It had been a while since I last made a layer cake, there certainly hasn’t been any shortage of cakes, but they have mostly just been simple, one layer ones or bundt cakes, so I thought it was high time I made something a bit more spectacular. Enter this chocolate coffee cardamom layer cake.
Three layers of perfectly moist chocolate cake with a hint of coffee and cardamom, filled with a silky smooth chocolate, coffee and cardamom swiss meringue buttercream and drizzled with dark chocolate ganache. This cake is heavenly. I love the flavour of chocolate with coffee and cardamom, I’ve kept them both quite subtle so that they enhance rather than overpower the chocolate, but you can absolutely add more if you want a bit more of a punch. Conversely, you can leave either or both flavours out if you prefer (replace the espresso in the cake with hot water) and you will be left with a perfect chocolate cake.
Did you know that it is Fairtrade Fortnight? (27th Feb – 12th March) In honour of the campaign, the Fairtrade Foundation set me up with enough Fairtrade chocolate, tea and coffee to last a year (or you know, about a week in my case!). There are Fairtrade versions of so many products available that it is really easy to make the swap and ensure that the producers, farmers and workers have been paid a fair price for their products; just keep an eye out for the logo when you do your shopping.
Chocolate Coffee Cardamom Layer Cake
Makes one 15cm/6in layer cake.
- 80 g (2.8oz) dark chocolate chopped
- 160 ml (2/3 cup) hot strong espresso coffee
- 35 g (rounded 1/4 cup) cocoa powder
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) buttermilk
- 200 g (1 + 2/3 cup) plain flour
- 1 + 1/3 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (about 10 pods)
- 80 g (1/3 cup) softened butter
- 225 g (1 + 1/4 cups) light brown soft sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
Swiss meringue buttercream:
- 150 g (5.3oz) dark chocolate chopped
- 120 g egg white (3 large)
- 150 g (2/3 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- 200 g (3/4 cup + 2tbsp) butter softened
- 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch salt
- 50 g (1.75oz) dark chocolate chopped
- 75 ml (scant 1/3 cup) double (heavy) cream
- 10 g (1tbsp) butter
- chocolate sprinkles (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Grease three 15cm/6in round cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment.
Melt the dark chocolate, either in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water or in short bursts in the microwave, set aside to cool slightly.
Whisk together the cocoa powder and hot coffee until smooth then whisk in the buttermilk, set aside. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and ground cardamom, set aside.
Place the butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl and whisk with an electric mixer until smooth and light. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, whisking really well after each addition, then whisk in the melted chocolate.
Fold in one third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk mix. Fold in another third of the flour, then the remaining buttermilk, then the rest of the flour.
Divide the batter evenly between the tins (I use a scale to get them exactly even) and level the surface. Bake for about 25 minutes (check at 20) until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 minutes then carefully turn them out onto a wire rack, peel off the baking parchment and leave to cool completely.
Swiss meringue buttercream:
Melt the dark chocolate, either in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, or in short bursts in the microwave. Set aside to cool slightly while you make the meringue.
Place the egg whites and sugar in a large, spotlessly clean heatproof bowl (the bowl of your stand mixer if you have one) and place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water; do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Gently whisk the mixture until the sugar has dissolved, if you rub some between your fingers you shouldn't feel any graininess. It should reach at least 60C/140F on a thermometer (but don't let it get too hot or it will start to set (at 70C)).
Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk on a high speed with an electric mixer until it has formed a thick, glossy meringue and is completely cool to the touch, about 10 minutes.
Turn the speed down to low and add the butter a tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition, until you have added all the butter and the buttercream has become smooth and silky. It may become soupy or curdled looking, just keep whisking and it will come back together. (If it doesn't, you may need to add a couple of tablespoons more of butter. Or if it remains soupy, refrigerate it for 15-30 minutes then carry on whisking on a high speed. If it remains curdled, place a couple of heaped tablespoons of the mixture in a separate bowl and microwave it until it melts, then drizzle it back into the rest of the buttercream slowly, while whisking on a high speed.)
Once the buttercream is smooth, whisk in the vanilla extract, espresso powder, cardamom and salt on a low speed, then fold in the dark chocolate (which by now should have cooled, but still be melted). Place the buttercream in a piping bag fitted with a large, plain nozzle.
Place one of the cooled cakes on a serving plate or cake stand and pipe rings of the buttercream to completely cover the top of it (you can just spread it on if you prefer.
Place the second cake layer on top and repeat the piping. Place the final layer on upside down so that the top is completely flat. Press down gently then place the cake in the fridge while you make the ganache.
Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl then heat the cream until it is just boiling. Pour the cream over the chocolate, let it sit for a minute then stir until smooth and the chocolate has completely melted. Stir in the butter until melted then set aside to cool slightly, but don't leave it so long that it starts to set.
Pour the ganache over the top of the cake and encourage it to drip over the edges with the back of a spoon. leave it to set slightly then place the remaining buttercream in a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle (or whatever piping nozzle you prefer and pipe eight dollops of buttercream on top of the cake.
Sprinkle over some chocolate sprinkles and serve. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
I was sent some free products but I wasn’t paid to write this post and all opinions are my own.