocolate. If this does happen, simply add a handful of chocolate callets or chopped chocolate, and stir well to until smooth. Heat for a few seconds if necessary, but again not exceeding those ideal temperatures.
  • I use AmeriColor Flo-Coat when colouring white chocolate, which is a candy-oil used for making water-based gel-paste colours compatible with chocolate. If we add the gel-paste colours straight to the white chocolate, it causes it to seize. To use the Flo-Coat, mix 6 drops for every 1 drop of colour, and combine before adding to the tempered chocolate. For this recipe, I used 18 drops of Flo-Coat with 3 drops of AmeriColor Sky Blue gel paste. Alternatively, you can add a small handful of chopped coloured candy melts (such as Make & Mold or Wilton) to your white chocolate before melting, and that will tint your chocolate a pale turquoise.
  • As you’ve probably guessed, absolutely anything goes when it comes to what you add to this candy bark–jelly beans, malted milk eggs, mini creme eggs and so much more would be incredible additions!
  • Wrap a few slabs of bark in a crystal clear cellophane bag tied with some festive pastel ribbon for a whimsical addition to any Easter basket or for gifting.

Good luck & enjoy!

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Florentine Cookies + The Cookiepedia Book Giveaway {Winners Announced}

Happy Spring!

Well, sort of. It’s still snowing on and off here in Southern Ontario, but I’m hopeful. The good news is that this week is the first week in over 9 months during which I’ve been able to frolic freely in the kitchen and bake anything I wish. So Florentine cookies it was. And you guys, these are amazing. See, quite awhile back, I became enamoured with my talented friend Stacy Adimando’s cookbook, The Cookiepedia: Mixing Baking, and Reinventing the Classics, and I’ve been dying to make something, or everything, from it. 

So when I spotted a recipe for Florentines in her book, I knew I had to make them. And although Florentines are known to be an Italian treat (as the name suggests), I first fell in love with these crunchy, nutty discs of caramelized delight back when I was a teenager working at an Austrian bakery. When I googled this, I realized that appears to be a small debate regarding the Florentine cookie’s origin, but it’s safe to say that it is celebrated in not only Italy and Austria, but now here in my kitchen.  These are the most decadent and surprisingly simple cookies to prepare in all of the land, and I’ll just never get over them. I won’t.

So what exactly is a Florentine? Well, there are some variations, but typically they are super-thin, round, caramelized almond cookies made from butter, sugar, cream, corn syrup, salt and of course almonds, and there is usually some form of dark chocolate added. As you probably noticed in my photos, these ones are drizzled with chocolate as Stacy’s recipe includes, but many have their entire bottoms dipped in chocolate with a distinct pattern added, and include additional ingredients, such as candied fruit. Think of them as individual, lacy almond brittles that shatter in your mouth like little round sheets of nutty, buttery, caramel crack. Sometimes it actually kind of freaks me out that we have the power to create such deliciousness in our own kitchens, especially when it only takes a matter of minutes.

Stacy explains that the idea behind her book was to give 50 classic cookie recipes, and then offer ways to spin them into more modern versions with tons of ideas for adapting the recipes for countless variations. So, for example, she shares a chocolate chip recipe, but also a dark chocolate sea salt chip. And a peanut butter cookie, but also a pistachio butter cookie, and so many more. One of the reasons I love Stacy’s book most, aside from the gorgeous photography and charming illustration work, is that the recipes range so greatly–think everything from frosted animal crackers to French macarons, sables to sesame crisps, and so many more.

I know you guys will adore this book, if you don’t already that is, so I’m excited to host a The Cookiepedia giveaway! I have 3 copies of this go-to cookie book, courtesy of Stacy and Quirk Books, and I will be sending a copy to 3 lucky readers!

I’m also excited to share this recipe for the Florentines–they truly are of the most exquisite cookies I have tasted in a long time. I’ve listed the recipe just as it is in the book, but I have also added the ingredient weights, just in case, as well as some of my own notes below.

Florentine Cookies with Chocolate Drizzles

Yield: Makes about 3 dozen 3-inch round cookies

Decadent nutty, buttery, caramelized cookie discs drizzled in dark chocolate. Recipe as printed in The Cookiepedia cookbook by Stacy Adimando.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (60 grams) corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon (8 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/3 cups (210 grams) sliced almonds
  • 4 ounces (120 grams) roughly chopped bittersweet chocolate

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set them aside.
  2. Melt the butter, sugar and corn syrup together over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Add the cream and salt and do the same.
  3. Let cook until the mixture comes to a full boil, and then add in the almonds and stir to combine. Continue cooking for 3 more minutes until the mixture thickens and starts to move around the pan in one mass. Take the pan off the heat.
  4. Drop 4 small spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheets, leaving as much room between them as possible (the baked cookies will spread to about triple the size).
  5. Using an offset spatula or a wet hand, spread and flatten the batter into 3-inch rounds, creating a thin layer.
  6. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, or until edges are brown and centers are just turning golden.
  7. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and immediately reshape the cookies back into 3-inch circles, using the offset spatula or the back of a spoon to drag the batter back into place and round the edges. The cookies will harden within a few minutes.
  8. tip: if they harden too fast, just return them to the oven for a minute or so.
  9. Cool the reshaped cookies until they are firm and cool enough to handle. Then move them to a wire rack covered with parchment paper to set completely.
  10. As the optional (though delicious and suggested) finisher, melt the chocolate, in a glass or metal bowl over a pot of simmering water on the stove. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the tops of the Florentines. Let harden.
  11. Florentine Ice Cream Sandwiches
  12. When the cookies have cooled completely, skip the chocolate drizzle. Let a container of coffee or vanilla ice cream sit out, or microwave at 10-second intervals, until it's soft enough to dollop. In the meantime, lay half the Florentines on a parchment-lined baking sheet flat side up. Drop a heaping spoonful of the softened ice cream (about 2-3 tablespoons) into the center of each. Top with the remaining cookies and press lightly to adhere. Cover the baking sheet loosely with foil and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • I used a 1-tablespoon capacity cookie scoop for my cookies, and they spread quite a bit, yielding more of a very thin, large 5 1/2-inch round cookie, but I love them this size, so I simply worked to round the edges when they first came out of the oven. Use about 1 teaspoon size spoon for 3-inch cookies, or somewhere in between.
  • Much like a caramel concoction of any kind, the longer you heat (bake) the cookies, the darker and more intense the caramel flavour and colour will be, so there is a little room for personal preference with the baking times. I baked 1 sheet at a time on the middle rack of the oven, and kept the cookies in for the full 8 minutes. Once they start to turn golden, they have the potential to burn very quickly, so I recommend keeping a super-close eye on them at that point, and remove them from the oven quickly.
  • It might seem as though it’s going to take a lifetime to bake 36 cookies when 4-to-a-tray, but at 8 minutes each, time, it goes by really quickly!
  • I just used a fork to “fling” the melted chocolate onto the cookies in a fun drizzly criss-cross pattern.
  • Stacy mentions that these cookies are best enjoyed right after cooling, and I can certainly agree that these are amazing in that window of time (I could not stop eating them), but I then sealed them in a Ziploc bag after the chocolate drizzle set, and they’re still going strong (ahem) and tasting fabulous at the end of day 2.

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Good luck & enjoy!

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Sweet & Salty Millionaire’s Layer Cake

Hello, hello! After many, many months of devoted book creating, I’m excited to be back here with you, blogging on a regular basis! I’m also incredibly eager to share my book with you all, once it’s printed and released–it has been, wow, an incredible learning experience. It’s still kind of surreal to me that a book with my name on it will actually exist. A dream come true, for certain.

So . . . cake! And not just cake–the most decadent sweet & salty cake you could ever imagine. I call this layer cake “Sweet & Salty Millionaire’s Layer Cake” because it is my take on those ridiculously addicting Millionaire’s Bars–you know the ones: buttery shortbread topped with gooey caramel and a layer of rich, shiny chocolate. If that doesn’t beg to become a layer cake, I don’t know what does.

So I baked up 3 layers of dark, moist chocolate cake, torted them into a total of 6 thinner layers, and then filled them with vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream, homemade salted caramel, buttery shortbread crumble and dark chocolate ganache frosting. To finish it off, we smother the whole thing in a generous layer of more dark chocolate ganache frosting and a sprinkling of Fleur de Sel. I find that the satiny vanilla bean buttercream really balances out the intensity of the dark chocolate and sweet and salty caramel, and the shortbread adds an amazing melt-in-your-mouth textural surprise.

The ganache frosting is essentially a typical ganache (an emulsion of dark chocolate and heavy cream), but with some corn syrup and butter added in to keep it luscious and glossy and a pinch of sea salt to celebrate our love for sweet & salty.  I used a really dark chocolate this time, at 70% cocoa solids, but you could use any quality dark chocolate with at least 53% cocoa solids. I was almost out of the usual dark chocolate callets I love to use from Callebaut, so I bought 2 ginormous (300 grams each) premium chocolate bars, chopped them up and tossed in 100 grams of the chocolate callets I had left. With the super-sweetness of the caramel, I love the deep, dark chocolate frosting.

The 3-ingredient shortbread component is so quick and easy, and these bits & boulders of buttery love are just what this cake needed to really pay homage to the Millionaire’s Bars it was inspired by. Heck, they would even make an amazing little ice cream topping, along with the salted caramel perhaps? The salted caramel is so much easier to make than you might think and, as you might imagine, it can be used for so many things–pancakes, waffles, dipping apples, and more. You don’t have to “salt” it, but I feel it really heightens the natural caramel flavour and added vanilla.

One thing I’ve discovered is that when making ganache of any kind, an immersion hand blender (you know, the “stick” type hand blenders) works best to create perfectly homogenous ganache that won’t threaten to separate and become grainy. You can certainly use a whisk, but if you have an immersion blender I feel it works just that much better. I included 2 layers of ganache in the cake layers because I felt that 5 layers of caramel could be a little much, but maybe I’m crazy. So you could always keep the ganache as the frosting and fill all of the layers with the buttercream, caramel and shortbread. I’m thinking there’s no wrong way of doing this, you know?

So, here’s the recipe for this sweet & salty Millionaire’s Layer Cake along with a quick list of the layer-pattern of this cake:

cake
buttercream + caramel + shortbread
cake
ganache
cake
buttercream + caramel + shortbread
cake
ganache
cake
buttercream + caramel + shortbread
cake

Millionaire’s Layer Cake

Yield: One 6-layer, 8-inch round cake

Dark moist chocolate cake filled with satiny vanilla bean buttercream, homemade salted caramel, buttery shortbread crumble, dark chocolate ganache and frosted with more ganache and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Ingredients

    For the Chocolate Cake:
  • 2 1/4 cups (285 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups (450 g) superfine sugar
  • 3/4 cup (90 g) dark Dutch-process cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Extra Brute)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (10 g) baking soda
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (10 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (8 g) salt
  • 1 cup (240 mL) buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup (180 mL) brewed coffee or espresso, hot
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoons (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 g) sugar
  • 2 cups (454 g) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean, seeded and scraped
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Salted Caramel:
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • Generous pinch of sea salt (I used Fleur de Sel)
  • For the Shortbread Crumbs:
  • 1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
  • For the Ganache Frosting:
  • 1 pound plus 6 ounces (700 g) best-quality dark chocolate (at least 53% cocoa solids), chopped or callets
  • 2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1/3 cup (110 g) corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 8 tablespoons (120 g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract

Instructions

    For the Chocolate Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper rounds.
  2. Into the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large measuring cup with a spout, combine the buttermilk, coffee, oil, eggs and vanilla.
  4. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Divide batter among the 3 cake pans (weigh batter for even layers at about 520 grams per cake pan).
  5. Bake 2 of the layers until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs, about 20-25 minutes. Try not to over-bake. Repeat with the final layer. Let cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then turn onto a wire rack until completely cool.
  6. For the Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  7. Wipe the bowl and whisk of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 130°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot, about 8-10 minutes.
  8. Place bowl back on mixer and fit with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes, or longer). Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). Increase speed to medium and beat until the mixture becomes thick and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  9. Add vanilla bean paste and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
  10. You can also add a wide variety of flavourings, extracts, and more, but always add the vanilla first, as it brings out the true taste of the other flavours. Keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, refrigerated for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature. Bring chilled buttercream back to smooth consistency by bringing to room temperature and then beating on low speed with an electric mixer for a few minutes.
  11. For the Salted Caramel:
  12. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir the sugar and water until combined. Brush down the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush and increase the heat to medium-high.
  13. Stop stirring, and let the mixture bubble until it reaches an amber colour (about 350°F). Promptly remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the heavy cream (be careful, as this will bubble and steam aggressively for a moment) until smooth, followed by the butter.
  14. Clip a candy thermometer onto the saucepan and return the mixture to medium-high heat until it reaches 248°F). Transfer the caramel to the heatproof bowl and stir in the vanilla and sea salt. As the caramel reaches room temperature it will become thick and spreadable. Store in a sealed jar in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  15. For the Shortbread Crumbs:
  16. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.
  17. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or your fingers, until you have distributed the butter and achieved pea-size bits. Turn the mixture in an even layer onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and, using a heatproof spatula, gently break up the mixture and return to the oven for 10 more minutes. Let tray cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
  18. For the Ganache Frosting:
  19. Place chopped chocolate (or callets) in a large heatproof mixing bowl (I find a stainless 5QT mixer bowl works well).
  20. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, corn syrup and salt and bring just to a boil. Pour hot cream mixture over the chocolate and let sit for about 1 minute. Using an immersion blender (or whisk, if necessary) combine the chocolate mixture until smooth. Add butter and vanilla and mix again until smooth. Mixture with thicken to spreadable frosting consistency, and eventually become solid at room temperature. To soften, simply warm and bring to desired consistency.
  21. Assembly of the Sweet & Salty Millionaire's Layer Cake:
  22. Prepare your fillings and frosting and ensure they are all at spreadable consistency. For the ganache, this will take about 15-30 minutes after making it, and about 30-60 minutes for the caramel. If you have made ahead, simply warm the ganache and let cool until spreadable, and do the same for the caramel.
  23. Slice all three cake layers in half horizontally, so you have a total of 6 cake layers.
  24. Smear a small dollop of the ganache frosting on a cake plate, pedestal or cake board, and place your first layer cut side up (so bottom of the cake layer is touching plate), and using a small offset palette knife, spread about 1 cup of buttercream on the layer leaving about 1-inch around the edge, followed by one-third of the caramel and then a generous handful of shortbread crumble. Place your next cake layer on top, and spread about 1 cup of the ganache frosting all the way to the edge.
  25. Repeat previous step until you get to the final cake layer. Place last layer face down (cut side down) and frost entire cake with the ganache frosting. Let sit for about 15 minutes and then finish with a thick "coat" of more ganache frosting.
  26. Use a turntable and palette knife to create texture (as in photo)--use one hand to turn the turntable and hold the palette knife in the other hand. Keep palette knife in place and let the turntable do the moving. Use a small offset palette knife to create texture on the top of the cake and sprinkle on some Fleur de Sel. Finished cake can be kept at room temperature for up to 8 hours. Keep refrigerated if longer than 8 hours, but serve at room temperature.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • For the chocolate cake layers, I used Cacao Barry Extra Brute Dutch-process cocoa powder, but you can use any quality dark Dutch-process variety of your choice.
  • I have become rather fond of using vanilla bean paste instead of actual vanilla beans, as it’s convenient and more affordable.
  • When you make the ganache frosting, you’ll notice that it’s a bit jiggly and gelatinous looking as it sets, but as soon as you being to spread it, it becomes smooth, glossy and glorious.
  • Most cake does best at room temperature in terms of staying moist and fresh, but when it comes to building layer cakes, sometimes there’s no choice but to pop it in and out of the fridge a few times to stabilize it (especially when you get into sky-scraping layer cakes). That being said, I recommend only putting most cakes the fridge between the crumb coat and final coat of frosting, or if you feel that things are getting a little wobbly and you want to firm it up before carrying on. For this cake, I didn’t refrigerate it at all, so you will likely find that you won’t need to either. I was able to avoid the fridge between the crumb coat and final coat of ganache frosting because it begins to dry out at room temperature, sealing all of the crumbs.

Good luck & enjoy!

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Flamingo Pink Mixer Giveaway!

Flamingo Pink Mixer

Happy, Happy Love Day, friends!

I’m excited to tell you that you will be seeing a lot more of me around here in about 3 weeks, as I finish up the all of the photography for my book. Once the photography has been submitted, I look forward to blogging like a crazy woman. I’ve missed you! It’s been a crazy year, working on this book, but I’m so eager to see it all come together–I can’t wait to share it with you (even a sneak peek!).

So to say thank you for being so patient with my absence, and because it’s the pinkest day of the year, I thought I would give away a  Kitchenaid 4.5 Qt Stand Mixer in this amazing Flamingo Pink shade, to one lucky reader!

Flamingo Pink KitchenAid Mixer

While the giveaway details are the same as always, I’m trying out a new system for managing the giveaway, so it should be as smooth as can be to enter. xo

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck, and I hope you’re being adored to smithereens today!

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