caramel, layer cakes

Toffifee Brownie Layer Cake

No you have not misread the first line of this blog entry. It’s a Toffifee Brownie Layer Cake, filled with Nutella buttercream (I know this is getting better by the minute isn’t it!), roasted hazelnuts, caramel and more Toffifee. WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?! This is definitely the single most decadent cake I’ve ever made and I won’t lie to you it is very heavy and very dense. If you’re not a fan of very dense but still love the idea, just replace the brownie layers with your favourite chocolate cake, that will probably make it easier to consume already. Nevertheless, it was (there’s only on slice left in the freezer and that’s not for me, hence the past tense) one of my favourite things I’ve ever baked. If you have some time on your hands and an occasion, and I do recommend you have one because you won’t eat this thing by yourself, give it a try. It looks impressive but really isn’t that hard to make!

Recipe:

Bronwie Layers:

12 medium Eggs
300g Dark Chocolate (72% cocoa solids)
375g Soft, Unsalted Butter
540g Caster Sugar
120g Light Soft Brown Sugar
240g Plain Flour
60g Cocoa Powder
4 tbsp Espresso Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Vanilla Extract

Caramel:

120g Caster Sugar
150g Double Cream
3 tbsp Water
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Dark Chocolate Ganache:

150ml Double Cream
150g Dark Chocolate (72% cocoa solids)

Nutella Buttercream:

350g Soft, Unsalted Butter
350g Icing Sugar
800g Nutella
1-2 tbsp Milk

Decorations:

150g Whole Hazelnuts
36 Toffifee

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degree C. Grease and flour 4 20cm round sandwich tins and then line them with baking parchment (I haven’t lined them and had trouble getting my brownie layers out of the tins so make sure you do!). If you can’t fit all 4 tins on one level in your oven I recommend that you bake the four layers in two stages.

Start by melting the butter and the chocolate in a saucepan on a low heat, stir it regularly to stop the chocolate from burning. Add the cocoa and the espresso powder and combine until everything is melted and you have a smooth mixture.

In a large mixing bowl, whip the eggs, along with the two types of sugar and the vanilla extract until they are really fluffy, light in colour and the mixture has increased significantly in volume. This will take about 5 minutes. On a slow speed, add the chocolate-butter mixture and combine it well. Then combine the flour with the salt and add it to the rest of the brownie mix. Make sure you scrape the bowl down in between mixing to make sure that there is nothing stuck to the bottom of the bowl and everything is well combined. Divide the mixture evenly between your sandwich tins and bake them for about 22 minutes (if you’re baking all layers at the same time the baking time might vary a little bit so keep an eye on it). You know that they’re ready when you poke a skewer in it and the mixture is still soft but you find bits of cooked brownie sticking to the skewer. If the skewer comes out clean you have over baked the brownies, if its just wet batter they’re underdone!

For the caramel add sugar and water to a medium sized pan over a medium heat and make sure they’re well combined. It is important that you always keep an eye on the caramel mixture, as it burns very quickly if you let it cook for too long. Do not stir it, just let it sit on the heat. While the sugar is bubbling away on the hob, combine the cream and vanilla extract and warm it up in the microwave for about 30 seconds. This will prevent lumps from forming later when we add the cream to the caramel.
When your caramel has reached a nice and deep amber colour take it off the heat and stir in the cream. You want to use a long wooden spoon or whisk for that as the steam that rises up in the process is very hot. So be careful to not burn yourself. When the caramel is smooth and well combined, put it in a little jar or bowl so it can cool down a little bit.

The buttercream is easiest prepared in a stand mixer but you can use a hand mixer as well, it will just take a bit longer. Add the very soft butter to a large mixing bowl and, using a paddle attachment, whip it up for about 5-7 minutes until the butter is nearly white in colour and very fluffy and light in texture. Sift the icing sugar into the bowl. This will prevent lumps of sugar in the buttercream and make sure that it’s nice and smooth later. Mix the icing sugar in on a LOW SPEED and when the butter and sugar have come together add the Nutella bit by bit. Scrape the bowl down in between to make sure that there’s no butter stuck on the bottom of the bowl and no icing sugar stuck to the sides and that everything is well mixed in.
When all the Nutella has been mixed in and the buttercream is smooth, check the consistency. If its too stiff add 1-2 tablespoons of milk to loosen it up a bit but the buttercream shouldn’t be too runny. It needs to hold the weight of 3 brownie layers so still needs some stability.

For the ganache add the cream to a medium sized sauce pan and bring it to the boil. When the cream is boiling take it off the heat and add the broken up dark chocolate. Let it sit for a few minutes and then stir it using a whisk or spoon until all of the chocolate has dissolved and the ganache is nice and smooth. Put it aside to cool down a bit.

Finally chop the hazelnuts roughly and roast them in a dry pan over a medium to high heat. Give it a shake every now and then to make sure that the nuts aren’t burning. When they give off a very strong hazelnut smell they’re done. Set them aside as well. Then chop up 24 Toffifees roughly as well.

Before we assemble the cake put two large spatula fulls of buttercream aside, we will need that for decorating the top layer of the cake.

I find it easiest to fill a cake using a turn table. Rather then having to move the spatula around awkwardly to spread the filling you can just turn the cake on the table (you can get very cheap ones online!), but you can do it without one as well.
If your turntable has a slippery surface put a little cloth between the turntable and a cake lifter to stop it from sliding around, the last thing we want is for the whole cake to go flying! The cake lifter will help you move the cake around easier when it has to go into the fridge to cool later but you can assemble it on a cake stand as well.

Carefully remove the brownie layers from the sandwich tins and remove the baking parchment from the bottom (again, make sure you use some parchment as well as greasing and flouring the tins! I could barely get them out without the parchment!) Put the first brownie layer on the cake lifter and add a large blob of buttercream. Then, using a large offset pallet knife spread the buttercream around on the brownie, creating a ca 1cm thick even layer of buttercream. You want the buttercream to come right up to the edges of the cake but not spill over the sides. Then put a few of those chopped up Toffifee and some roasted hazelnuts onto the buttercream layer and drizzle a good amount of caramel over it as well (if your caramel has gotten too hard to drizzle, just stick it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds). Finally take more buttercream and put it on top of all the fillings and, again, using your pallet knife seal in the fillings and create a nice and even and flat layer. If it’s not flat your cake might end up being crooked and topple over and we don’t want that.
Repeat the process until the last brownie layer is on top. Keep a few hazelnuts and some caramel for the top layer. Rather than buttercream, we will cover that last layer with the lovely, smooth chocolate ganache. It is important that the ganache isn’t too warm so it doesn’t just run off the top of the cake. Put it onto the top layer of the cake and using a spoon or a small pallet knife, spread it out and push it over the sides a little bit, creating a drip effect. I’d like to point out at this point as well that is is not supposed to be a neat looking cake. The messiness gives it character I think, so don’t worry too much if it’s not perfect looking!

Put the cake in the fridge for at least an hour to cool down.

I’ve finished the cake off by piping some ruffles on top, using an 1M Wiltons star nozzle. Put the nozzle in a piping bag and cut the tip off, then fill it with the buttercream we set aside earlier (I find it easiest to put the piping bag into a glass to fill it up). Give the bag a good shake to get rid of all the air trapped in the buttercream, then twist the top shut.

When the cake has cooled right down, transfer it to a cake stand using a couple of offset pallet knifes or a cake lifter. Then hold your piping bag vertical to the cake top and pipe twelve ruffles around the outside of the top layer. I’m putting even pressure onto the piping bag whilst moving it up and down to create a ruffle pattern. Then put the leftover hazelnuts in the middle of the top layer and cover it in the rest of the caramel. Finally put a Toffifee on each of the ruffles.

And there we go, wasn’t that much work after all, was it?! Ha…

Hope you had fun baking and enjoy the cake as much as you can, because it will probably block all your arteries and kill you.

xx Leo

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