When my brothers and I were growing up, our mother made us whatever cake we wanted for our birthdays; vanilla or chocolate with buttercream and jam mostly, but for herself it was always a basic sponge with jam, and in 2012 I decided to do something about it. After flicking through my collection of baking books, I decided on this Hummingbird Bakery recipe.
The original called for chopped pecan nuts, but since one family member has a nut allergy, I had to change it to chocolate. But if you want to, you can use the original suggestion or, I think it would work, replace half the chocolate with chopped pecans.
The first time I made this, it was a resounding success. Everyone raved about it, someone suggested finely chopping a honeycomb chocolate bar to go over the top, most probably one of my cousins. I seem to remember seeing some maple fudge somewhere, so I guess that would be good too.
Sometimes I make up a third of the buttercream below, and use that to sandwich the three layers of cake together, then I cover it with thick chocolate frosting. I also tend to stick a gold candle in too if going for this option, gold just seems more celebratory to me. If going all buttercream, I go for a black candle. But don’t let me dictate what colour candles you use, use which ever ones you like.
Maple Syrup and Dark Chocolate Chip Layer Cake – adapted from Cake Days by The Hummingbird Bakery
I find this cake will make an excellent addition to a spread for any autumnal celebration. This particularly works well alongside a cup of espresso. Which I always seem to say about every cake I put on this blog.
100g dark chocolate
360ml full-fat milk
40ml maple syrup
3 large eggs
120g softened butter
400g caster sugar
360g plain flour
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 170c/150c fan/gas 3. Grease and base-line three 20cm sandwich tins with baking parchment. Finely chop the dark chocolate, I tend to do this in the food processor, it’s easier, set aside. Combine the milk, maple syrup and eggs in a jug and set this aside too.
In the bowl of a free-standing mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the last five ingredients, on low speed, until a crumbly mixture has formed.
With the mixer still on the lowest speed, pour in the wet ingredients, and mix until everything is combined. Fold in the chopped chocolate by hand.
Divide the mixture between the prepared cake tins, keeping them as equal as possible. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, swapping the tins round about halfway through baking. They should spring back when lightly touched with your little finger. Remove from the oven, place on wire racks and allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes. Loosen the cakes from the sides of the tin using a knife and then carefully invert the cakes onto the wire racks to cool completely, removing the paper from the bases as you go.
When completely cold, you can get on with the buttercream.
240g butter, softened
750g icing sugar, sifted
60ml full-fat milk
1tbsp maple syrup
Using low speed, combine the butter and icing sugar until combined and with a sand-like texture. Combine the milk and syrup, and pour this in while gently mixing. Once amalgamated, move the speed up to the highest setting, and beat the icing until light and fluffy.
Place four pieces of greaseproof paper on your serving plate, or cake stand. Take your bottom layer of cake and put it onto the paper lined plate. Using an offset spatula, spread a small amount of icing, about four tablespoons worth, over the top of the cake.
Place another layer of cake on top of this, and spread another four tablespoons of icing on the top. Sandwich this with the third and final sponge. Using the remainder of the icing, frost the top and sides of your cake. If you wish, once frosted, you can leave it swirly, or you can smooth the top and sides with your spatula. You can now decorate this cake if you so desire, I simply sprinkled over extra grated dark chocolate for the one in the picture. Crown it all with a candle, light it and carry it forth with a smile. Just make sure you remember to remove the papers beforehand.