Layers of rich chocolate sponge with silky smooth salted caramel buttercream, indulgent chocolate ganache and crunchy toasted almond praline

Mich Turner will be demonstrating the Althorp Layer Cake at the Althorp & Drink Food Festival on May 11th at 3.30pm!

“Mich is the best baker of cakes that I’ve ever come across, anywhere on the Planet. Sensational tastes, beautiful designs, and all carried off with unique charm and delicious humour” Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer

“This is a REAL showstopper. Impressive in every way – the layers of chocolate, salted caramel and praline are indulgent and tantalise every tastebud.  I had the pleasure of being invited to Althorp – the ancestral home of Princess Diana – to speak at The Althorp Literary festival following the publication of my previous book “Have Your Cake and Eat It”.

It was a wonderful occasion and I was honoured to be invited back as a guest of Earl Spencer to appear at The Althorp Food and Drink festival where I gave practical demonstrations and entertained the visitors with stories and recipes from my book.

As a dinner guest of Earl Spencer,  I created and presented the Althorp Layer Cake as a gift to my host.  This in turn was charmingly offered and served to my fellow diners.

I am delighted to report it was received with much adoration and clean plates all round.

With my enormous thanks to Earl Spencer, Lady Karen Spencer and the entire team at Althorp for such wonderful hospitality, I am delighted to include this recipe in my new book.” Mich Turner

 

4 X 10 INCH SPONGES

750g  unsalted butter – room temperature

400g golden caster sugar

350g light brown sugar

12 large eggs (weighing 750g) – room temperature

650g self raising flour

1tbsp baking powder

100g cocoa powder

200ml whole milk

 

SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

225ml egg white

400g golden caster sugar

500g unsalted butter – cubed and removed from the fridge 30 minutes prior

1 tbsp vanilla extract

500g Salted caramel – half added to the buttercream, half kept for building the cake

 

CHOCOLATE GANACHE

100ml double cream

200g unsalted butter

400g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

 

TOASTED ALMOND PRALINE

150g flaked almonds

250g caster sugar

 

METHOD 

TO MAKE THE CAKES

Preheat the oven to 170C / Gas 3.Grease and line the base and sides of 4 x 10 inch round sandwich cake tins (or if you only have 2 tins, make in 2 batches).

Place the butter and sugars in a large bowl and beat together until light and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs a little at a time until fully incorporated. Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa together and fold into the cake mixture. Stir in the milk.

Dive the batter evenly between the prepared tins and level the surface with the back of a spoon. Bake for 30 minutes until the cakes are baked, beginning to shrink away from the side of the tin and spring back when pressed gently.

Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack.Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out to cool completely.

Wrap gently in cling film and place in the fridge to chill before filling.

 

TO MAKE THE SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

Place the egg white and sugar in a large clean heatproof bowl and place over a pan of gently simmering water. Whisk with a hand balloon whisk and monitor the temperature until you reach 61-70degrees.  This will take about 10 minutes

Remove from the heat and attach to a desktop electric whisk. Whisk the meringue until it has thickened, tripled in size and cooled to room temperature. Change the whisk attachment for the beater and add the butter in small batches until fully incorporated and thickened. Whisk in the vanilla bean extract.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the salted caramel until combined and smooth.

 

TO MAKE THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE

Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to the boil.

Meanwhile, place the broken chocolate pieces and cubed butter together in a large heatproof bowl and gently microwave on high for 1-2 minutes to gently soften and begin to melt.

Remove the cream when it is at a rolling boil and pour immediately over the chocolate and butter.

Stir with a rubber spatula until completely melted and smooth. Transfer to a bowl or plastic container and leave to cool.

Spoon 3 generous tablespoons of Swiss meringue buttercream into a separate bowl and stir in 3 tbsp chocolate ganache to create a rich, silky smooth buttercream. Set aside.

 

TO MAKE THE ALMOND PRALINE

Lay the flaked almonds on a sheet of non stick parchment on a baking tray and place in a preheated oven (170C) for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally until golden and toasted. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

Place the sugar in a large heavy duty non stick frying pan over a medium heat without stirring until the sugar has all melted.  Continue to heat until the sugar turns to a golden caramel colour.  Tip the almonds into the caramel.  Swirl around to cover then transfer the praline onto a baking tray lined with non stick paper to cool and harden.

Crack the praline into pieces with a sharp cook’s knife or blunt rolling pin. Reserve at least 12 larger pieces for decoration and finely chop the remainder into smaller pieces.

 

TO BUILD YOUR CAKE

Take the chilled cakes and level the top using a wire cutter. Cut around each cake using a 9 inch cake board to ensure you have 4 chocolate cake layers all exactly the same size.

Begin by placing the first cake into the centre of a 9 inch round cake drum fixed in position with a little salted caramel buttercream

Fill a large disposable piping bag with salted caramel Swiss meringue buttercream. Snip the end and pipe circles of buttercream over the first cake. Smooth with a small cranked handle palette knife and make a well in the centre around 6 inches in diameter. Pour in half of the remaining salted caramel and level with the palette knife.

Place the next cake directly on top. Fill a piping bag with the reserved chocolate ganache blended with salted caramel buttercream  and pipe circles of buttercream to cover this layer.  Smooth with a palette knife and then sprinkle generously with small bite size almond praline.

Add the next cake and repeat with salted caramel Swiss meringue buttercream and a pool of the last of the salted caramel.

Add the final layer of cake! Chill exactly as it is at this stage for 10-15 minutes to firm the cake to make it easier to handle.

Spread a thin layer of salted caramel buttercream over the sides and top of the cake to create acrumb coat.  Use a side scraper to achieve the flat, level sides and top. Place in the fridge to chill completely – up to 1 hour.

Paddle the remaining salted caramel buttercream with a palette knife to remove any air bubbles. Place the cake on a sheet of greaseproof paper on a turntable.  Apply a generous layer (3-5mm) of buttercream over the sides and top of the cake to cover the cake and the base board. Use a side scraper to create the smooth, straight sides and flat top.

Place the cake in the fridge to chill and firm (approximately 30 minutes – 1 hour). Blend the remaining buttercream with similar quantity of ganache to create a chocolate ganache salted caramel buttercream.  Place in a piping bag fitted with a teardrop nozzle (No 124)

When the cake is chilled, remove it from the non-stick paper and place on to a cooling rack laid over a sheet of fresh non-stick paper. Place the remaining chocolate ganache in a jug and heat either in the microwave or in a heatproof bowl placed over a pan of simmering water until fluid and warm, but not overly runny.

Pour the ganache onto the top of the cake and gently smooth out with a pallet knife to cover the top and sides of the cake until completely covered. Allow to set for a few minutes.

Carefully lift and remove the cake from the wire rack, removing the little curtain drips of ganache from the base of the cake with a small sharp knife. Place the cake on an upturned bowl and gently cup handfuls of blitzed praline around the base of the cake to decorate and adhere to the ganache. Allow to set before transferring to a generous, impressive cake stand or plate.

Once the chocolate ganache on the top has set, hand pipe 12 swizzles of buttercream evenly around the top edge of the cake and decorate each with a large shard of the reserved almond praline.

This cake will keep at room temperature for 3-5 days. Store in a cake box if necessary

The Althorp Layer Cake is from Mich Turner’s forthcoming book, Everyday Bakes to Showstopper Cakes, publishing March 2020. Photography by Lisa Linder. To pre-order, click here.