I was asked to make a birthday cake for a friends husband’s birthday. The first time I made a birthday cake was the first cake I ever made. And it was horrendous. A sweet white chocolate buttercream that was decorated in such a fashion that gave the impression I’d dropped it on the way over. And what is there say about the cake – it was…well, it was chewy. I didn’t make a cake for a good 5+ years after that let alone make a cake for someone’s birthday. Until now. I was given one request: it had to be chocolatey.

Now it’s confession time: I’ve never made a chocolate cake before. Or worked with ganache. I know – call myself a baker?! So naturally, I decided to tick both of those firsts off my list this weekend to create this five-layer monster ahead of the real thing.

Set aside a day to create this cake – it takes a little time and patience, but it’s a fantastic celebratory centrepiece.


500g caster sugar
430g self-raising flour
250g unsalted butter, softened
180ml buttermilk
180ml water
60g cocoa powder
5 medium eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache
400g milk chocolate
200ml double cream
orange extract

Dr. Oetker Gold Shimmer Spray
gold lustre dust
soft paint brush

When creating such a big cake, I like to get everything prepared – that means weighing out all the ingredients and greasing and lining the pans. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan).

For this recipe I used 5×6″ cake tins, but feel free to use fewer tins and halve the baked cakes – make sure to alter the cooking time accordingly, however. The most effective method I’ve found for lining the tins is to butter the bottom and sides and cover in a light dusting of flour.


The process of making this cake is fairly simply – it’s the decoration that’s tricky. Beat the butter in a large bowl for just a few minutes, until light and fluffy. Next, sieve in the flour, cocoa and salt. Add all the sugar and mix to combine. You’re looking for the mixture to resemble soil, almost.

Next, beat the eggs in a bowl, add the buttermilk, 180ml of water and mix to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and with a wooden spoon, b eat until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Alternatively, you can use an electric whisk.

Weigh out the mixture – and there will be a lot – and divide by the amount of tins you’re using. In my case, five. Place your cake tin on your digital scales and pour the divided amount into each cake tin to ensure each layer comes out the same height.

Bake the cakes in two batches for 25 minutes. They may need a little extra time by just a few minutes. Leaves them to cool in the pans for 10 minutes then remove and leave to cool completely on a cooling rack.


Meanwhile, make the ganache. In a Pyrex measuring jug, pour in the double cream and break up all of the chocolate into small squares. Put it in the microwave for 30 seconds and stir. Repeat this until the chocolate has completely melted and the mixture is silky smooth. Leave to cool slightly and then refrigerate to firm up.

When you’re ready to assemble, remove the ganache from the fridge  you’re looking for a spreadable consistency that isn’t too runny. Almost like peanut butter. You may need to blast is again in the microwave if it’s too still, but only do this in 5-10 second increments.

With a cranked palette knife, spread a little of the ganache on your cake board and place the first layer on top, pressing down lightly to secure it in place. Spread a thin layer of the ganache on top of the first layer and even out. Repeat the process with all layers. You don’t want the ganache to be too thick in-between each layer. With the final cake layer, turn it so the bottom is facing up to ensure a perfectly flat top.


Spread a thin layer on the ganache on the top and sides of the cake and spread evenly – you want to create a crumb coat to lock in all those crumbs. Refrigerate for up to an hour. Remove from the fridge and generously spread a good amount of the ganache on the top and sides and using a palette knife and cake scraper if you have one, spread evenly until the sides and top are as smooth as you’d like. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little texture to the cake just as nice as it is to have a completely smooth finish.

For the gold band, I simply used some paper – I cut a circle out for the top once I knew how wide I wanted the gold band around the edge to be. I placed that on top. In a small dish, I sprayed some of the edible gold shimmer spray and the lustre dust together and using a paint brush, I pained from the paper to the edge of the cake. You want the gold mixture to be quite thick consistency and you may have to paint two layers (waiting for the first to dry in-between) depending on your preference. I then wrapped a strip of paper around the circumference of the cake and applied the same method. To finish, I simply dabbed some of the lustre dust on it’s own of top to create an extra ‘sparkle’. Remove the pieces of paper and there you have it.

It takes a little time, but the result is a stunning tower of a cake – a true showstopper.