Chocolate festive cake


Chocolate festive cake

This was the cake for my husband's birthday last week. It was also the test cake for my son's birthday cakes. All the 3 followed the same principles, one sponge cake cut into layers with chocolate ganache between them. Similar compositions and tastes but three different looks. You may find the ones of my son in my previous 2 posts. 

Every cake had a different target: this one to look more festive, the "5" cake to be a child's cake and the last one to be easily transported. Which one do I like the best? Difficult to say as I associated them with special occasions. Doing all of them in one week was a marathon but with every challenge like this comes a lot of lessons learned.

The first lesson learned was to master the sponge cake both in cocoa or classic versions. Learning its tricks took me sometime over the years and now I can happily say that I feel comfortable baking them.

A second lesson learned was to play with ganache. This thing is super sensitive to temperature and depending on the purpose you might want a thicker or thinner texture. I found myself putting the bowl sometimes in the microwave to heat it a bit and sometimes in the fridge to cool it. It is however the easiest cake filling that you can do (after the basic whipped cream of course). I like simple things for basic staff and focus more on the artistic part of it.

You may find the complete recipe for this cake below.


Cocoa sponge cake:
  • 330g eggs (about 6 pieces)
  • 200g flour (sifted)
  • 20g cocoa powder (sifted)
  • 200g sugar (divided into 150g + 50g)
  • 1 tablespoon rum essence
  • half a lemon juice
  • 4g baking powder (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons of water/milk

Chocolate ganache:
  • 300g chocolate (a combination of 600g dark with 60% cocoa content and 400g milk chocolate with 30% cocoa content)
  • 150g heavy cream (40% fat content)
  • 75g butter (89% fat content)


  • 300g water
  • 50g sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of rum essence

  1. Prepare the pan: brush with melted butter and sprinkle flour over. If you are using a special shape cake pan, this step is essential in order to get the cake easier out of the pan after baking (and in one piece). If you are using a classic round pan, you can use parchment paper to avoid sticking.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  3. In a bowl, mix the flour with baking powder. Baking powder is optional but if you want to be sure that your cake will not fail, I suggest using it. I did use it because this cake should have turned out perfect from the first try with no excuse.
  4. With the help of a stand/hand mixer beat the egg whites with lemon juice until foam. Add the 150g of sugar in steps and continue to beat until dissolved and the meringue looks glossy and forms peaks. It takes about 7 minutes with the mixer turned on to the maximum speed.
    One note, measuring the egg weight while separating the yolks from whites can be tricky. Either you use 2 kitchen balances or you brake them into a bowl that you weigh and remove the yolks with your fingers (this is a risky version). Alternatively, you measure the eggs with the shell and you subtract the empty shells weight in the end, although it will be tricky to balance back the quantity if you get over. Your choice, however, try to stay in the quantity of eggs with +/- 2%, otherwise, the cake might change its texture.
  5. In parallel, or after the previous step, beat the egg yolks in another bowl with 4 tablespoons of water or milk, the vanilla essence and the remaining 50g of sugar. Mix on a high speed for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the cocoa over in several steps and mix at the slowest speed until well combined. You can do this step in parallel with the previous one if you have 2 mixers. I did the egg whites in the standing mixer and the yolks with a hand mixer. This minimises the loss of bubbles from the meringue until you finish the yolks. This egg yolk composition must be very foamy too. 
  6. Combine the 2 compositions + the flour mixture in the following way: add 1/3 of the yolks over the meringue, then 1 tablespoon of flour on top. Stir 2-3 times with a spatula using up and down movements. Repeat 2 more times until you finish the egg yolks. Continue with the remaining flour mixture, adding one spoon at a time and stirring maximum 2-3 times with the spatula after. You need to minimise the string while ensuring that all ingredients are well combined. The composition will deflate a bit but it should still remain foamy.
  7. Pour this composition into the pan. On the top, spread it more to the sides as in the middle the cake will raise much more than on the sides.
  8. Put the pan into the oven and bake it at 180ºC for 40 minutes. In the end, test it with a wooden stick (toothpick) to be sure it gets out of the cake clean.
  9. Let the cake cool in the pan until you feel comfortable touching it, without feeling burned. That would take about 15-20 minutes.
  10. Revert the pan on a rack and let it cool completely.
  11. Prepare the ganache: 
    1. Break the chocolate into small pieces (unless you are already using chocolate chips) and put the chocolate into a pan in a bain-marie system. 
    2. Add the heavy milk and stir over the steam created in the bain-marie until the chocolate is completely melted.
    3. Add the cold butter cut into cubes and mix until melted.
    4. Put a plastic foil over the composition to avoid making a crust.
    5. When cooled, place it in the fridge for at least 5 hours or at room temperature fr 12 hours. By then, the composition should harden and not look liquid anymore.
  12. When the sponge cakes have cooled completely slice the cake horizontally in 3 to create the sponge cake layers.
  13. Prepare the syrup by mixing the water with sugar and rum essence. Stir until well dissolved.
  14. Layer the cake in the following way:
    1. Put one layer of sponge cake.
    2. Add 1/3 of the syrup over, using a spoon.
    3. Pipe 1/3 of the ganache over the slice of sponge cake.
    4. Repeat the same with the next 2 slices
  15. Decorate the top as you like, with berries, other fruits or decorations.


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