Three layers of my go-to dark, dense and rich chocolate cake sandwiched by balsamic cherry compote and an intense chocolate frosting. Jump to Recipe
Last week marked three years of The Brick Kitchen. Three years! Sure doesn’t feel like it. It started as a small thing and graduated into a medium hobby and now, at least to me, it feels like a decent piece of my life. And it was only on the back of a minor disappointment that it even occurred at all. I had just missed out on a position at the university college I stayed at, and whinged to a friend that next year I would be SO BORED with just lectures to fill my time. “You should start a food blog!” was the response. So that was that. Said friend later became one of my housemates in Melbourne, so it at least procured her a steady supply of baking!
It’s taught me more that I could have conceived at that stage, and not just from the writing/photography/website skillset. Here are four points that come to mind:
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Sometimes people won’t like what you do (ignore them), sometimes recipes refuse to work out, sometimes a photoshoot turns to crap, sometimes you get sick at the worst moment, sometimes (most of the time) you simply overshoot and don’t find enough hours in the day to get through that to-do list. It’s fine. Keep those high expectations but accept that not everything is always going to go your way. Breathe. Get some sleep. Tomorrow is always a new day!
2. It’s SO HARD not to compare yourself to everyone else (’s instagram feeds). Social media has made the world a much smaller place – it’s built wonderful communities, but also puts us into other people’s pockets every time we switch on a device (the very polished, pretty, most perfect pockets of those lives, I should add). With that in your face, it’s near impossible not to wish you could do X like that or that you aren’t as good at X as someone else [insert whatever you look at: photograph, organise, design, travel, LIVE, be as thin/pretty/friendly/funny as…]. Just because their life looks like the pages of a magazine doesn’t mean it is, or that it’s any more fulfilling than yours. I’m trying to switch off more – I’m starting to find that scrolling through what should be inspiration too often means it ceases to be inspiration, and becomes a fairly negative distraction.
3. Goals are not the be all and end all. Can I admit I still have no idea what I want to do? It’s a bit scary. I have no concept of the finish line right now. But as long as you find things you enjoy, put in the mileage for things that seem worth it, persist and improve – I’m sure you don’t need a spreadsheet mapping out quarterly goals for your 10 year life plan (if that’s your thing, go for it – it just isn’t mine yet!).
4. A few keys to energy balance while creating and loving food constantly (this remains a work in progress): surrounding yourself with family and friends who will help you consume it, moving your body every day, choosing your sweets wisely, baking cakes for occasions (my friends/family are very used to that slice that has already been cut and photographed!). I love butter and sugar, but when I eat them it has to be worth it – e.g. an Alison Roman salted butter chocolate chunk shortbread cookie vs a random store bought biscuit in the cupboard. Maybe some would say I’m a food snob, but I’ll own that if it means I can make my cake and eat it too. Don’t stress about it or let it consume you. It comes back to Michael Pollan’s infamous food rules – eat food. not too much. mostly plants.
Most of all, thank you for being here along for the ride! Let me introduce you to this celebratory chocolate, coconut & cherry layer cake. It’s a solid 10, ok? Three layers of my GO-TO chocolate cake – dark, dense and rich but also very easy. The secret is lots of dutch process cocoa, tangy buttermilk, oil instead of butter and espresso to amp up that chocolate flavour. It’s sandwiched by Thalia Ho’s chocolate frosting – the best I’ve ever tried. No sickly sweet buttercream around here! And the best bit? A sticky, syrupy balsamic cherry compote infusing every bite. Enjoy!
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Three layers of my go-to dark, dense and rich chocolate cake sandwiched by balsamic cherry compote and an intense chocolate frosting.
- 1 3/4 cup plain flour (275g)
- 1/2 cup fine dessicated coconut (50g)
- 2 cups white sugar (400g)
- 1 1/2 cups dutch process cocoa powder (170g)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 eggs , room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 3/4 cup canola oil (vegetable oil)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla essence
- 1 cup hot coffee (I used 2x double shots, topped up with boiling water)
- 1 cup fresh cherries , cut into quarters
- 2 cups fresh cherries , pitted and halved
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 tablespoon corn flour / starch
- coconut chips for decoration
- 200 g dark chocolate (70%)
- 260 g salted butter , at room temperature
- 200 g icing sugar
- 60 g dutch processed cocoa powder , sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence or paste
- 2-3 tbsp cream
If making the cakes the same day as layer it together, make the cherry compote first and melt the chocolate for the frosting to give them enough time to cool down.
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease and line 3 x 20cm round cake tins with baking paper.
In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, coconut, white sugar, sifted cocoa, baking soda and baking powder.
Add the eggs, buttermilk, canola oil and vanilla and mix to just combine.
While mixing on low speed, gradually pour in the hot coffee and mix until fully combined.
Divide the chocolate cake mix evenly between the three cake tins. Scatter the chopped cherries over the cakes.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out with a few moist crumbs (it doesn’t have to be completely clean). Keep in mind that the cakes may cook at different speeds depending on where they are in your oven.
Cool in the tins for 10 minutes then remove to cool completely. At this point if there is a slight dome I press down with the palm of my hand to flatten it - don’t worry, it won’t squash the cake or make it too dense!
Put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before you frost the cake - this just makes them easier to frost.
In a small pot, combine the pitted halved cherries, balsamic, 1 tablespoon of water, 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of cornflour.
Stir over a medium heat until the cherry juices start to bubble. Simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the cherry juices are sticky and thick, and the cherries are tender.
Transfer to a bowl and set aside (or in the fridge) to cool. This must be at room temperature or colder before you layer it into the cake or you will have very melted frosting
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Set it aside and let it cool to room temperature (must, or your frosting will be melted!)
Place the cooled cakes in the refrigerator for 30 minutes while you make the frosting.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and creamy, 3-4 minutes.
. Add the icing sugar and cocoa powder a little at a time until evenly blended.
Add the melted chocolate and vanilla and mix on low until blended. Gradually add the cream and increase the speed to medium - beat for a few more minutes until the frosting is smooth, thick and shiny.
On a cake board, plate or cake stand, smear a teaspoon of frosting and place the first layer of cake on top of it (the frosting acts a bit like glue).
Fill a piping bag with frosting.
Spread a thin layer of frosting on top of the first cake. Use the piping bag to pipe a circle around the edge of the layer (see photos). Fill inside this with half of the balsamic cherry compote.
Gently place the second layer of cake on top and make sure it is even. Press down gently.
Spread another thin layer of frosting on top of the second cake, pipe a circle of frosting on top and fill with the remaining cherries.
Gently place the final cake on top. Use the remaining frosting to coat the remaining cake. At this point if it is a warm day it can be very helpful to put the cake in the fridge for 15 minutes before finishing frosting. See this post for more frosting tips. (LINK) Decorate with whole cherries and coconut chips.
Store leftovers refrigerated but bring to room temperature before serving.
- If making this in advance, store the cake layers tightly wrapped in plastic wrap inside an airtight container for up to 3 days .
- Make the cherry compote first as it needs to cool completely before being used. The same goes for the melted chocolate for the frosting.
- Make the chocolate frosting right before serving.
- While frosting the cake, it can be helpful to intermittently place the cake in the fridge if you are in a warm room.
- The cake is best served on the day it is constructed, but leftovers keep well in the fridge for about 5 days in an airtight container. Just bring to room temperature before serving.