I have a confession to make: I am not an overt fan of traditional fruit cake. Chastise me all you will but give me a sponge cake with a swath of frosting any day. Of course, stick a slab in front of me and I probably will eat it, but given the option, my Christmas cake of choice would be this fudgy coffee chocolate version.
Coffee and chocolate may not appear to be the most festive of flavours, but in our household Christmas morning comes with steaming mugs of black coffee and bags of chocolate coins. Although the Pease household breakfast of choice is bacon rolls, a few sneaky sweeties are often interspersed between opening presents. This recipe is something of an experiment for myself, as initially I was unconvinced a plain flour cake would be anything but pancake-like. Yet with a smooth liquid batter with no creaming and very little whisking, it is actually a very speedy cake to make.
Nutella as a filling is also a nifty shortcut, as the buttercream recipe doesn’t allow for many leftovers, but as this cake is rather sweet, a tablespoon or so is just enough to sandwich the two cakes together. A simple whipped buttercream wraps the cake in a swirl of snowy icing and rustic chocolate trees finish off the look perfectly. A good staple cake to have, you could easily switch up the frosting to a ganache. This dark chocolate recipe is simply divine or for a snowy look, try this white chocolate version, changing rosewater for orange blossom. The trees could even be switched for a chocolate collar for a non festive version and this stunning collar from Poires au Chocolat is a perfect example.
Adapted from A Beautiful Mess
You Will Need
For the cake
250g plain flour
80g cocoa powder (I like Green and Blacks)
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
410g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
125ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla paste
250ml strong coffee, cooled slightly
75g dark chocolate
225g softened butter
460g icing sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
1 tsp vanilla paste
1-2 tablespoons Nutella
Preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan/Gas Mark 4. Grease two 20cm sandwich tins, line with baking parchment and set aside. Sieve together the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder, then whisk through the sugar and salt and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, vanilla paste and coffee. Make a well in the dry mix and fold in the wet mix carefully until fully combined. Divide between the two tins and bake for 35-45 minutes. If after 30 minutes the cake is browning too fast, cover loosely with tin foil until baked through. To test, place a skewer in the middle of the two cakes. If the skewer comes out clean, remove from the oven and cool in the tins for 10-15 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack, removing the parchment and leave to cool completely.
To make the tree decorations, melt the chocolate in a bowl over a simmering saucepan of water. Make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Slowly melt until completely smooth, then remove the bowl from the heat. Carefully spoon into a plastic piping bag or corner of a sandwich bag, twist the ends and snip off the tip. Pipe rough Christmas tree shapes onto a piece of baking parchment with the chocolate, making around 20. Leave to set for a couple of hours.
To make the vanilla buttercream, cream the butter in a stand mixer and add the icing sugar a spoonful at a time. Loosen with a little milk and add the vanilla for extra flavour. Place one cake on a serving board or cake stand and smooth with the Nutella. Add the second cake on top upside down. Dollop over the buttercream and smooth with a palette knife all over the cake. This may take a couple of coats. Once complete, stick the set chocolate trees around the outside to decorate.