A showstopper for a grand occasion! If you need a go-to chocolate cake recipe then this is your one. It’s equally good with a chocolate icing for a teatime treat as it is dressed up to the nines here for special occasions.
Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan)/180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Line the base and sides of the cake tin.
Measure the milk into a jug and add the malt vinegar. Give it a quick stir and set to one side.
Cream together the butter and sugar: take your time to get it super light and fluffy. Add the eggs a little drop at a time, beating well after each addition, working the air back into the mixture.
You’re going to have to sift the cocoa powder to get the lumps out so you might as well sift in the plain and self-raising and the bicarbonate of soda too.
Pour in the milk/vinegar mixture and stir together, working in the milk mixture and folding in the flour. Don’t beat too vigorously at this stage or the flour will work large air bubbles into the mixture resulting in holes in your cake.
Transfer the mixture into the prepared tin and level roughly with the back of a spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour 10 minutes. Check it after 50 minutes and cover with foil if the top is browning too much. Once baked leave to cool a little in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Time to prepare the ganache. Place the cream and golden syrup in a pan and heat over a gentle heat until just below boiling point. Remove from the heat and tip in the chopped chocolate. Allow it to stand for two minutes and then gently stir together into a smooth glossy ganache. Transfer to a clean bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. This can take up to 4 hours so prepare your ganache as soon as the cake goes in the oven and then you won’t be waiting around for it.
For the buttercream, beat together the sifted icing sugar and butter until it’s light and airy. It will go very pale and increase greatly in volume. Melt the white chocolate and allow to cool a little (if you add it to the buttercream whilst it’s red hot the buttercream will start to melt). Once the chocolate is cool, but still liquid, beat it into the buttercream along with the double cream and set to one side.
Once the cake has cooled fully wrap it tightly in cling film and chill it in the fridge for 1 hour. Once chilled, unwrap the cake and slice away the domed top using a sharp serrated knife. Cut the cake into three equal layers, working carefully through the cake with the serrated knife. Scoring first around the cake in the required cutting position will help prevent the cake disintegrating into crumbs.
Put the three layers back together and turn the cake over and onto a board or large, flat plate (something you can prepare the cake on) so that the flat bottom now becomes the top.
Remove the top two layers and spread a quarter of the buttercream over the surface of the bottom layer. Lift layer 2 into position on top of the buttercream. Spread another quarter of the buttercream over the top and place the top of the cake back into position. Apply a thin layer of buttercream to the top of the cake.
Start working around the sides, covering the cake completely in a thin, even layer of buttercream. Smooth the buttercream with a palette knife. Once the sides are covered turn your attention back to the top, smoothing together with the sides and levelling off any uneven places. Don’t be afraid to almost scrape off the buttercream with the palette knife in areas where it’s a little too heavy, working around the cake until it’s as even as you can get it. Now it needs to go back into the fridge to chill for half an hour until the buttercream firms up.
Prepare your serving plate: cut six strips of baking paper approximately 13cm × 5cm (5in × 2in) and position onto the serving plate, overlapping to form a rough circle where the edge of the cake will be.
Cut away any excess buttercream at the base of the chilled cake and carefully transfer it onto the serving plate, lifting carefully with a palette knife. Adjust the slips of baking paper so that they sit half way under the cake and completely shield the serving plate. These slips stop the plate getting messy with dribbling ganache and will be whipped away at the end!
Now for the ganache. It should be cooled to room temperature and be the perfect spreadable consistency. If yours has set too firm warm it very gently in the microwave on half power for 30 seconds. Using a clean palette knife apply a good coating to the top of the cake. Turn your attention to the sides, applying more ganache and smoothing it out – be sure to reach from the top of the cake to the very bottom edge. Once you’ve worked all the way around the outside of the cake go back to the top of the cake, where there will be a lip around the outside edge created by coating the sides. Using the palette knife knock this gently back in and smooth the top again. Check the sides for any thin spots of ganache where the buttercream peeks through and apply extra dots of ganache to cover, smoothing as you go.
Once you’re happy with the finish decorate the top with large milk chocolate stars and a scattering of dark and white chocolate chips. Run a sharp knife around the base of the cake and slip out the baking paper protecting the plate. Serve!