Everyone has a favourite chocolate cake. At our house it’s a moist, decadently rich and chocolate-y ‘volcano’ cake. A melt and mix recipe with an unusual twist. So named to reflect the alchemy created when bicarbonate of soda added to a heated saucepan of butter, sugar and cocoa, makes the mixture fizz and expand. Eliciting a frisson of excitement as the “volcano” forms and a delicious sense of impending danger that a momentary lapse of concentration may cause the saucepan to overflow.
A much loved recipe redolent of my childhood. So entrenched in my psyche that I can make it with my eyes closed. It’s what I make when my household craves a quick chocolate hit and lends itself to all manner of guises – a simple icing sugar dusted slab, iced cupcakes covered with a generous sprinkling of 100’s and 1000’s or a buttercream frosted torte.
Here it is in its latest reincarnation. Dressed to impress as a chocolate layer cake. Baked in two round sandwich tins; as I would another of my afternoon tea time favourites – the Victoria sponge. Filled with a generous layer of my mother’s home-made sour cherry jam and lashings of freshly whipped chantilly cream. Finished with a rich, thick and shiny ganache topping.
Chocolate Layer Cake With Whipped Cream, Cherry Jam and Ganache
For the Chocolate Cake
1/3 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cups castor sugar
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150 g butter
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
For the Chocolate Ganache Topping
120g dark chocolate; chopped into pieces
1 tablespoon butter
For the Filling
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
1/2 cup jam, I used cherry
To Bake the Chocolate Layer Cakes
PREHEAT oven to 180 C. Grease and base line two 20cm round sandwich tins.
COMBINE water, sugar, butter, cocoa and bicarbonate soda in a saucepan and bring to a simmer but do not boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the butter has melted. You will need to watch the pan like a hawk at this point as the bicarbonate of soda will cause the mixture to fizz, keep stirring to stop it from overflowing.
TRANSFER mixture to a bowl and leave to cool for 30 minutes. Then beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, beating well to combine.
POUR batter into the prepared tins. Be warned, the mixture will seem a little runnier than a regular cake batter.
BAKE in a moderate oven 180°C (not fanforced) for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick or skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
COOL for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To Make the Ganache
BRING cream to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
POUR over chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Leave to stand for two minutes to allow chocolate to melt.
ADD butter. Whisk mixture until thick, smooth and shiny.
COMBINE cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a deep mixing bowl. Whip at medium speed until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes.
SPREAD jam evenly over one of the cakes, then cover a thick layer of cream.
PLACE second cake on top. Dollop over ganache, using a palette knife to evenly spread over top to cover. Set aside for 15-20 minutes to set.