The last month has been a really rather wonderful whirlwind of first anniversary celebrations for me and Dr D. A delightful party with our nearest and dearest was followed by a few days in the countryside in a sumptuous hotel, an indulgent lunch at Raymond Blanc’s Belmond Le Manoir and then two very wonderful weeks away in Athens and Santorini.
Yes, I know: a) we really milked the excuse to celebrate; b) we are extremely fortunate to have gone to some places that I’ve dreamt of visiting for a long, long time; and c) Dr D deserves some kind of medal for officially having put up with a bonkers wife for a whole year.
Needless to say, much food was consumed over the celebratory period and the best thing about it – apart from how good it was - was that it was food sourced and produced locally from the areas we were visiting: Cheddar cheese from (funnily enough!), Cheddar; beef reared in the Somerset countryside; olive oil produced from Greek olive groves; white aubergines and cherry tomatoes grown on Santorini; frozen yogurt made from authentic Greek yogurt etc, etc.
In Athens, we were told about a must-try Greek dish called Bougatsa. Bougatsa is crisp, flaky layers of filo pastry, filled either with gooey, molten, chewy cheese or with cooled, set crème patissier and then some icing sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top for good measure. We tried both variations, and loved both, so if you're heading to Athens any time soon, I would highly recommend seeking bougatsa out. I categorically deny that you will have to be rolled onto your flight home afterwards...!
Every time I go away on holiday, I invariably return thinking that I must try to recreate specific cakes, desserts and pastries that I’ve tried whilst away, but for whatever reason, I just never get around to it. I’ve even got an authentic Greek recipe for Bougatsa and yet, since my return, I haven’t yet managed to make it. Instead, I did get around to baking this Nutella and caramel-filled Snickers cake. What can I say, I had the post-holiday blues, so chocolate cake was required as a pick-me-up!
The sponge of this cake is so light and fluffy, it would be great for a chocolate Vicky spOnj [sic], filled with some fresh cream and jam in the middle and served with a cup of chai. But I digress! On this occasion, I went all out and stuck Nutella and caramel in the middle, then slathered the whole thing with ganache and some more caramel before liberally sprinkling on some roasted hazelnuts and chopped Snickers pieces for good measure!
Note that this cake uses the all-in-one method of tipping all the cake ingredients into a bowl at the same time and whisking to combine, rather than beating eggs and sugar together first, then gradually adding everything else. I usually steer clear of all-in-one recipes as in the past I've found them to lead to dense, dry cakes, but I trust Jo from Jo's Blue Aga implicitly (she was a GBBO winner, after all!) so if all-in-one is what she says to do, that's what shall be done! I didn't even bother to sift my dry ingredients first - I just dumped everything into a large bowl and whizzed it all up with my electric handheld whisk. As I already mentioned, the sponge came out beautifully light and fluffy, and not the slightest bit dry. This is a cake I know I will make and eat with gluttonous gusto time and again!
Adapted from Jo's Blue Aga Mars Bar Cake
Yields 12-15 slices
For the cake:
- 200g Muscovado sugar
- 200g stork or softened butter
- 160g S/R flour
- 40g cocoa
- 50g Nutella
- 4 eggs
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 50g sour cream
For the filling:
- 3-4 tbsp Nutella
- 3 tbsp caramel sauce (I used Carnation tinned caramel)
For the ganache and toppings:
- 250ml double cream
- 250g plain choc (40-50% cocoa)
- 3-4 tbsp caramel sauce (Carnation tinned caramel again)
- 3-4 Snickers bars chopped into small pieces (I used 41.7g bars, cut into five pieces each)
- 55-65g hazelnuts toasted and chopped (to toast, place in a dry non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Keep an eye on them - they can burn easily! After about 3 minutes, start to shake the pan gently to roll the nuts around and allow them to toast evenly all over - another couple of minutes should do it. Once golden and emitting a nutty smell, remove immediately from the heat and tip onto a heatproof plate. Allow to cool before chopping up)
To make the cake, grease the sides and bases of two 8 inch sandwich tins, then line the bases with greaseproof paper.
Preheat the oven to 160C.
Mix all of the cake ingredients together in a large bowl for a few minutes using either a free standing mixer or a handheld electric whisk (or indeed a normal handheld whisk if you prefer), until well combined, light in colour and fluffy.
Spoon into the prepared tins and spread the batter gently with a spatula so that is evenly distributed and fills the tins.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 mins (mine came out perfectly at 23 minutes), or until a knife or skewer inserted into the deepest part of the cake comes away clean.
Once out of the oven, allow the cakes to cool for 10-15 minutes before turning them out of the tins onto wire racks to cool completely. Remember to remove the greaseproof paper too!
Make a ganache by breaking up the chocolate into a large heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan on a low heat. Once it starts to simmer, pour it over the chocolate. Leave to sit for a minute, then stir gently with a spatula to melt the chocolate into the cream and combine until you have a smooth, glossy ganache. Allow to cool until it has thickened to the point that it is no longer runny, but is not so thick that you cannot spread it with a knife.
To assemble, place one of your cold sponges onto your serving plate, spread first with the Nutella and then with the 3tbsp of caramel. Note, if the Nutella is too firm to spread, heat it for a few seconds in a microwave or on a bain marie to make it runnier, but be careful not to overheat and burn it!
Place the second sponge on top.
Using a palette knife, cover the side of the entire cake with ganache, smoothing it evenly as you go, then do the same with the top of the cake. There should be plenty of ganache, so be generous when coating the cake with it.
Next, dot teaspoons of caramel randomly over the ganache. Again with your palette knife, gently swirl and spread the blobs of caramel over and slightly into the ganache to get a sort of two-tone ganache-caramel effect.
Scatter the chopped Snickers Bars and hazelnuts on top and place some of the nuts around the side if desired/spare.