Vanilla & Salted Caramel Cake

 I love Millionaire's shortbread. That delicious combination of crumbly, buttery biscuit with the sweetness of the caramel and the depth of the milky chocolate to complete it's yumminess! It got me thinking about combining those flavours in a layered vanilla sponge cake. One of the fillings being rich chocolate ganache and the other being sticky, salty caramel. I wanted to keep a delicateness to the cake, so decided to cover it with a coating of chocolate swiss meringue buttercream. And a little crunch with some roasted and caramelised hazelnuts to balance the flavours and textures.

 

 

Baking for me comes from the heart...and I love it most when I can bake for family. This taste sensation of a cake included all my sister's favourite flavours. Bar the hazelnuts actually – but they won her over on the day!

It may seem like there's a lot of components in this cake, but fortunately they are not too timely to prepare. And when combined are definitely worth the wait! The cake recipe is as follows:

Vanilla sponge:

225g plain flour

225g softened margarine

225g caster sugar

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tsp baking powder

125 ml whole milk

1tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC and grease and line 3 baking tins (6” or 15cm).

2. Beat together the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Sift together the flour and baking powder

4. Keep the mixer on a low speed and slowly add the eggs. A tablespoon of flour will keep the mixture from curdling.

5. Add the vanilla extract. And then combine the flour into the mixture gently.

6. Add the milk in 2 parts. The mixture is very runny but it will produce a lovely, light sponge. 

7. Split the mixture between the 3 tins and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

8. When cooked, remove the tins from the oven and allow the cakes to cool in the tins.


Chocolate ganache

55ml double cream

65g high quality cooking chocolate, chopped

10g butter, chopped

1. Heat the cream in a pan or in a microwave until it is just boiling.

2. Pour the hot cream onto the chopped chocolate. Stir gently.

3. When the chocolate has melted, add the butter and stir.

4. Allow the ganache to completely cool.


Salted caramel

To control the saltiness of this caramel, it it needs to be made in reasonably sized a batch. This recipe will fill a 400g jar and will keep for 2 weeks if refrigerated. It can be made in advance and only needs to be warmed lightly when you're ready to work with it - this will make it softer and easier to work with.

200g granulated sugar

90g butter, small pieces

120ml double cream

½ tsp high quality salt not table salt (this amount is adequately salty for me – but can be adjusted to personal taste. Just don't sample the caramel sauce when it is hot as we don't want any burnt tongues!)

1. Heat the sugar in a medium heavy bottomed pan over a medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon.

2. The sugar will form clumps but will eventually melt into a thick amber liquid. Don't allow the sugar to burn so once it starts to colour, immediately start to add the butter. Be careful as the mixture will bubble up so add the butter slowly and steadily, while stirring the whole time.

3. Now slowly pour in the cream. This time the mixture will boil even more rapidly, so take care.

4. Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. Then remove from the heat. Stir in the salt.

5. Allow to cool before using. The caramel sauce can be poured into a sterilised jar and stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

 

Chocolate swiss meringue buttercream

1 egg white

65g granulated sugar

75g butter, softened and in pieces

115g high quality cooking chocolate, melted

½ tsp vanilla extract

1. Place the egg white and sugar into a large metal bowl. Place this bowl onto a pan of simmering water. Whisk continuously until the sugar has completely melted. You will have a meringue like mixture.

2. Remove the bowl from the heat. Add the vanilla extract and whisk the mixture on a high speed until it has cooled.

3. When the mixture has thoroughly cooled, add the butter one piece at a time. Continue to whisk throughout. If the mixture looks like it's beginning to curdle – keep whipping before adding any further butter. The mixture will recover.

4. Lastly fold in the melted chocolate to combine completely. You will have a light and creamy buttercream with a beautiful flavour.

 

Roasted & caramelised hazelnuts

The cake could be made up without this component but the crunch and flavour do complete this cake. If you're short for time, you could use chopped pieces of chocolate as a substitute.

50g hazelnuts, skinned

4 tbsp granulated sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Scatter the skinned hazelnuts on a baking sheet and place into the oven. Roast for about 10 minutes. There will be a lovely aroma. But be careful not to burn as the nuts will taste bitter. Remove and scatter on heatproof container / plate.

2. Heat the sugar in a small heavy bottomed pan. This time don't stir.

3. Allow the sugar to melt and when it's turned a lovely caramel colour. Remove the pan from the heat and drizzle the caramel over the hazelnuts. Leave the nuts to cool.

4. When completely cool, break the brittle into smaller pieces.

 

Cake Assembly

To assemble the cake, spread the chocolate ganache onto the bottom sponge layer. Place the second sponge layer on top and spread with the salted caramel sauce. Place the third and final sponge layer on the very top. Using a palette knife, spread the swiss meringue buttercream over the sides and the top. To finish, drizzle with some salted caramel sauce and sprinkle over the caramelised hazelnuts.

Swiss meringue buttercream will only keep for 24 hours, so this cake should be eaten on the day it's prepared. That's generally not a problem in my household! But if you do need to prepare this cake in advance, it would be best to make it with ordinary chocolate buttercream.