Ahead of my very first wedding cake I am making next week, I wanted to get in the kitchen and bake something that I didn’t feel an enormous amount of pressure baking. Something to just simply bake and eat and not worry too much about the outcome or spoiling the biggest day of someones life.
I just wanted to bake. Unwind after a couple of hectic weeks and cake-less weekends and bake.
Don’t get me wrong – I am full of adrenaline at the prospect of the upcoming challenge – it’s exciting for me and I will relish it while also inwardly freaking the hell out. But it not as a big a day for me as it is for them and I should remember that – all nerves and excitement I am feeling will be quadrupled for them.
Back to the post in hand: I just wanted to bake. Unwind after a couple of hectic weeks and cake-less weekends (yeah, right!) and bake. My chocolate addiction is creeping back in as the nights draw in earlier and so there was only really one option of cake to make.
The bake takes elements from one of my favourite chocolate treats, the Ferrero Rocher. Chocolate sponge, with praline buttercream sandwiching the layers and finished with a milk chocolate ganache and chopped hazelnuts.
500g caster sugar
430g self-raising flour
250g unsalted butter, softened
60g cocoa powder
5 medium eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract
150g butter, softened and unsalted
300g icing sugar
30g flaked almonds
400g milk chocolate
200ml double cream
200g chopped hazelnuts
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan). Line 2 x 6″ cake tins. 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.
This is an all-in-one method, which doesn’t call for you to cream and butter and sugar together first – simply encorporate everything. To do so, cream the butter in a stand mixer to loosen. Sieve in the flour and cocoa and add the sugar. Beat together until resembling a fine soil-like consistency. In a separate bowl, pour in the buttercream, water, eggs and vanilla extract. Whisk together and pour the mixture into the dry ingredients. Beat together until everything is evenly distributed.
Divide the mixture evenly between the two pans and bake in the middle shelf of the oven for an hour, testing with a skewer.
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.
Next, the buttercream – put a pan on a medium heat and add the sugar and water. Heat gently, not stirring, until the sugar has dissolved and it turns an amber colour. You may need to swirl the pan now and again, but do not stir. When the syrup turns a deep amber, remove from the heat and add the almonds. Mix in quickly but carefully and pour onto the shiny side of some tin foil that is on a baking sheet. Leave to cool and when completely cool and hard, blitz to a fine crumb in a food processor.
Beat the butter in a stand mixer for five minutes, until light and fluffy. Add half of the icing sugar and beat together for 2 minutes. Add the remaining half and beat again, before adding the praline and beating briefly to combine. Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool. Once completely cool, level the top and then cut in half so you end up with 4 layers of cake – 2 from each tin.
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 thick layer of the praline buttercream and place the next layer of the cake on top. Spread the buttercream on the next layer and sprinkle on top some of the chopped hazelnuts. Repeat the process again with the next layer and finally top with the fourth 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 – as a lot of this is to be covered, it’s not too important to be hugely neat.
Place the cake in a large roasting dish or tray to catch the hazelnuts for the next step. Grab a handful of the nuts and push your hand up the side of the cake, titling so the hazelnuts fall and stick to the ganache. Be gentle and slow. Complete this around the whole circumfrence of the cake. Next, do the same on the top, in the shape of a crescent moon shape. In the remaining space, pipe large star shape decoration with the remainder of the ganache and sprinkle some of the finer crumbs of the hazelnuts to finish.