It was my Dad’s birthday recently and I wanted to make him a birthday cake that was manly enough to qualify for a man’s birthday treat. I spent 3 nights researching exactly the right flavour combination and the best recipes to provide what I was looking for. I’ve always thought there was something brilliant about a great, moist flavoured cake with real frosting. This was the result – not too sweet, not too rich, decorated with chocolate shavings and pecans.
For the sponge, you will need:
225g butter, left out at room temperature to soften but not melt
225g golden caster sugar
4 large eggs
200ml espresso or strongly brewed coffee, cooled
4 tsp cocoa powder
225g self-raising flour
For the chocolate buttercream, you will need:
150g good quality 70% cocoa chocolate
75g salted butter, again softened
150g icing sugar
1 large egg yolk
1. Brew the coffee. Ideally you want enough shots of espresso to measure 200ml. Preheat the oven to 180C fan. Grease and line two sandwich cake pans.
2. Measure out the butter and cream until fluffy, ideally with a hand-held electric mixer.
2. Add in the sugar, and mix again, getting in as much air as you can.
3. Add the eggs in, one by one, mixing after each addition. Once they’ve all been added, whip up until airy and moussey. Add in the coffee and mix again.
4. Fold in the cocoa powder and flour until just mixed in.
5. Split the mixture between the cake pans. I like to weigh it as I go along to make sure they are relatively even.
6. Put in the oven and bake for around 20-25 minutes, or until springy to the touch. Remove from the oven, leave to cool a little and then turn out.
7. While the sponges are baking and cooling (bring mindful of time in the oven) start working on the chocolate buttercream. The first step is to break up the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan of simmering water. The saucepan should be slightly smaller than the rim of the bowl, the right size to keep it suspended over the water, ensuring the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, or you’ll risk burning the chocolate. Stir occasionally until it has all melted then take off the heat and allow to cool, stirring every now and then.
8. In the mean time, weigh out the butter and whiz up with the electric beaters (now clean!) until light and fluffy. Add in the icing sugar and beat once more, before combining the cooked melted chocolate and egg yolk.
9. Peel the paper off of the sponges then place one on a cake board or plate, domed top facing down. Use about 1/3 of the buttercream to cover the top of the sponge, spread evenly then top with the second sponge.
10. Spread the remaining buttercream evenly over the top and sides of the cake, making sure there are no spaces where the sponge can be seen.
11. Top with chocolate shavings and evenly spaced pecan halves, or your preferred decoration. Chocolate-covered coffee beans would work well.
Serve or give away – perfect with a nice cup of tea or coffee.