When I worked as a chef in a hotel one of my jobs was to make cakes to have in the cake stand at the bar. I pretty much had free reign. Over the course of the year I used the opportunity to experiment with many recipes and this was by far the most successful. Which was great because it was also the easiest.
Here comes the science bit. The secret is oil. Cakes made with oil instead of butter are always better. The crumb is tender and moist, and they stay fresh for longer. Samin Nosrat taught me that this is because oil coats the flour proteins in a way butter cannot, and prevents gluten networks from forming. So there you go. A scientifically proved, guaranteed to please cake recipe.
225g plain flour
350g caster sugar
85g cocoa powder
1 1/2tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
125 ml vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
250ml boiling water
100g plus 2 tablespoons caster sugar
50ml double cream
500g icing sugar
Preheat oven to 180c/160 fan/ gas 4. Grease and line two 20cm sandwich tins. Don’t use springform tins – the mixture is so wet they would likely spring a leak. OR you could double the recipe, bake it in a large gastro tray and cut it out naked style á la Christina Tosi.
For the cake, sieve all dry ingredients together.
Mix all wet ingredients except the boiling water together.
Pour wet into dry, and with the mixer going slowly stream the boiling water into the batter.
Pour the batter into your prepared cake tins or gastro tray and bake for 20-30 minutes, until the top is springy and a cake skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack, and remove from tins when ready.
Make the caramel. Put the sugar and water into a wide, heavy bottomed saucepan. Stir over a low heat until the sugar granules have dissolved. Once the water starts bubbling stop stirring or it will crystallise. Brush the sides with a wet pastry brush. Swirl and watch closely until it turns dark brown, but don’t let it burn, duh. Pour in the double cream and leave to cool. It might be a good idea to do this first and leave to cool while you make everything else.
Whip the butter and icing sugar together until super smooth and fluffy, then mix in the cooled caramel.
Spread a generous amount of buttercream on one of the cakes and sprinkle with Maldon Salt Flakes. Top with the other cake, and repeat. I like to leave the sides uniced for this cake because I love the colour contrast.