Last Friday we celebrated Amelia’s birthday (not mentioning any numbers!!!). Of course this special occasion called for a very special cake. Ever since our layer cake baking club I have been dreaming about the delicious Italian buttercream icing that we made for the first time and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to make it again. To showcase the amazing icing I decided to go with a simple chocolate cake… nothing too fancy!! Both the icing and cake recipe were taken from the recipe book “Tea with Bea” by Bea of Bloomsbury.
The cake was very quick and easy to make and is a great recipe to have up the sleeve as there are loads of occasions that call for a delicious and simple chocolate cake. I made the cakes the day before Amelia’s birthday. This is a great option when you’re pressed for time but just make sure that once the cakes have cooled they are wrapped with cling film and stored in an airtight container, this way they won’t dry out.
Here is the cake recipe:
Chocolate Buttermilk Cake
225g high quality dark chocolate (70%) chopped into small pieces
65g Dutch-process cocoa powder
300g superfine caster sugar
175g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F) and grease and baseline two 18cm/7inch cake pans.
Put the chocolate and cocoa powder in a large heatproof bowl.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour into the chocolate and cocoa and stir until melted and smooth.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Pour into the chocolate mixture and mix until well combined.
Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large mixing bowl and sift twice.
Add one third of the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture and mix until well incorporated. Add half the buttermilk and mix until just combined. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, then the rest of the buttermilk. Finally add the last third of the flour mixture and mix thoroughly until all combined.
Spoon the mixture into prepared cake pans. Bake for 35-45 minutes and test with a wooden skewer (when inserted into the centre of the cake it should come out with almost no crumbs attached). Remove from the oven and let cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and transfer onto a wire rack and cool for 1 hour.
Now this icing is intense, it is insanely sweet (like all good icing should be) but the most striking thing is the creamy smoothness of it (all that butter is in there for a good reason). It really does turn any simple cake into a masterpiece. The recipe makes quite a lot but any leftovers can be frozen and used to ice cupcakes or another cake. Don’t be scared off by heating the sugar, it is really simple and if you have a sugar thermometer there is absolutely nothing to stress about.
Chocolate Italian Buttercream
360g superfine caster sugar
1tbs golden syrup
6 egg whites
600g soften unsalted butter in large chunks
melted dark chocolate to taste
Put the sugar, golden syrup and water in a large saucepan and mix until well combined, making sure that no stray grains of sugar remain unmixed. Brush the inside of the saucepan with clean water to dislodge any stray grains. Set over high heat and bring to a rapid boil. When the sugar mixture has come to the boil add a sugar thermometer and keep cooking until it reaches will into soft ball stage, 120°C. Remove from the heat.
Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer (with a whisk attachment) and whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Slowly pour a steady stream of sugar syrup into the egg whites, being careful not to hit the whisk while doing so. Continue whisking until the meringue cools slightly. Add the softened butter one third at a time and whip until fully incorporated (this can take about 15 minutes). Stir in the melted chocolate.
To put the cake together place one cake on a serving plate with strips of baking paper underneath the edges of the cake to keep the plate clean while icing. Using a spatula spread icing on top of the cake to your desired thickness, carefully place the second cake on top of the first and again spread icing on top of the second cake then carefully around the edges of the cake. If the cake seems to be be really crumby you can spread a very thin layer of icing on top and around the edges and then refrigerate the cake for 30-60 min and then continue icing as usual.
Decorate with fresh berries or any other topping that you like; grated dark chocolate, toasted coconut or flaked almonds would also be delicious.