Friday Food: Hummingbird Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake

Readers, if you are easily offended by images of oozing caramel, stiff chocolate ganache and crumbly moist chocolate cake, then look away now.

This post is basically food porn. 😉

So, one of the best things about birthdays is surely the cake, right? And in my family it has become somewhat of a tradition to make extravagant celebration cakes for any occasion going. When I say family, I really mean, Pete and I’s little family, but my sister happens to also be a baking obsessive and it was she who bestowed on me this tower of chocolate and caramel culinary pleasure.

I’ve asked Francesca to write it up herself as this was not a cake without trauma, you’ll notice the cake is not, ahem, perfect visually, (although could anything be more perfect than that caramel ooze as it crumbles slightly?) but let me tell you, it was melt in the mouth good. It was certainly a tricky one to make but I can now from experience tell you that if you want to make someone feel loved because of the sheer effort you put into something, this is the cake for you. Over to Francesca…

Hummingbird Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake (taken from The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days by Tarek Malouf)
Serves: 12 (Actually serves 16 comfortably as it’s so rich)
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes

For the sponge:
300g unsalted butter, softened
300g caster sugar
140g soft light brown sugar
3 eggs
100g cocoa powder
160ml buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla essence
330g (11½oz) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt

For the salty caramel:
200g caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
120ml double cream
60ml soured cream
1 tsp fine sea salt
For the frosting:
200g caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
360 ml double cream
450g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), chopped, plus extra to decorate
450g unsalted butter, softened
Sea salt flakes, for sprinkling

1. First make the salty caramel. In a small saucepan bring the sugar and golden syrup to the boil with 60ml (2fl oz) of water, allowing the mixture to boil for about 10 minutes, during which time it should become quite syrupy and a rich caramel colour.
2. Put the double cream, soured cream and salt in a separate pan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. The salt should completely dissolve in the cream.
3. When the sugar syrup is ready, remove it from the heat and carefully add the hot cream. It will bubble up as you pour in the cream, but smooth out again quickly after that, becoming a creamier golden colour. Pour the caramel into a small bowl and set it aside to cool while you make the frosting.
4. In a small, clean saucepan, bring the caster sugar and golden syrup to the boil with 60 millilitres of water, again letting this boil for approximately 10 minutes or until it is syrupy and caramel-coloured.
5. In a separate pan, bring the double cream to the boil. Carefully pour the hot cream into the caramel: as before, it will bubble up, but settle again shortly afterwards. Set this caramel aside to cool slightly.
6. Once it has cooled, add the chopped chocolate, stirring constantly while the chocolate melts. Using a hand-held electric whisk, mix the frosting for about 10 minutes or until the bottom of the bowl feels cool.
7. Add the butter to the chocolate caramel frosting and whisk together until the mixture is light and looks slightly whipped. Place the frosting in the fridge to cool and set for 40–50 minutes while you make the sponge.
8. Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3, and line the bases of the sandwich tins with baking parchment.
9. Using a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, or a hand-held electric whisk, cream together the butter and both types of sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl.
10. In a jug stir together the cocoa powder, buttermilk and vanilla essence with 60 millitres of water to form a thick paste. Sift together the remaining sponge ingredients, then add these in stages to the creamed butter and sugar, alternating with the cocoa powder paste and mixing thoroughly on a low-to-medium speed until all the ingredients are incorporated.
11. Divide the batter between the three prepared cake tins and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the top of each sponge feels springy to the touch. Allow the sponges to cool slightly in their tins before turning out on to a wire rack and cooling completely before assembling.
12. Once the sponges feel cold to the touch, place one on a plate or cake card and top with approximately two tablespoons of the salty caramel, smoothing it over the sponge using a palette knife. Top the caramel layer with three to four tablespoons of the frosting and smooth it out as before.
13. Continue this process, sandwiching together the other two sponges with the remaining salty caramel and a layer of frosting and leaving enough frosting to cover the sides and top of the cake. To finish, decorate the top with chopped chocolate and a light sprinkling of the sea salt flakes.

After recently tasting Hotel Chocolate’s salted caramel chocolates I couldn’t resist making this cake as a birthday treat for Rebecca. I’ll warn you immediately it should come with a health warning for the vast quantities of terribly bad, (but delicious) ingredients! I’ll also admit it isn’t a particularly straightforward cake to bake, so clear a morning/afternoon to dedicate yourself to the task! I can however fully vouch for the end result being completely worth the effort!

I started by making the caramel which went without a hitch for the first batch. The second batch I took my eye off for what seemed like a second and I was suddenly surrounded by smoke and a billowing pan of black liquid!
Therefore top tip number one – watch your caramel very carefully! Let it boil gently at a medium heat and be patient.

I found I needed rather a large bowl for mixing the caramel, chocolate and butter to make the frosting – the bigger the better as you’ll end up with a whopping 1.5 litres of it! I think you could afford to make two thirds of the quantitiy and there’d still be plenty. I did have fun with the left over caramel and chocolate frosting though – The frosting sets to a truffle-like consistenty when left in the fridge for a few hours, so I pinched out cherry sized balls from the mix, rolled it into small balls and drizzled the left over reheated caramel over the top to make very simple truffles. Yum!

Although I love dark chocolate, If I made this cake again, I think I would substitue some of the dark chocolate for milk – maybe 300g dark to 150g milk (I like using galaxy in baking) just to make it a bit lighter. But that is entirely personal preference!

The cake mix is the most straightforward part of the cake and of all the mixes I’ve had the perk of licking out of the bowl, this was the best! The cake does come out quite crumbly though so I would use baking parchment and be careful taking it out of the tin in order to keep it in one piece.

Finally, by reheating the chocolate frosting in the microwave for 30 seconds before assembling the cake, it makes the frosting smooth on far more easily when you do the egdes and top.
Good luck and I guarantee you’ll enjoy the end product!

I think I need a lie down… feel free to leave inappropriate comments about the awesomeness that is this cake. I won’t judge you.


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20 thoughts on “Friday Food: Hummingbird Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake

  1. Oh my god, OH MY ACTUAL GOD. I am obsessed with salted caramel. Ever since I had a chocolate brownie dessert with salted caramel recently. I even went so far as to go to Selfridges and buy a bottle of the stuff and have it with vanilla ice cream at home.

    If I had this cake, I think I’d implode with happiness.


  2. This post is making me want to go buy cake for the office now (just so I won’t be judged for eating it alone!), is half nine really to early to demolish a cake?! X

  3. HOLY. BALLS. That looks actually amazing – I think I might have actually broken my keyboard with the amount of dribbling I have just done. I NEED it to be someone’s birthday so I can make this beautiful monster… Although if I make it there’s a chance it might not actually make it out of my kitchen!!

    Good work Francesca 🙂

  4. Hmm, this seems a bit of a juxtaposition with yesterdays post about diets, but it is a magnificent treat of a cake and perfect for a special occasion. Bookmark it!

    Personally, not only am I unsure I could pull this off, but I also think (like Roz and Gemma,) I might end up a gibbering sugar rush wreck in the corner on the floor clutching the plate to my chest with a wild look in my eye and chocolate smeared everywhere… not pretty! Good job I have a fab sister to restrain me!

  5. Oh my….. That looks incredible! My salivery glands have gone nuts. I always knew I was short-changed by Life in not having a sister – and here we have the proof.

    (Rebecca: your sister is not only a demon in the kitchen, but extremely pretty btw. I expect you knew this!)

  6. I am going to make this on Saturday morning for a mates birthday but cant see what size sandwich tins to use. Any idea?

    Many thanks and oh I can’t wait.

    J x

  7. Well, Mike made this cake last night for his company’s Cakey Bakey challenge. The prep time is quoted as 15 mins in the recipe, but as indicated in the commentary – it takes flippin’ ages. I would estimate more than 4 hours, by the time you’ve made two lots of caramel (10 mins boiling time each, plus weighing out, etc.) and then whipped the frosting for 10 mins. Then added the butter, then stuck it in the fridge, then made the cake mix, prepared the tins… cooked it, cooled it and assembled it. Probably 4 – 5 hours total. But we were in bed by 00.30. 😉 I also have limited space/equipment so my kitchen was covered in chocolate (everywhere, including all over Mike) and I believe I did at least 10 bowls of washing up throughout the process.

    So it’s hardcore. BUT – brilliant fun. The satisfaction of making caramel, the pride of Mike having mastered so many stages, and of making such a huge huge cake…. amazing!

    And the eating! Well, the frosting tastes like Galaxy Caramel chocolate. The cake is just a chocolate cake – it’s quite solid – but it needs to be or it would collapse under the weight of all the goo. The caramel was perfect – took Mike longer than 10 mins, though, as he’d let the cream cool before putting it all together, so he heated them up a little once mixed.

    I had to wait about 21 hours before I could taste it… I had the tiniest slice. And felt pretty overwhelmed. I’m not sweet-toothed, so the salted caramel appealed. But don’t be fooled. This is a totally, 100% rich and sticky, OTT indulgence of a cake. And quite an accomplishment to complete it.

    Ours looked pretty slapdash on the outside, but once cut into, a little chocolately dream.

    Proud of Mike – it’s the hardest I’ve seen him work at anything in 2.5 years. 😉

    Proud of me for tolerating that much washing up!

    Try it – but be aware you may kill the people you feed it to if they have existing cholesterol problems. It’s a heart attack waiting to happen.

    One slice = all your calorie allowance for a day.


  8. Just got back from 9 months of travelling with my bf and he has just asked me to make it again for him (made it for his birthday last year). It is a truly spectacular cake. Thanks for sharing x

  9. This looks absolutely amazing! I have a small cake business in Cape Town and I have a client that has requested this cake but as a giant cupcake.
    Is the sponge stable enough for this? Definitely baking this cake twice over. Client cant get all the yumminess 🙂

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