Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Mother of All Cakes

Initially named "Sweet n Salty Chocolate Cake",  I've wanted to bake this for a very very long time, and my (Honorary) Grandpa Ian's birthday provided the perfect opportunity. The story behind the "honorary" epithet is long. Basically, despite not being a blood relation, Ian has for some time now been an essential member of our family. He holds an important part in all of our hearts, hence why we wanted to make his 80th birthday extra special for him. Until recently, I hadn't seen him for over a year, but this Saturday we all went down to London to celebrate with him. We all turned up at his favorite restaurant to surprise him with lunch, a day out, and of course - a rather magnificent cake.

At Christmas time, we always used to joke about how Ian could manage one of every pudding: and there were usually five or six options! He has an insatiable sweet tooth, something that I never cease to try and satisfy. Hopefully, this cake will do the trick! The sheer volume of sugar and glorious fatty goodness is just too decadent for anyone to pass up, especially Ian. This is why I've renamed it "The Mother of All Cakes!" I've never made anything quite this glorious before.

Whilst making the cake, be extra careful not to burn the caramel. It is important to put the cream on the heat at the same time as the sugar/syrup mixture, as it takes longer than you think to come to the boil. The first time I tried to make the caramel, I put the cream on the heat too late and ended up burning the sugar/syrup mixture waiting for the cream to boil! Trust me, burnt caramel does NOT taste good, as my Mother (aka resident bowl-licker) will testify! This resulted in an emergency trip to our local shop (who were blessed with the sight of me in my pajamas, no bra and a very chocolatey apron) to get extra cream.

Here's the recipe, ever so slightly amended from the Hummingbird Bakery book:

For the sponge:
300g unsalted butter
300g caster sugar
140g soft light brown sugar
100g cocoa powder
160ml buttermilk
1tsp vanilla essence
330g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
For the salty caramel:
200g caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
120ml double cream
60ml soured cream
1tsp fine sea salt
For the frosting:
200g caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
360ml double cream
450g dark chocolate
450g unsalted butter (NB - I used slightly less than this, probably about 420g, but judge for yourself.)

First make the salty caramel. In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and golden syrup to the boil with 60ml of water. Allow the mixture to boil for about 10 minutes, during which time it should become quite syrupy and a rich caramel colour.

Put the double cream, soured cream and salt in a separate pan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. When the sugar syrup is ready, remove it from the heat and carefully add the hot cream. It will bubble up as you pour in the cream, but smooth out again quickly to become a creamy golden colour. Pour the caramel into a small bowl and set aside to cool while you make the frosting.

For the frosting: In a small, clean saucepan bring the caster sugar and golden syrup to the boil with 60ml of water, again letting this boil for approximately 10 minutes. In a separate pan, bring the double cream to the boil. Carefully pour the hot cream onto the boiled caramel. Set this caramel aside to cool slightly.

Once it has cooled, add the chopped chocolate, stirring constantly while the chocolate melts. Using a hand held electric whisk, mix the frosting for about 10 minutes, or until the bottom of the bowl feels cool. Add the butter to the chocolate-caramel frosting and whisk together until the mixture is light and looks slightly whipped. Place the frosting in the fridge to cool while you make the sponge. (you might not want to add all the butter)


Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius and line the bases of the sandwich tins with parchment.

Cream together the butter and both types of sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl.

In a jug, stir together the cocoa powder, buttermilk and vanilla essence with 60ml of water to form a thick paste.

Sift together the remaining sponge ingredients, and then add them in stages to the creamed butter and sugar, alternating with the cocoa powder paste and mixing thoroughly.

Divide the butter between the three prepared cake tins and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the top of the sponge feels springy. (NB - Mine took slightly longer than this, 28 minutes in the end.) Remove from the oven and allow the sponges to cool slightly in their tins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the sponges are cool, place one on a plate and top with approximately two tablespoons of the salty caramel, smoothing it over the sponge with a palette knife. Top the caramel layer with 3-4 tablespoons of the frosting and smooth it out as before.

Continue this process, sandwiching together the two other sponges with the remaining salty caramel and a layer of frosting. When all three sponges are sandwiched together, cover the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Decorate as you please.

This cake certainly took a little longer in the kitchen, but that time was certainly well worth the impressive end result. Cutting into the cake to find oozing caramel swirled with creamy dark chocolate frosting was a mouth-watering experience, and I have no doubt Ian will have taken this cake home and demolished it in no time! 

Here's a snap of the lovely Ian himself cutting into the cake. It was a really lovely day and wonderful to see someone we all value so much, and I was chuffed to bits to be able to give something to him that I knew he would enjoy. It just goes to show, however cliche it may be, that the best thing about baking truly is the sharing.


  1. Holy salted caramel Batman!! Another cake I'm going to be doing...caramel scares me :-/ xx