Any time is a good time for chocolate cake! This one is a real crowd-pleaser and for me, is the ultimate version – a light, moist sponge, not dry, not too heavy, sandwiched with layers of smooth, meltingly-soft chocolate buttercream all topped with a rich, dark chocolate ganache, dripping and oozing down the sides. This classic version is good enough on its own but is taken up a level when paired with either strawberries or peanut butter; both perfect for an extra special occasion.
- Grease and line 3 x 20cm round cake tins with greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F / gas 4.
- Using a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Next add the eggs, one at a time to the butter and sugar mix and continue to beat, until combined.
- Mix together the cocoa, flour and baking powder, along with the salt and add half the dry ingredients along with the melted chocolate to the butter / egg / sugar mix.
- Combine and then carefully fold in the rest of the dry ingredients, taking care not to overbeat as this will make your sponges tough.
- Add enough milk to give a soft dropping consistency.
- Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared tins and bake on the middle shelf, in the centre of the oven, for about 25–30 minutes until firm in the centre or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave the sponges to cool on a wire rack.
- Whilst cooling, make the buttercream by beating the butter in a mixer until pale and fluffy.
- Add the cocoa powder, icing sugar and salt gradually and continue to beat until very light and fluffy. Use a small splash of milk if needed, to loosen the buttercream. Divide the buttercream into five equal amounts, as a rough guide.
- When the sponges are completely cool, assemble the cake by placing one sponge on a cake board or serving plate. Take one amount of the buttercream and then spread this evenly over the first sponge. Place the second sponge on top and spread another amount over the sponge. Repeat with the final layer. With the remaining buttercream, cover the whole outside of the cake in an even layer.
Finally, make the ganache by placing the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of boiling water (don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water!). Melt gently over a medium heat. Once melted, remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring to melt into the chocolate. Leave until almost cool, but still runny enough to pour (otherwise it will melt your buttercream). Pour onto the top of your cake and using a pallet knife or back of a spoon, tease the ganache towards the edge so that it drips down the side of the cake.
Peanut butter and chocolate cake – leave out the chocolate buttercream and instead replace with a peanut butter frosting. For the PB frosting, beat 300g butter using an electric hand/ stand mixer, until very pale, for a few minutes. Add 120g of peanut butter and 250g of the icing sugar and mix again. Then add another 250g of icing sugar. Thin the buttercream with a splash of milk, if needed. Assemble the cake and scatter with crushed salted peanuts over the top.
Strawberries and Chocolate cake – replace the chocolate buttercream with a fresh strawberry frosting. To make the strawberry frosting, puree 200g of strawberries then reduce the puree over a medium heat, until reduced by half. Leave to cool completely. In an electric mixer, beat 300g butter until pale. Add 250g icing sugar and mix again. Add another 250g of icing sugar and mix well. Assemble the cake and decorate with chocolate-dipped strawberries.