Snowed in on the final day of a typically dreary and uninspiring January, needless to say a little pick-me-up was required. Or a big one… The need for decadence in order to counteract the general drab-ness of the season called, naturally, for chocolate. But aside from this, being stuck indoors with a diminished stock of interesting ingredients and an even more diminished fruit bowl, this is a cake that doesn’t require any quirky or fancy ingredients – I’ll bet most home-bakers will already have in the cupboards everything needed for this little masterpiece. Although of course this cake would be perfect to serve up as an impressive dessert centrepiece at a gathering, I really don’t believe in waiting for just the right occasion in order to indulge… The cake itself is a French-style sponge made with no raising agent or fat, so in actual fact its light as a feather – it’s the browned butter frosting which packs the punch. I think the toasted coconut adds a gorgeous nutty element, but if you don’y have anything decoration-worthy at all, a little sea salt sprinkled over will add a different kind of flavour pop which will add an equal little je ne sais quoi… – enjoy x
for the cake
60g plain flour
4 eggs, separated
90g caster sugar
50g cocoa powder
for the frosting:
450g icing sugar
60g unsalted butter
Plus 50g melted dark chocolate + one tablespoon butter (optional but good)
Plus toasted coconut flakes, desiccated coconut, flaked almonds, chocolate shards or sea salt flakes, for decoration.
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºc. Grease and line three round 20cm cake tins.
Sieve into a bowl the flour and cocoa powder, then set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer or with an electric whisk, beat the egg yolks with half the sugar for 5 minutes until pale. Separately, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add in the rest of the sugar and whisk until the mix reaches stiff peaks.
Gently fold in the white to the yolk before very gradually adding the flour/cocoa. It is important to do this really slowly so as to incorporate the dry without beating out the air from the whisked eggs.
Gently spoon the mix evenly into the tins, and push to fill the tin right to the edges. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Once baked, turn out to cool on wire racks.
The cakes will not take long to cool, so start on the frosting; place the butter in a small pan over a medium heat until melted. Swirling the pan attentively, let the butter cook and bubble until it reaches a deep amber colour. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl to cool off.
When the butter is cooled and beginning to set, sieve over half the icing sugar and the vanilla. Mix roughly before adding the rest of the sugar and a dash of milk. Mix vigorously, adding more milk a little at a time until a smooth, thick but spreadable consistency is reached.
When the cake is cool, spread each layer generously with the frosting, pushing it over the edges of the cake, until all three layers are stacked. Cover the top of the cake and sides completely with the frosting, filling all the gaps down the side of the cake to ensure neatness when cut. In a small bowl melt the chocolate, and add the butter. Stir this frequently until cooled, before spreading over the top of the iced cake. Finish off with a collar of toasted coconut flakes, almonds or chocolate shards.