Black Forest Layer Cake

Black forest cakes are a tried and true favourite for a reason – especially when cherries are in season and at their most flavoursome. This is another cake using the Milk Bar method of cutting out rounds from a large rectangular sponge cake, ensuring you get perfectly even layers every time.

While I made this into a 2-layer cake this time as it was a gift for a couple in quarantine who didn’t need a giant cake, the recipe actually makes a 3-layer cake.

Ingredients (serves 12-14)
Equipment
9 x 13 inch “quarter sheet pan”*
A 6 inch cake ring*
6 inch wide acetate roll
Sticky tape

Chocolate Ganache
120g dark chocolate melts
90ml cream

Cake
115g butter, room temperature
300g caster sugar
3 large eggs
120ml buttermilk
60ml canola oil
2 tablespoons chocolate ganache
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee
130g plain flour
15g cornflour
70g cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking powder

Cherry Jam
225g fresh or frozen cherries (pitted and chopped finely)
25g caster sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour

Buttercream
115g butter, roughly chopped, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups icing sugar
1 tablespoons full-fat greek yoghurt, room temperature
½-1 tablespoon full-cream milk, room temperature

Cherry Milk Soak
40ml full-cream milk
25ml kirsch (cherry liqueur) or cherry juice

10-12 large fresh cherries, to decorate

Method

Chocolate Ganache
Add the dark chocolate and cream to a small saucepan and stir over a low heat until the chocolate is nearly melted. Remove from the heat and continue stirring until the chocolate is fully melted and smooth. Set aside (at room temperature).

Cake
Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Spray the base and sides of a quarter sheet pan with cooking oil and line the base with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer, or a large bowl if using a hand mixer, on a medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat on high until combined.

Add the buttermilk, oil, 2 tablespoons of your pre-prepared chocolate ganache, vanilla and coffee into a small bowl and stir until the coffee has dissolved. Add this chocolate mixture into the the butter mix and beat on high for a few minutes, scraping down the bowl as required.

Sift the flour, cornflour, cocoa powder and baking powder into the batter. Beat on low until the mixture has just combined, and then pour the batter into the lined cake tin. Smooth out flat and tap the tray gently against the bench a few times to get out any air bubbles.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes and then remove from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool completely.  

Cherry Jam
Place the cherries, caster sugar and cornflour into a saucepan over a medium heat. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly and continue to stir until thickened.

Buttercream
Beat butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 1-2 minutes until butter is pale and creamy.

Add vanilla and 1 cup of icing sugar. Beat on a low speed to combine, then turn up to medium and mix for 30 seconds. Add the remaining icing sugar along with the greek yoghurt. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. If too stiff, add milk. If too wet, add extra icing sugar. It should be fluffy and spreadable.

Cherry Milk Soak
Add milk and kirsch to a small bowl and whisk to combine.

Assembling the Cake
Place your cake on a large chopping/bread board. Using the picture below as a guide, use a 6 inch metal cake cutter to cut out 2 rounds of cake and then two half pieces.

Image courtesy of ‘What Charlotte Baked’

Place the 6 inch cake ring onto a plate or cake stand. Line the inside of the cake ring with a ‘collar’ of acetate, taping the edges together to join.

Place the two half pieces of cake at the bottom and press down firmly. If there are any gaps, use extra cake scraps to fill in the holes and press down very firmly to make one even layer. Carefully remove the cake ring (but leave the acetate).

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the milk soak over the cake layer. Allow to soak for about a minute. Spoon approximately one third of the chocolate ganache onto the cake layer, and spread evenly, ensuring the ganache gets right to the edges of the cake. Spoon half of the cherry filling on top of the ganache and spread out evenly to the edges of the cake. Add a few tablespoons of buttercream on top and smooth with a spatula to ensure the layer is (roughly) even.

Repeat this process for the second layer: cake, cherry milk soak, chocolate ganache, the remaining cherry jam and a thick layer of buttercream. If you need to, attach another round of acetate on top of your current cake collar (using tape to join the two collars) to ensure it is tall enough that all cake is supported.

Add the final layer of cake, spoon with the remaining milk soak and then top with the remaining chocolate ganache. Decorate with a ring of cherries and place in the fridge to set for a few hours. While the cake sets, add any remaining buttercream to the cake offcuts and enjoy as a snack!

Remove the cake from the fridge and gently peel away the acetate strip/s just before serving. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from What Charlotte Baked ‘Black Forest Naked Cake’. Buttercream recipe adapted from The Sweetest Menu ‘Milk Bar Birthday Cake’.

*If you don’t have a quarter sheet pan and/or round cutter, you can use two 8 inch/three 6 inch round cake pans

Brookies (Brownie x Cookies)

I’ll be the first to admit that I was skeptical. As a brownie purist and cookie lover, I couldn’t imagine how ‘brookies’ could improve on perfection. Well, I’m happy to say that I was proven wrong! Brookies combine the rich chocolate fudginess of a brownie with the convenience and shelf life of a cookie. They also have both the crunchy side parts AND the fudgy middle of a brownie in the one morsel, so there’s no more fighting over who gets which brownie. To sum up, I’m mad at myself for resisting this trend for so long when they are JUST. SO. GOOD.

I ate (and, regretfully, shared) this batch too quickly to experiment, but I’m going to try making brooking sandwiches next time, with a peanut butter or caramel filling.

Ingredients (makes 24)
225g dark chocolate melts
75g butter, at room temperature
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
¾ cup plain flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 teaspoon baking powder

Method
Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 20 second bursts, stirring between each burst, until smooth and entirely melted. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, add the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar together with electric beaters on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy (about 2 minutes). Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat on high speed for a further 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then pour in the melted chocolate and mix on medium-high speed for 2 full minutes.

Add in the flour, cocoa powder, coffee and baking powder and beat on low speed until just combined. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C (160 fan-forced) and line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.

Once chilled, roll the dough into roughly golf ball sized balls and place on the tray, leaving room to spread (I fit about 6 per tray). Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until the edges appear set and the top has a cracked appearance (don’t worry that the centre is soft, it will set as it cools). Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Enjoy!

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week (but I doubt they’ll last that long!)

Recipe adapted from ‘My Favorite Brownie Cookies’ on Sally’s Baking Blog.

Chocolate, Date & Ginger Slice

This slice always reminds me of my wonderful grandparents. Whenever I stayed with Grandma and Grandpa as a kid, in between playing shop in their walk-in pantry, dress-ups, cuddles and “helping” in the garden or kitchen, this slice made an appearance and never lasted long! I’m very lucky to still catch up with them regularly and can confirm that a piece (or two) of this slice is as delicious as I remember.

Ingredients (makes 48 pieces)
1 cup dates, chopped
½ cup uncrystallised ginger, chopped finely
½ cup white sugar
115g butter, cubed
6 Weetbix, crushed (approx. 2 cups)
225g dark chocolate

Method
Line a 28cm x 18cm slice tin with baking paper.

Cook dates, ginger, sugar and butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat until the butter is melted and the dates are soft. Stir in Weetbix and ensure the mixture is well combined.

Press firmly into lined slice tin and refrigerate 30mins or until set.

Melt the chocolate. Spread a thin layer of chocolate over the top and leave to set at room temperature.

Cut into approximately 48 pieces. Enjoy!

Recipe from Roma Hammond via Grandma

Black Forest Meringues

Cherry season is always too fleeting for my liking, but while it’s here, I try to make the most of it. These black forest meringues showcase the cherries in a light and delicious summer dessert.

Ingredients (makes 6)
50g dark chocolate
2 egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
½ cup caster sugar
Cherry Sauce
12 cherries, pitted and quartered
1 dessertspoon white sugar
1 dessertspoon water
1 teaspoon cornflour
Whipped Cream
250ml thickened cream
1 dessertspoon icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Dark Chocolate Sauce
200g dark chocolate melts
200ml thickened cream
To serve
24 cherries, pitted and halved
6 whole cherries

Preheat oven to 120°C. Line 2 large baking trays with non-stick baking paper.

Melt dark chocolate in the microwave or on the stove.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer or electric hand beaters to whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the cream of tartar and then the sugar, a spoonful at a time, whisking until dissolved before adding the next spoonful (test this by rubbing a little of the mixture between your thumb and forefinger).

Use a dessert spoon to spoon the mixture onto the prepared trays. Shape into 6 even meringues with a slight well in the centre. Spoon melted chocolate onto each meringue and use a skewer to swirl it through the meringue mixture.

Place the meringues into the oven and reduce the temperature to 90°C. Leave the oven on for 1 hour or until the meringues are crisp and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Turn the oven off and allow the meringues to cool gradually in the oven (approximately 2 hours).

While the meringues are in the oven, make the cherry sauce by blitzing the cherries and water in a stick blender until smooth. Add to a small saucepan with the sugar and cornflour and stir constantly until thickened. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Just before you are ready to serve, make the whipped cream and chocolate sauce. To make the whipped cream, blitz the cream, sugar and vanilla with a stick blender until thickened. To make the chocolate sauce, combine the chocolate and cream in a small saucepan over a low heat until melted and combined.

To serve, smear the cherry sauce on the plate and place a meringue on top. Top with whipped cream, halved cherries and then drizzle with chocolate sauce. Add a whole cherry on top and enjoy!

Meringue recipe adapted from Taste.com.au ‘Basic Meringues’ and Donna Hay’s ‘No Fail Meringue Mixture’.

Inspiration from Matt Preston’s ‘Individual chewy Black Forest meringues’ in delicious.

Snickers Fudge Sauce

This is really more of a suggested combination of flavours than a real ‘recipe’ but it gets such positive reviews each time that I make it that I thought I should share it with you. It’s basically a Snickers bar in a sauce and is perfect draped over ice-cream with some crunchy salted peanuts, or added to another dessert to make it extra indulgent.

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Ingredients (makes a generous serve for 4-6 people)
175ml cream
100g dark chocolate
100g peanut butter (smooth or crunchy will work depending on your desired texture)
2½ tablespoons golden syrup

Method
Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan. Heat over a low-medium heat, stirring until melted and combined.

Serve with ice-cream, profiteroles, brownies or anything else you please. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson’s ‘Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Sundae’

 

Giant Cookie Cake

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For my birthday this year, I decided to bake something a little different. As much as I have enjoyed making (and eating!) my layered drip cakes (here and here) over the last couple of years, this year I was after something simpler. Enter the cookie cake.

I have admired the brightly coloured array of delicious looking cookie cakes on Sally’s Baking Addiction (my baking porn website of choice) for years, and finally got around to making it. Boy, am I glad I did! As promised, this ‘cake’ is so quick and simple to make and produces a deliciously chewy and flavoursome giant cookie. The recipe is also very easy to adapt – you could use M&Ms, or mix up the choc chips depending on your taste.

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Ingredients (serves 12-14)
170g softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg + an extra yolk
5 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cornflour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ cups chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate)
Chocolate frosting for topping (optional)

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Method
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Spray a 23cm (9-inch) pie dish or cake pan thoroughly with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, beat the butter for 1-2 minutes until light and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat for about a minute or until combined. Mix in the egg, egg yolk and vanilla on until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as required.

In a separate bowl, combine the flours and baking powder. On a low speed, gradually mix into the wet ingredients until combined. Add in 1¼ cups chocolate chips and mix for until evenly dispersed.

Gently press the cookie dough evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden brown (use a skewer in the centre to check it’s cooked). Remove from the oven and set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled, use a sharp knife or metal spatula to loosen the sides of the cookie cake from the pan and transfer to a cake stand or serving plate.

Decorate as desired (I made a quick chocolate buttercream using butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder and piped it on using my Wilton 1M tip), top with the remaining chocolate chips and serve with vanilla ice-cream. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from ‘Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake’ on Sally’s Baking Addiction.

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Silky Chocolate Mousse

This is one of my favourite desserts because it takes so little effort and you can make it well ahead of time – the perfect set and forget dinner party dessert. I like a hint of Bailey’s Irish Cream in my mousse, but this can be omitted if you’re serving it to children or swapped for any other liqueur of your choice – creme de menthe for a choc-mint or Cointreau for a choc-orange mousse would both work well.

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Ingredients (serves 8)
300g good quality dark chocolate
50g butter
3 eggs, separated
1-2 tblspns Bailey’s Irish Cream (optional)
¼ cup caster sugar
300ml thickened cream

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Method
Melt butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over a low heat until smooth. Remove from heat.

Stir in egg yolks, one a a time, and Bailey’s liqueur. Transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool.

Beat egg whites in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating until it dissolves between additions.

Beat cream until thoroughly whipped and thick. Gently combine with the chocolate mixture and then fold in the egg white mixture in two batches, taking care not to over-mix the mousse.

Divide mousse among eight ½-cup serving dishes (I use glasses). Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate until set (at least 2 hours).

Serve with fresh raspberries. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly Best Food Desserts.

Chocolate & Mint Drip Cake

I made this cake for a combined Birthday/Bon Voyage dinner last weekend. I love the combination of chocolate and mint and am always keen to try out large layer cakes when cooking for a crowd.

Keep pieces small to ensure it’s not overly rich – maybe try out this technique from the genius Katherine Sabbath!

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Ingredients (serves 16-18)
Chocolate Layer Cake
2 boxes Betty Crocker moist devil’s food cake

Mint Buttercream Frosting
200g butter, softened
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
8 cups icing sugar
2-3 drops peppermint oil (or to taste)
a few drops of green food colouring

Dark Chocolate Ganache
170g dark chocolate melts
¾ cup cream
1 ½ teaspoons corn syrup

Toppings
2 x Flake bars
3 x Peppermint Crisp bars
3 x double Aero bars
1 x packet Darrell Lea BB’s chocolate mint balls
1 x packet dark Maltesers

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Method
Make 4 cakes, according to packet instructions, by halving the batter from each cake mix and baking in 20cm cake tins. Carefully trim cooked cakes where necessary to ensure they are perfectly flat, and use the best 3 (freeze the 4th for another time).

To make the frosting, cream the butter for 1-2 minutes. Add the milk, vanilla extract and half of the icing sugar and beat for at least 3 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the remaining icing sugar along with the peppermint oil and food colouring and beat for a further 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.

Attach your base cake to a cake board or serving tray by using a small amount of frosting as glue. Spread a layer of frosting onto the top of the cake and then top with the next cake layer. Repeat.

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Spread frosting onto the top and sides of the cake – don’t worry if you get crumbs in it, this is called the crumb coat. Using a spatula or protractor (as I did!), scrape off excess frosting so you have a thin smooth layer. Refrigerate cake for 30 minutes or until frosting is firm.

Add a second layer of frosting onto the top and sides of cake, again scraping off the excess and creating a smooth finish.

Place chocolate melts into medium bowl and set aside. Heat cream in a saucepan over medium-high heat just until it almost starts to simmer. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate. Let sit for about 5 minutes and then stir with a wooden spoon until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Stir in corn syrup. Allow to cool until slightly thickened.

Use a spoon to add a few purposeful drips over the top edge of the cake. Then spoon more ganache on top of the cake, allowing it to drip at varying points around the cake.

Top cake with Flake pieces, peppermint crisp shards, Aero pieces, Maltesers and bb’s. Alternate Maltesers and bb’s and make a ring around the base of the cake.

Serve by cutting into small pieces. Enjoy!

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Profiteroles with Vanilla Crème Pâtissière & Chocolate Sauce

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers out there! Today I celebrated with one side of my family for a delicious brunch and then had dinner with the other side of the family, and I served these profiteroles for dessert.

Choux pastry has a nasty reputation as being very difficult to make, but Mum has been making this recipe for over 20 years and it has never failed for her. I was surprised by how easy it was to make and using this simple base recipe you can make profiteroles, eclairs or Paris-Brest. If you’re pressed for time you could easily swap the crème pâtissière for sweetened whipped cream, or for a different flavour, you could add a liquor such as Bailey’s Irish cream or Grand Marnier to the filling (although to me, nothing beats a homemade vanilla crème pat). The chocolate sauce could also be changed to berry, lemon, or caramel, or you could dip the profiteroles in toffee à la croquembouche. Basically, the options are endless!

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Choux Pastry (makes ~35 profiteroles or 20 eclairs)
1 cup water
60g butter
120g plain flour, sifted
4 eggs
1 extra egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water

Crème Pâtissière
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
140g white sugar
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
2 heaped dessertspoons flour
2 heaped dessertspoons cornflour
500ml milk
70g butter

Chocolate Sauce
300g dark chocolate melts
400ml pouring cream

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Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper and add a 1cm nozzle to a piping bag. Preheat oven to 205°C.

In a medium saucepan, bring water and butter to the boil. Lower the heat and add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a smooth, sticky mass. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 3 minutes.

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Stirring with a wooden spoon, add eggs one at a time, ensuring your mixture is smooth and fully combined.

Fill a piping bag with the mixture and pipe mounds of pastry about 2cm in diameter, 2cm apart. Sprinkle lightly with water (the humidity helps the pastry rise) and then bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Turn down the temperature to 150°C and cook for a further 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave to dry in the oven for approximately an hour.

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The odd misshapen profiterole is inevitable!

To make the crème pâtissière, mix together the eggs, yolks, sugar and flours. Bring the milk to the boil. Carefully pour it into the egg mixture, whisking well together. Add in the vanilla bean.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. After a time, the mixture will thicken quickly – make sure you keep stirring so the mixture on the bottom of the pan doesn’t burn. Beat in the butter a little at a time.

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Pour into a bowl, top with cling film and allow to cool.

Once profiteroles and crème pâtissière are fully cool, cut almost in half and fill with crème pâtissière.

Just before serving, make the chocolate sauce by combining the chocolate and cream in a medium saucepan and stirring on a low heat until melted and smooth. Add more cream or chocolate as required until desired consistency is reached.

Serve profiteroles drizzled with chocolate sauce and berries. Enjoy!

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Phew, 10 servings with 4 profiteroles each is quite exhausting!

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Choux pastry recipe adapted from Gabriel Gaté’s ‘Sweet Treats’ (1995).
Crème pâtissière recipe adapted from Vogue’s ‘Grand Finales’ (1988).

Christmas Ice Cream Pudding

As an Aussie, Christmas day is often stinking hot and the last thing you feel like is eating a hot, rich traditional pudding at the conclusion of your meal. Enter my cheat’s ice-cream pudding!

This is more of a suggestion than a recipe (as you can adapt it entirely to suit you), but this combination is always a hit with my family, with the bonus of looking like a traditional pudding once complete.

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 Ingredients (serves 10)
2 litres good quality chocolate ice-cream
⅔ packet mini marshmallows
½  packet Maltesers
½ a packet lolly raspberries, chopped
2 large Mars Bars, chopped
50g white chocolate, melted (to decorate)
1 lolly raspberry (to decorate)
2 spearmint leaves (to decorate)

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Method
Soften ice-cream at room temperature until it is a workable consistency. Meanwhile, line a  large, deep glass bowl with clingfilm. Spray the clingfilm with cooking oil.

Once ice-cream is softened, transfer half to a large bowl. Add in half of your lollies and mix until evenly distributed. Repeat with the remaining ice-cream in its container. Transfer all ice-cream into your prepared bowl. Smooth the “top” with a spatula. Freeze until set.

To turn the pudding out, sit the bottom of the bowl in a sink filled with a few centimetres of warm water, and run a knife around the edge of the bowl as required. Once it is loosened (you may need to repeat a few times), it should slide out easily onto your desired serving plate. Peel off the clingfilm.

To decorate, spoon melted white chocolate on top to look like custard and top with the raspberry lolly and spearmint leaves.  Enjoy!

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