Hi hi!! I have a super fun, super delicious recipe to share with you today, which comes from my Internet friend Charlotte’s new book, Just Desserts! Charlotte is an incredible baker and makes the most beautiful food, and her book is jammed full of delicious dessert recipes, accompanied by a very healthy dose of puns. Best combo ever, if you ask me. The book itself is incredibly beautiful - Charlotte has such an amazing eye for design and colour, and ties it all in so perfectly within her recipes. She has thought of everything - from the beautiful photos to the tiny illustrations, to the incredible front cover opening where she’s wearing a dress that matches CUSTOM WALLPAPER. I’m so excited to try more recipes in there! Congrats lady - I hope you are so, so proud. To the rest of you - you’re going to want to grab a copy ASAP! xx
When deciding what to make, I kind of went for a mashup of two of her ideas - the first thing that jumped out at me was a beautiful salted caramel shortbread slice, covered in a giant mound of caramel corn, which would have to be in my top 10 fave foods. I was tempted to make that, and then I flicked to the recipe for this Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with a Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. In her book Charlotte has dotted hers with chocolate covered pretzels, but I spied an opening for some caramel corn, so here we are - Charlotte’s very perfect chocolate buttermilk cake, covered in honey caramel corn. Dream team.
The cake itself is incredibly simple - I avoided the temptation to make it more complicated than it needs to be (I was going to make a layer cake), and kept it as is, and I am so glad I did, because it is perfect. I have a tendency to go full extra on recipes, making multiple components and layers, when sometimes simple is best, and this cake is a great example of this. There’s something super beautiful about a single layer cake, with a simple layer of icing and some decoration on the top, and this cake has inspired me to hold back a little more often and keep it simple sometimes.
The recipe starts with a very dark, luscious chocolate buttermilk cake, which is moist but also fluffy, and the perfect vehicle for the chocolate cream cheese icing that it gets smothered with. Both components alone are super simple to make - the cake is a stir together situation, and then the cream cheese frosting is a ‘whip the heck out of everything’ kind of frosting. Frosting just a single layer of cake is very, VERY satisfying, just so you know. I’ll be doing it a lot more often.
I then scratched the caramel corn itch I had in my brain by making a simple honey caramel corn to go on the top. The process is the same as most caramel corns - pop some corn, make a caramel, pour it over, bake it to finish, but I included a little step which I think is a game changer in caramel - adding in some freshly popped, non caramel popcorns at a few points along the way. The first lot goes in just after you have coated the popcorn in the caramel, and the second lot after it has baked in the oven. The plain popcorn mixed in there gives a really lovely mix of plain and caramel corn, which gives variation in both taste and texture, and you get little perfect bites where a caramel piece and a plain piece have joined together to be delicious, delicious friends.
A few wee tips:
I made my own caramel corn which isn’t as hard as it looks, and is so good with the honey, but store bought would also work so perfectly in this situation too!
I made the cake two days ahead and stored it wrapped tightly in the freezer until I was ready to frost it.
I also made the caramel corn two days ahead - just make sure you store it in a super airtight container.
Charlotte uses a 22cm spring form pan for her cake, but I just greased and lined an 8” cake pan which worked great too! Make sure it has sides about 3” high though as it does rise up a little.
Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting and Honey Caramel Corn
- Makes one 8” cake, serves 8-10 -
Chocolate Buttermilk Cake
250g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda, sifted
300g caster sugar (regular sugar if you are in the US is fine, it is finer in the states than Australia / NZ)
125g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
50g Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
1 large egg, at room temperature
125g buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g cream cheese, at room temperature
100g powdered sugar / icing sugar, sifted
50g Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
Honey Caramel Corn
10 cups freshly popped popcorn (from about 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp kernels)
235g dark brown sugar
225g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda, sifted
- PROCESS -
CHOCOLATE BUTTERMILK CAKE
Preheat the oven to 160°c / 320°f. Grease and line a 22cm (8.5”) springform tin (I used an 8” cake pan)
Place the flour, bicarbonate of soda and sugar in a bowl, add the melted butter, cocoa, and water, and whisk to combine. Add the egg, buttermilk and vanilla and whisk to combine.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin completely.
CHOCOLATE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING AND ASSEMBLY
Place the butter and the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until pale and creamy. Scrape down the side of the bowl, add the powdered sugar and cocoa, and beat for a further 6-8 minutes, or until fluffy.
Spread the frosting over the cooled cake, smoothing top and sides. Top with the honey caramel corn (you will not use it all, but the rest is so good for snacking on)
HONEY CARAMEL CORN
Preheat the oven to 350°f / 180°c. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread 6 cups of the popcorn over the sheet.
Place the brown sugar, honey and butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Stir to combine, and continue to cook until the mixture registers 248˚f / 180˚c on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and carefully add the vanilla and salt. Stir well to combine then carefully add the baking soda, and mix in well (be careful as it will foam). Pour the caramel evenly over the two trays of popcorn, and mix well to combine. Add another 2 cups of the popped pocorn, and toss lightly.
Bake the popcorn for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir to redistribute the caramel and ensure that the popcorn is evenly coated. Sprinkle with the final two cups of fresh popcorn. Sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt to taste.
Leave to cool completely before breaking into chunks. Store in an airtight container.