Sunday, December 13, 2015

Naked chocolate layer cake with vanilla chantilly cream

You should never need an excuse to make a cake, but especially during the holidays when gluttony is permitted, nay encouraged, and the word regret is not even in your vocabulary, it may as well be considered a food group.

You may have noticed that I like simple cakes, not elaborate ones with lots of frills. I prefer simplicity of flavors but also a natural appearance and modest decoration.

My main concern is the flavors and how they pair and complement each other rather than how intricate a cake might look. Having said that, I eat with my eyes first (don’t we all?) and I do like my cakes to look cute.

In this case, I needn’t do a lot to pretty up this one. A few red currants —those inherently festive little fruits— were enough to transform this simple, bicolored cake into a celebratory dessert.

The cake has two components; a chocolate cake and a vanilla chantilly cream. The chocolate cake is moist, soft and slightly dense but not heavy, with a deep chocolate flavor, with bitter notes from the cocoa and coffee, and a bit of molasses sweetness from the light brown sugar. It sandwiches a perfectly billowy chantilly cream spiked with vanilla that is light and faintly sweet and that offsets the chocolate cake perfectly.

The whole cake feels balanced, light and not too indulgent, fitting for a holiday dinner when you have already eaten too much and you want something flavorful that’s not too sweet or heavy.

It is an elegant naked cake with the intense flavor of chocolate and the aroma of vanilla making its presence known. What more could one want from a cake? Hope you enjoy it!

P.S. This is my last submission for the Greek VIMA Gourmet Food Blog Awards competition and the category “Best Sweet Treats”. The competition ends this Monday (14 December) so if you wish, I’d be grateful if you voted for me here for Best Cooking Blog, here for Best Sweet Treats and here for Best Food Photography & Styling by clicking the “like” button below the Greek text and next to where it says “Like for Vote” in each category. Thank you very much for your support!

Naked chocolate layer cake with vanilla chantilly cream

Naked cakes are layer cakes that don’t have a frosting applied to their circumference thus (in many cases) showing the texture of its individual components.

This cake is also perfect for a birthday or any other celebration that calls for cake.

The coating of the pan with cocoa powder instead of flour is intentional and serves a purpose; since the sides of the chocolate cake will show, I didn’t want it to have visible white patches from the flour. Instead, I wanted an accentuated dark color to contrast the white color of the chantilly cream.

I also recently discovered a new way to evenly cut my cakes in half and I’m very excited about it. Read on to find out the method.

Yield: 1 layered cake / 12-14 slices


for the chocolate cake
120 g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
25 g (2 Tbsp) good quality Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus extra for coating the inside of the pans
5 g (1 Tbsp) instant coffee granules
240 ml boiling water
295 g all-purpose flour
10 g (2 tsp) baking powder
6 g (1 tsp) baking soda
3 g (½ tsp) salt
225 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pans
200 g white caster sugar
200 g soft light-brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
240 ml fresh whole milk, at room temperature

for the chantilly cream
500 ml cream, full-fat (35%)
27 g icing sugar, sieved
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped, or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)

to decorate
Fresh red currants
A few small fresh mint leaves

Special equipment: fine sieve, two round 18cm springform baking pans, baking paper, stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer, large serrated knife, frosting spatulas (large straight and small offset)


for the chocolate cake
Place the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder and coffee granules in a medium-sized heatproof bowl and pour over the boiling water. Leave for 1 minute and then mix lightly with a whisk until the chocolate is melted and you have a smooth mixture. Set aside to cool completely.

Butter the bottom and sides of two 18cm springform pans. Line the bottom with baking paper (see here how to make a baking paper circle) and butter it. Coat the inside of the pans with cocoa powder and tap the excess out.

Preheat your oven to 180°C.

In another medium-sized bowl sieve together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl), add the butter and sugars and beat, using the paddle attachment (or a hand-held mixer), on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, for about 5 minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and the cooled chocolate mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined. Then add the flour in 3 additions alternating with the milk (in 2 additions) in this way: with your mixer working on low speed, add 1/3 of the sieved ingredients and beat until just combined, then add half of the milk and beat until just combined, then beat in another 1/3 of the sieved ingredients, then the rest of the milk, and finally, add the rest of the sieved ingredients and beat until just combined. Do not over-beat the mixture or the cake will be tough.

Divide the batter between the two baking pans. I weigh the mixture and divide it in half between the two pans, but if you don’t want to use a scale, eyeball it. Smooth the tops with the back of a spoon or a small offset spatula.

Place both pans on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean, the cake has started to pull from the sides of the pan and the top is springy to the touch. Be careful not to overbake otherwise the cakes will be dry. You can loosely place a piece of aluminum foil on top towards the end of the baking time if the cakes get too dark.

Remove the pans from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Then remove cakes from the pans and leave to cool on the wire rack completely.

You can make the cakes a day ahead, wrap them with plastic wrap and keep them at room temperature in a dry place.

for the chantilly cream
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl), add the cream, the icing sugar and the scraped vanilla seeds (or vanilla bean paste or extract) and using the whisk attachment (or an electric hand-held mixer), beat on high speed until medium peaks form. Not too stiff and not too soft, just medium. If they’re too soft, the weight of the cake will force the chantilly cream out from the sides of the cake and if they’re too stiff, the cream will not be very easy to spread and it won’t have the right texture for the cake.

assembling the cake
Take a large serrated knife and cut the tops off the cakes to level them.
Then cut each cake into equal halves in order to have 4 equal cake layers. The new way I discovered to do that is the following. You’ll need a ruler or measuring tape and a few toothpicks. Take the ruler (or measuring tape) and hold it upright against the side of the cake. Find the middle (if the cake is 5cm high you’ll mark the 2.5cm point) and there insert a toothpick. See photos for reference. Continue doing the same all around the circumference of the cake, marking it with a total of 7-8 toothpicks. Using a long, serrated knife, cut the cake, with a gentle sawing motion, right above the toothpicks, using them as your guide and turning the cake (turning by the plate or other surface you’ve placed it on) with your other hand. Use the same toothpicks for the second cake.

Choose the plate, stand etc. where you’ll place your cake and put the bottom half of the first cake (cut side up) onto it. Add ¼ of the chantilly cream on top and spread it over the top of the cake, smoothing it out with the help of a small offset spatula (or a regular spatula). Be careful not to spread too close to the edges, leave some space for the filling to spread out when you add each layer on top. Carefully place the top half of the first cake on top (cut side down), add another ¼ of chantilly cream, spreading and smoothing it like before. Then place the top half of the second cake on top (cut side up) and add another ¼ of chantilly cream, spreading and smoothing it like before. Finally, add the bottom half of the second cake on top (cut side down) and add the rest of the chantilly cream. Spread it and smooth it with the spatula or make swirls.

Top with the fruits and serve immediately.

The cake is at its best the day it is made. You can keep it in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap for 1 day. I wouldn’t recommend you keep it for longer than that because the chantilly will dry out, unless of course you don’t mind.

Finally, a note on cutting the cake. Because the chantilly is soft, it may come out the sides of the cake when you cut it if you aren’t careful. Use a long knife with a thin blade so it doesn’t press against the cake a lot when cutting. Also, cut gently and don’t use too much force. Inevitably, some chantilly will come out the sides but not too much. I wasn’t very careful with mine, granted, but you can learn from my mistakes. ;)


  1. The cake looks lovely and delicious! I'll be voting for you, good luck for the competition 😘

  2. The cake is beautiful and festive, and chocolate is my favourite, but what I really liked were some of your tips: dusting the pans with cocoa and the toothpick trick! Pinning!

  3. This one seems so yummy! After my complete disaster trial to bake a death star cake (it exploded like the real death star) i regret I didn't try this one. I 'll pint it for later... birthday cake!!! xx cathy