Chocolate, Popcorn and Salted Caramel Cake Recipe

Whatever the occasion, celebrate in style with this showstopper of a cake! Layers of light chocolate sponge sandwiched with a dark chocolate ganache, all encased in a mascarpone icing and topped with a sensational caramel drizzle and gooey, sticky salted caramel popcorn. This stunning cake recipe is surprisingly simple but looks and tastes divine.
Serves 16 - 15 mins to prepare and 35 mins to cook, plus cooling - 521 calories / serving - Freezable

250g (8oz) butter
250g (8oz) light brown soft sugar
4 eggs
175g (6oz) self-raising flour
75g (3oz) cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp milk
3-4 tbsp thick caramel sauce

For the chocolate ganache filling

1 x 150ml tub double cream
100g (3 1/2oz) dark or milk chocolate, chopped

For the caramel popcorn

100g (3½oz) caster sugar
15g (1/2oz) salty popcorn

For the mascarpone icing

75g (3oz) butter, at room temperature
100g (3 1/2oz) icing sugar
50g (2oz) cocoa powder
2 x 250g tubs light mascarpone

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Heat the oven to gas 4, 180°C, fan 160°C. Base line 3 x 20cm (8in) loose-bottomed cake tins. In a stand mixer, or using a hand-held mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then mix in the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Fold in the milk to make a light batter. 

Divide the batter between the prepared cakes tins and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until risen and springy to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the ganache filling. Melt together the cream and chocolate in a saucepan and heat gently, stir and set aside to thicken.
For the caramel popcorn, melt the sugar in a saucepan. Once you start to see pools of melted sugar, gently swirl the pan to encourage the rest of the sugar to melt. Using a wooden spoon, stir together and heat until all the sugar crystals have dissolved and the colour looks like runny honey. Take off the heat, stir in 2 tbsp water then put the pan back onto the heat to melt any clumps that have formed. Stir in the popcorn and pour onto a lined baking tray to cool.

Make the icing by beating together the butter and icing sugar until creamy. Then mix in the cocoa powder and mascarpone.
On a cake stand, or plate, layer the cake up with the chocolate ganache, leaving the top plain. Cover completely with the mascarpone icing, and use a palate knife to give a smooth finish. Drizzle over the tinned thick caramel sauce and arrange the caramel popcorn on top.

Freezing and defrosting guidelines

Bake according to the recipe but stop before adding decoration or icing. Allow to cool completely. Wrap well in clingfilm and tin foil (to prevent freezer burn) and freeze for up to 1 month.

Loosen the tin foil and clingfilm but leave to defrost in packaging at room temperature for several hours before serving.

If you wish to add icing or decoration, add them after the baked goods have fully defrosted and are at room temperature.
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