Grown - up Birthday Cake

Grown - up Birthday Cake

The ultimate rich, moist chocolatey cake - a simple thing not to be underestimated! This is my ideal kind of special occasion cake. A 'grown-up birthday cake' if you will. Too good to be wasted on children (though my 3 are pretty partial to a slice). It's a fudge-y delight of a cake, with an ingredient list that places it somewhere between a brownie and a cake. And there's a hint of coffee that just takes the edge of the sweetness without being overpowering. I like a slice of this with a strong black coffee (or a glass of red wine!).

This is not a difficult recipe AT ALL. But it's slightly more involved than my usual one-bowl mixes. I like to think of it as having three separate elements - 'hot' (the bit you melt in a pan), 'wet' (the bit you beat together) and 'dry' (the bowl of sifted flour and sugars). Then you just mix all three elements together and bake it. Easy! I've not got the patience for 'proper' cake decorating and I like a cake that looks impressive without requiring too much faffing about with icing. In this case, I've just sandwiched 3 layers together with whipped cream and slathered the whole thing in chocolate ganache. On top and around the sides, I've piled the contents of a box of chocolates. Dusted with cocoa powder its an easy way to create a sophisticated look with minimal effort! Top tip: Although chocolate snobs might disagree - Please trust me when I tell you that it's really hard to make a good ganache with expensive/high cocoa content chocolate. Personally I tend to use Cadburys Bournville for my ganache, which at 36% cocoa content barely scrapes into the dark chocolate category.....but it works everytime! Takes: 2 hours in total, including baking and cooling

Makes: 1 cake which serves 12-16 people

Storage:In the fridge, this cake keeps well for 4 days. (But bring it to room temperature to serve it. as it tastes better that way)


  • 200 grams salted butter
  • 100 grams dark chocolate
  • 80 grams cocoa powder
  • 4 tbs strong coffee (either espresso or instant coffee is fine!)
  • 180 grams self raising flour
  • 200 grams light soft brown sugar
  • 200 grams caster sugar
  • pinch of fine salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 80 ml milk

For the ganache

  • 180 grams dark chocolate (I use Cadburys Bourneville)
  • 180 grams double cream
  • 1 box of good quality chocolates or truffles to decorate, plus 1/2 a teaspoon of cocoa powder to dust them (optional)

For the filling

300 grams double cream, whipped to soft peaks (or if you want the cake to 'hold' for a couple of days before cutting it, mix half and half whipped double cream and mascarpone for a firmer cream filling)


  1. First turn on the oven to 150 degrees C, and prepare 3 round sandwich cake tins (15-18cm diameter) by greasing with butter and lining with baking paper.
  2. In a small saucepan measure the butter, chocolate, cocoa powder and coffee. Melt gently over a low heat until everything is melted and glossy. Leave aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl measure the flour, salt and both types of sugar (I don't usually waste time sifting things, but the soft brown sugar is often quite lumpy and definitely worth passing through a sieve). Mix the ingredients well and leave aside.
  4. In a small bowl beat together the milk and eggs for a couple of seconds with a fork, just to break up the eggs.
  5. Now tip the 'hot' ingredients and the 'wet' ingredients into the 'dry' bowl, and mix everything together with a spoon until it is well combined.
  6. Divide the cake batter into the 3 prepared cake tins, and put them into the oven. They'll need between 20-30 minutes, depending on how big your tins are. Do make sure they are cooked through by testing with a cake skewer. 
  7. Leave the cooked cakes to cool in the tin completely. They should come out easily when cool if you run a spatula around the sides and tip them out onto a plate.
  8. While the cakes are cooling prepare your cream filling by whipping it to soft peaks, and make the ganache.
  9. To make the ganache just break up the chocolate and put it in a saucepan with the cream. Put the pan on a very low heat and stir constantly until the chocolate has just melted and you have a smooth, glossy ganache. Do not let it boil or catch on the bottom of the pan. Leave it aside to cool. If it looks really runny pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up.
  10. Now for the assembly part! Place one cake onto a serving plate and spread half the cream evenly over it. Put another cake on top, and spread the remaining cream over that. Place the 3rd cake on top and make sure the cakes are stacked neatly. Then spread the ganache over the top and sides, smoothing it with a knife or palette knife (though there's no need to make it perfectly smooth). Finally, top with chocolates or truffles, and dust with 1/2 a teaspoon of cocoa powder in a sieve.
  11. You can serve the cake straight away, but if you leave it to set in the fridge for a couple of hours it'll cut more neatly. Personally I think it tastes better the day after you bake it!