2-tiered Chocolate Cake with Red Berries

Chocolate and Red Berry Birthday CakeI don’t think we can ever be too old to have a birthday cake, but for a recent friends birthday, I opted for a more ‘Grown Up’ birthday cake, that still gave the ‘wow’ factor, but could also be eaten as a dessert at a dinner party. I opted to make a two-tiered chocolate cake with red berries.  The chocolate cake was in fact a Sachertorte, which is an Austrian chocolate cake, that is flavroued with rum and citrus syrup. It made for a lovely, dramatic end to the meal.  It is deliciously rich, but the red berries helps to cut through the richness of the chocolate.

Two-Tiered Chocolate Cake with Red Berries

I made two cakes using a12inch and a 9inch cake tins.

For the citrus syrup:

  • 120ml water
  • 70g sugar
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 75ml orange juice
  • 25g liquid glucose
  • 75ml dark rum

For the Sachertorte cake:

  • 300g dark chocolate (70% cocao solids)
  • 300g unsalted butter
  • 400g caster sugar
  • seeds of 1 vanilla pod
  • 14 medium eggs separated
  • 2 medium egg
  • 300g plain white flour
  • 200g apricot jam

For the Ganache:

  • 500g dark cooking chocolate (70%)
  • 600g granulated sugar

To decorate:

  • 500g dark cooking chocolate (65%)
  • Selection of red berries


To make the syrup:

Place the water, sugars, citrus zests, and cinnamon stick in a heavy-based pan.  Bring to the boil, stirring all the time.  Remove from the heat and cool to lukewarm.  Stir in the orange juice, glucose and rum.  Drain through a fine sieve into a clean bowl.  Cover and set aside until needed.

To make the cake:

Line a 12 inch cake tin and a 9 inch cake tin with baking parchment.  Preheat the oven to 170C.

Place the chocolate in a bowl, and gently melt the chocolate in a bain marie of simmering water.  Remove from the heat, and leave to cool to room temperature.

Whisk the butter with 4 teaspoons of water, 50g of the sugar, and the vanilla seeds until pale.  Add the 14 egg yolks, a little at a time, beating well between each addition, then mix in the 2 whole eggs.  The mixture will be thick, creamy, and doubled in volumn.  Gently pour in the melted chocolate while mixing all the time.

In a clean bowl, whisk together the egg whites and a pinch of salt.  Gradually beat in the remaining sugar until thick, creamy, and doubled in volume.

Carefully fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, alternating with spoonfuls of flour, fold in the rest of the egg whites.  Pour into the prepared tins.

Place in the oven on the lowest shelf, and leave the door slightly ajar.  Use a wooden spoon to prop the door open if necessary.  This keeps the temperature stable and stops the cake rising too much so that it retains a smooth, flat surface.  After 15 minutes, close the door, and bake for at least 45 minutes longer.

Test the cake by lightly pressing a finger on the top – when done it should feel slightly springy.  Remove from the oven and turn the cake over onto a wire rack, leaving the tin in place.  After 20 minutes turn it back over and leave in the tin until cold.

Slice the cake through the middle and replace the bottom layer in the tin.  Brush with the syrup.  Spread with apricot jam.  Carefully replace the top layer.  Turn the cake onto a wire rack, and remove the tin.  Brush all over with apricot jam.  Leave to set.

To make the Chocolate squares:

One of the best ways to shape chocolate, is to use acetate paper.  You can buy acetate paper from any office supply shop.  I used to use acetate paper, when I was a teacher, with an Overhead Projector to give presentations…. I much prefer using acetate for sculpting chocolate!  Cut the size of squares that you want from the acetate, and place these onto a sheet of greaseproof paper.

Prepare the chocolate by tempering it.  You can find out how to temper chocolate on a previous blog post here.  When the chocolate is the right temperature, using a palette knife, spread a thin layer of the chocolate onto the prepared acetate squares, and leave to cool and harden.

To make the Chocolate Glaze:

Melt the chocolate pieces ina heatproof bowl set over barely simmering water (this method is called a Bain Marie).  Be careful that the chocolate does not exceed 40C.  If you do not have a temperature guage, I would continuously stir the chocolate while you are melting it (this stimulates the crystals in the chocolate to evenly disperse the heat), and remove it from the Bain Marie, just before all the chocolate is melted, and finish off the melting process by continuing to stir.

Place the sugar and 170ml of water in a small heavy pan, and bring to the boil to make a light, colourless syrup.  Drip the boiling syrup into the chocolate, stirring continuously.  The chocolate glaze will start to thinking, but as more syrup is added it thins again.  Pour the mixture back into the hot pan, and heat for 5-6 minutes to 108C, stirring continuously.

Remove the pan from the heat.  Pour one third of the chocolate onto a clean marble slab or stone top and ptemper by draggin the chocolate back and forth across the surface using a scraper.  As the mixture cools, scoop off any hardened mixture with a palette knife.  Repeat the process until the chocolate has cooled but is still malleable.

Replace in the warm pan, and gently stir together witht eh hot chocolate glaze.  Repeat this whole process until the temperature of the glaze has dropped to 42C.

When the glaze is ready and still warm, pour straight onto the apricot-glazed surface of the cake.  Using a palette knife, spread it over the cake with 2 or 3 strokes.  It should be shiny and smooth.

Chocolate glazeTo decorate the cake:

While the Chocolate Glaze is still wet, stick on the Chocolate Squares.  If the glaze has hardened too much, you can either use some of the apricot jam, or some melted chocolate.  Once the squares are on, you can decorate using some fresh red berries to fill the top of the cake, and the surroundings areas.

There is a bit of work involved in this cake, but it is a great way to start to work with chocolate, and understand tempering, and even if the chocolate does not quite harden the way that it should, you can always place it in the fridge to harden, and cover any dull areas with the red fruits!  Either way, it is absolutely delicious, and makes a wonderful Birthday cake for grown ups!


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