Thursday, March 19, 2020


Ten years' worth of words, ten years' worth of photographs, ten years' worth of recipes. Thousands of ingredients, thousands of preparation steps, and thousands of grams of chocolate and flour, and here we are. Ten years ago, I clicked the Publish button for the first time; and timidly but bravely, I have immersed myself in what has become a calling for me.
As I always emphasise, beauty is in the simplicity and lots of rich chocolate flavour, and this cake is no different. There is something almost comforting about the effortlessness of this cake. Deep caramel mousse base, light as air cake layers, and plenty of cream for a lavish decoration.
Despite its many layers, it does come together quite quickly, and it indeed serves a crowd. Feel free to decorate it entirely to your liking, be it with lots of toasted hazelnuts, maybe some honeycomb, or perhaps with a caramel shard or two. The beauty of baking lies in the joy of creating your own masterpiece each and every time.

For the chocolate cake layers
250 grams plain flour
15 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
100 grams light brown sugar
500 ml whole milk
100 grams apricot jam
40 ml vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
For the chocolate caramel cream
150 grams sugar
50 ml cold water
200 ml milk, divided
40 grams cornflour
75 grams butter, diced
100 grams dark chocolate (75% of cocoa solids), chopped
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
20 grams hazelnut praline
200 ml double cream
5 grams gelatine

Start by making the chocolate caramel cream filling. Take a heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour in the cold water, tip in the sugar, and gently shake the pan to somewhat distribute the sugar, without stirring it. In a medium bowl, whisk together 100 ml of cold milk and the cornflour, and set it aside. Place the saucepan on medium high heat, and let the sugar melt, and then start to cook, without stirring. Once it comes to a boil, cook for about 10 minutes, until it becomes a deep amber colour. For a long time, it will seem like the sugar syrup is not changing into caramel, but do not step away from the stove, as it will turn into caramel incredibly quickly.
Once it is amber and fragrant, very carefully pour the remaining milk into it. It will bubble and splash, so be careful. Let it cook for a minute or two, until all of the caramel melts into the milk, then pour in the cornflour mixture. Cook, until thickened and blended, for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove it from the heat, and start adding small pieces of butter and dark chocolate, whisking constantly. Add one piece at a time, and do not stop whisking, until the filling is smooth and blended. Cover the top with cling film, and let it cool down to room temperature.
While the filling is cooling down, start making the cake layers. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder into a large bowl, add in the brown sugar, whisk well, and set it aside. In another large bowl, whisk together the jam and the oil. Blend them really well, especially if the jam was cold from the refrigerator. Once blended, add in the vanilla and milk, and mix again. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients, and whisk until combined. Weigh the batter and divide it between seven small cake pans (15 cm), lined with baking parchment. If you have to bake in batches, it will still be fine; the batter will still bake up as intended. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 200C, for about 7-8 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the very centre comes out clean. The layers will be very thin and soft; let them cool for about 5 minutes in the pans, remove them to a cooling rack, and let them cool completely.
By this time, the filling will be at room temperature, which is exactly what is needed, so remove the cling film, transfer the caramel chocolate custard into a large bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on high, until completely creamy. Add the gelatine into a small bowl, pour in two tablespoons of cold water, and let it bloom. Add the vanilla bean paste and the hazelnut praline into the caramel chocolate cream, and blend again very well, so it almost resembles a chocolate spread. In a separate bowl, with clean beaters, whip the double cream until soft peaks form. When the gelatine has bloomed, heat it up over the lowest heat, or in the microwave, until melted, but do not let it boil. Add a few teaspoons of the chocolate cream to the melted gelatine, mix very well, then pour everything back into the filling, and blend. Add about a third of the whipped cream to the filling, and gently fold it through. Once somewhat blended, add in the rest, and keep softly folding until it resembles a chocolate mousse.
To assemble, place the first cake layer onto the cake platter, place a tall acetate strip around it, and close a small cake ring around everything, to keep it in place. Carefully spread a portion of the caramel chocolate mousse, and top with another cake layer. Keep layering the cake until all of the material is used. Top the surface of the last cake layer with cling film so it does not dry out, and place the cake into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
Once chilled properly, decorate the cake to your liking, and serve with strong, freshly brewed coffee. Yields 20 servings.

Author's note: To decorate, I used 100 ml of double cream, two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, as well as some chopped walnuts and cinnamon honeycomb candy.