Friday, March 11, 2022


Inspiration is an incredible thing. It can happen absolutely unexpectedly, and bring about a little epiphany at any given time. Over the years, I have learnt to not only accept those moments, but to also fully honour and celebrate them, as they are what motivates me to move forward and step out of my comfort zone.
The road from an idea, through the recipe development, to a finished cake on a platter may not always be the easiest, but it is always most rewarding. After all, it is the journey that matters, not the destination.
One sudden, unexpected moment of clarity is what this brought this delightful cake to life. Eleven impressive layers of chocolate cake and caramelised milk ice cream filling, enrobed in an abundant layer of double chocolate ganache. Such a wonderful dessert, especially when served frozen.
Although I love serving cakes partially frozen, this little beauty can be kept in the refrigerator as well. However, depending on the caramelised milk you use, the filling may be a tad on the softer side. If that happens, simply place it back into the freezer, and when you want to serve the cake, slice it while it is still frozen, and let the individual servings warm up and soften to the texture you want.

For the chocolate espresso cake layers
300 grams plain flour
30 grams cornflour
300 grams light brown sugar
40 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
pinch of baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
250 millilitres whole milk, warm
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
150 grams boiling water
2 heaping teaspoons instant espresso powder
120 millilitres vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
For the filling
400 millilitres whole milk, cold
80 grams cornflour
75 grams granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
¼ teaspoon salt
200 grams unsalted butter
350 grams caramelised milk (dulce de leche)
For the decoration
100 grams dark chocolate (70%)
80 grams milk chocolate
200 millilitres double cream

The filling will need a bit of time to cool down, so to start, pour the cold milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add in the cornflour, granulated sugar, vanilla bean paste, and salt, and whisk until completely blended. Place the saucepan over medium heat and let it heat up slowly. As soon as it starts to steam, start whisking. The more the batter heats up, the more vigorously it should be stirred, to prevent burning. Once it comes to a boil, cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens. It should resemble a cooked custard. Remove from the heat and let it cool for a minute or so. Add in the butter, one piece at a time, whisking constantly, until incorporated. Cover the top with cling film, and let it cool down to room temperature.
Next, make the chocolate cake layers. Sift the plain flour, cornflour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add in the brown sugar, and mix very well. Add the espresso powder to the boiling water, mix it well, and set it aside. Add the vinegar to the warm milk, and let it stand for about 10 minutes or so, until it starts to resemble buttermilk. By that time, the coffee will cool down slightly.
Take another large bowl, pour in the coffee, buttermilk, oil, and the vanilla, and blend it very well. Create a small well in the sifted dry ingredients, and pour in the wet ingredients. Whisk until only blended, being careful not to overmix the batter. There is a lot of batter, so it might be tempting to mix it for longer, but that will make the cakes tough.
Line three small round cake pans with baking parchment, bottom and sides, and divide the batter evenly between them. Bake the cakes immediately in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 12-15 minutes. Check them for doneness early, as every oven bakes differently, and these should remain as soft and moist as possible. As soon as a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean, they are done. Remove them from the oven and let them cool down in the pans for about 10 minutes, and then invert them on a wire rack, and let them cool down completely.

Once the cakes are cool, and the custard is cool to the touch, whip it with an electric mixer on high, until smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes, until it becomes lighter and easier to spread. Add in the caramelised milk, and blend it well into the custard. Once completely smooth, place the filling into the refrigerator briefly.
To assemble the cake, start by levelling each of the cakes, if needed, and slicing them into two layers. Place the first cake layer on the serving platter or on a cake board, place a tall cake ring around it, and add a sheet of acetate before closing it. Divide the filling into five equal parts by weight.
Spread one-fifth of the filling on top of the cake, and place another cake layer on top. Press it down very lightly, just to slightly level it and remove any potential tiny air pockets, and top with another fifth of the filling. Continue stacking the cake in this fashion, finishing with the final cake layer. Cover the top of the cake with a piece of baking parchment or cling film, and place the cake into the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, chop up both types of chocolate finely, and place them in a large bowl. Heat up the cream until it almost comes to a boil, quickly remove from the heat, and pour it over the chocolate. Let it stand for a minute, and then mix until blended. Cover the top tightly, and let it stand for a few hours at room temperature.
Once everything is ready, proceed to decorate the cake. Take the cake out of the refrigerator, remove the cake ring and the acetate, and spread the ganache as neatly or as casually as you like. Place the cake in the freezer for at least 2 hours, so the filling firms up, and serve. Yields 20 servings. © TINA VESIĆ 2022