Ultimate Chocolate Birthday Cake

Life hasn’t been all sunshine and roses recently. There have been job interviews that weren’t right for me, an opportunity to write for one of my favourite websites that fell through, and some seriously tough life lessons learnt along the way. Alongside that, there was my dissertation project, and although I found my subject incredibly interesting, there were times the light at the end of the tunnel seemed very far away.

Although life seemed to me punching me from every angle, there was a bright side to all of my problems. The job interview probably went to someone well deserving, and I wish them all the luck. The website, well maybe I will write for them one day. And the project? Finished with gusto, a day early and with a smiling face.

After getting these knockbacks in life, getting back on the horse is the hardest thing, but it is doable. And one way to do it is to look into the future. I’ve got graduation, a ball and a wedding to attend in the next few months, alongside my 22nd birthday and T in the Park. My future doesn’t look so bad, and it’s actually starting to look brighter.

It also means I can blog again, without the weight of writing essays or researching round my neck. After the project was handed in, I sat with a stack of post it notes and highlighted all the recipes I wanted to try over the coming months. I had accumulated a lot of cookery books over the past few months that I have been too busy to bake from, and the opportunity to do so now makes me feel very happy indeed. And with my boyfriend’s birthday coming up, what better excuse than to make Edd Kimber’s Ultimate Chocolate Cake?

This bad boy has had a few tweaks by yours truly, but is still the same magnificent cake, with a fudgy centre, creamy ganache and delicate sprinkle coating. Stick a few candles in it and call it a birthday cake, give it to your dad for father’s day or share round your friends as a post-exam treat. Just remember to be nice and share it round, it isn’t called Ultimate Chocolate Cake for any old reason you know…

Adapted from The Boy who Bakes by Edd Kimber

You Will Need

For the Cake

110g 70% plain chocolate

280ml boiling water

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

140ml buttermilk

280g plain flour

2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

½ teaspoon salt

340g soft brown sugar

110g Stork (you don’t need butter at this stage)

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

3 eggs, lightly beaten

For the Ganache

225g butter

285g  70% plain chocolate

2 tbsp golden syrup

240ml double cream

Sprinkles to decorate

Note: this recipe calls for 4 separate bowls, so make sure you have enough at hand before you begin, saving the largest for last.

Preheat the oven to 180oc (160oc) gas mark 4. Grease and line two sandwich tins with baking paper and set aside. Put the chocolate in a heat proof bowl and place over a pan of barely simmering water, taking care to not let the bowl touch the water. Slowly melt, then take off the heat and leave to cool.

In a separate bowl, add the cocoa powder and pour over the boiling water, whisking well to incorporate. Add the buttermilk and keep stirring until completely mixed through. Set aside.

In another bowl, pass the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt through a sieve. Set aside.

In the largest bowl you have, add the sugar, Stork and vanilla, and beat with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs, whisking all the time until fully mixed in. Then carefully pour the cooled chocolate down the side of the bowl and mix in thoroughly. Add a third of the dry ingredients and a third of the chocolate buttermilk and whisk in to incorporate, repeating until everything is mixed together and you have a liquid-like batter. Divide between the cake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes until completely cooked in the middle.

It is worth pointing out at this point that each oven is different, and although for most conventional ovens this baking time is correct, for my rickety old oven it took almost an hour. Leave the cakes well alone in the allotted time, and then check. If they need longer, check repeatedly every 5-10 minutes until cooked through.

Remove the cakes from the oven when cooked and leave to cool in their tins for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack and remove the paper from the bottom. Leave to cool completely.

To make the ganache, melt the butter, chocolate and golden syrup together over a barely simmering pan of water, again taking care not to let the bowl touch the water. Remove from the heat once melted and whisk in the double cream. Set aside for 20 minutes. If the ganache hasn’t thickened, place in the fridge for 10 minutes before coating the cake.

To assemble, you will need to trim the cakes slightly. With a bread knife, carefully slice off the peaks of the cake until flat. Place one cake upside down on your serving board, and place the other one upside down on top for a flat finish. Inspect the look of the cakes and cut off any extras to make the cake even. Take the top cake off and set aside.

Place two large spoonfuls of ganache on the first cake and spread across evenly. Top with the other cake and add more ganache, smoothing over the top with a palatte knife. To ice the sides, load up the palatte knife and smooth around the outside of the cake until completely covered. This may take a while to get a smooth edge, but the patience you dedicate to this part is vital. Once completely smooth, decorate with a circle of sprinkles around the edge and clean up the edges of the cake on the serving board for a neat finish. Et Voila, a beautiful chocolate cake any professional would be proud of.

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