Tag Archives: The Great British Bake Off

Chocolate Layer Cake, filled with Strawberry-Chocolate Ganache and topped with the Ultimate Vanilla Buttercream

Being back in London this time of the year has some happy implications:

1) The Great British Bake Off is back on TV (recent episodes have featured Paul the Octopus shaped bread, the most adorable miniature sized macaroons and custard espionage – what’s not to love?).

2) Last days of London summer! Sunshine, ice cream, lazy weekends and strolling around all my favourite places.

3) I get to be here for the birthday of one of my very best friends! I get to surprise her and turn her favourite cupcakes into a big fat cake! I get to eat a massive slice of said cake! Ah, happy days.

Birthday Girl!

Ever since I made these Chocolate Cupcakes Stuffed with Strawberry Chocolate Ganache and frosted with Chocolate Ganache Glaze and Vanilla Buttercream, they are the cupcakes my friends will always demand every time I am back in town: “Oh glad you’re back, Nuara, but when are you making the chocolate strawberry cupcakes?”, “These brownies are nice, but when are you making the chocolate strawberry cupcakes?”, “Your flight back is in a week and you still haven’t made me the chocolate strawberry cupcakes!”.

Handmade birthday card for the birthday girl (with her favourite cupcake on the front!)

So, no surprises as to why I went for this cake!

I adapted a Hummingbird Bakery recipe for the chocolate layers, and searched high and low for the ultimate vanilla buttercream recipe – was convinced by this one, and then tweaked it slightly by using vanilla bean paste instead of extract (vanilla bean paste is my new favourite baking ingredient, more on that later). I kept the original ganache recipe, just tweaking the quantities and the strawberry to ganache ratio (more strawberries, more!). And voila, the cake version is ready to go!

Chocolate Layer Cake, filled with Strawberry-Chocolate Ganache and topped with the Ultimate Vanilla Buttercream

Makes one, 2 layer 8-inch cake

For the cake layers:

200g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
280g caster sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
a pinch of salt
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
240ml whole milk
2 medium eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or extract)

1) Preheat your oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3. Grease and line two 8-inch cake pans.

2) In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, caster sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside,

3) In a separate bowl or jug, whisk together the milk, vanilla and eggs. Set aside.

4) Add butter to the dry ingredients and beat everything on a medium speed until the ingredients come together and the mixture has a sandy texture (will look like very fine breadcrumbs).

4) Add half of the milk mixture to your sandy concoction. Beat on a low speed to bring the ingredients together, then a medium-high speed for a few minutes to get rid of lumps.

5) Keep your mixer on a low speed and gradually add the rest of the milk. Beat for a few minutes until everything is well mixed and smooth. Do not overmix!

6) Divide the cake batter evenly between the two prepared tins and bake for 30-35 minutes. Cakes will be done when a skewer poked into the middles comes out clean (“clean”: a few perfectly moist and baked crumbs sticking to the skewer = yes, take me out, gloopy cake batter wrapped around the skewer = I know you’re hungry, but I need a few more minutes).

7) After a few minutes in the tin, pop out the layers and leave to cool on a cooling rack. Make sure to leave the cake layers to cool upside-down – this will help to flatten out the domed tops and will make your life easier when assembling the cake (see below!).

For the strawberry-chocolate ganache

Make this while your cake layers are in the oven, it will need some time to chill in the fridge before you use it to sandwich together your cake layers.

100g chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
150ml double cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or extract)
a pinch salt
125g strawberries, diced into small chunks

1) Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl.

2) In a saucepan, gently heat up the cream until bubbles form around the edges. Once you see the bubbles, take the cream off the heat and pour it over your bowl of chocolate. Let it stand for one minute, and then mix together until the ganache is smooth and scrumptious looking.

3) Stir in the diced strawberries.

4) Cover with clingfilm and place in the refrigerator to set.

For the ultimate vanilla buttercream

After searching high and low for the ultimate vanilla buttercream recipe, I settled on this recipe from Cooking Classy – and I wasn’t disappointed! The one change I made was to use vanilla bean paste instead of extract – which I would definitely recommend. It has the most fantastic vanilla taste, and you get those beautiful flecks of vanilla seeds in your frosting – yummy!

85g unsalted butter, at room temperature
85g salted butter, at room temperature
280g icing sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons double cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or extract)

1) In a large bowl, beat the butters together on a medium speed for 7-8 minutes, until pale and fluffy.

2) Sift in the icing sugar, then add the double cream and vanilla bean paste. Mix on a low speed until all the all the ingredients are well blended, then crank your mixer up to a high speed and mix for at least 5-7 minutes. Be patient, and yummy, fluffy frosting shall await you!

Assembling your cake

1) Place a blob of frosting onto your serving dish/cake board. This will act as a “glue” to ensure that your cake stays put. Place one of your cake layers on the dish (place the layer “domed-side” down, so that you can put the filling and the other layer on top of a flat side).

2) Take your ganache filling out of the fridge. Stir it through with a spoon, then spread it over the middle of the cake layer. It will be a thick layer of ganache! People will thank you for it! I find it easier to pipe a circle of buttercream around the edges of the cake – it helps to keep the ganache in and not spread over onto the sides.

Assembly time!

3) Place the other cake layer on top of the ganache filling (domed side up, flat side on top of the ganache).

4) Using a spatula, frost the tops and sides of of your cake with one layer of vanilla buttercream. This will be your crumb coat layer, to seal in the chocolate crumbs and ensure you have a smooth, white finish on top. Once you have completed your crumb coat, place your cake in the fridge and leave it to chill for at least thirty minutes, to allow the crumb coat to firm up before you spread on the finishing layers of buttercream.

5) Take your cake out of the fridge and use the remaining buttercream to cover the tops and sides until you have a smooth, beautiful finish!

6) If you want, put aside a little bit of frosting and tint with food colouring of your choice. Use this to pipe a message onto the cake, or to add other decorative details.

7) Decorate with sprinkles, nuts or fresh strawberries (my preferred choice).

Cake time!

Big slice for me.

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