Chocolate Layer Cake with Ras El Hanout Buttercream + Poached Pears

It's been a while! A few things have happened since my last post.

  • I discovered that I could survive without my laptop and phone for 2 days. Next challenge: 3 days.
  • Other discovery: Westonbirt arboretum in the Cotswolds. This place is magnificent, it will make you fall in love with autumn all over again. I’ve seen the prettiest trees with bright golden and neon red leafs while I was there. 
  • The US elections! (!!!)
  • I had a brownie made out of cricket flour. I think it tasted nice but I couldn’t stop picturing tiny crickets everywhere while I was chewing it. I had about 4 spoons, not bad no? Maybe insect flour is just not my thing.

This week, something else is happening (well, supposedly). I am turning 30! What can I say? It’s all right, except I feel like I have to be more serious now and pretend that I don’t think like I am still 18. We all know this is not happening.

And finally, this cake! To celebrate my birthday last year, I made this almondy honey and vanilla layer cake with amlou filling. I thought it would be nice to make it a tradition and make a layer cake for my birthday every year! What do you think? Especially since I rarely bake cakes for the blog (note to self: do we want more on the blog?). Also, since I am turning 30 and it’s the big “three”-“O” (that’s how they call it over here), I decided to go all out and make a chocolate cake because you know, chocolate is my lover. This cake is inspired by a dessert I made for an event a few weeks ago: Ras El Hanout Poire Belle Helene. It was so good, I had to cake-ify it. The chocolate cake is beautifully moist, rich and super comforting. The buttercream has a subtle fragrant and warmly spiced flavour. The ganache and the pears are there to make everything more decadent, pretty and tasty, you know like the cherry on the cake. 

Ras el hanout buttercream chocolate cake 2.jpg

Chocolate Layer Cake with Ras El Hanout Buttercream

INGREDIENTS

Serves 8 to 10

Adapted from Emily Luchetti’s chocolate layer cake.

  • Unsalted butter, for greasing
  • 85 gr (¾  cup) cocoa powder
  • 180 ml (¾ cup) water
  • 120 gr chocolate, chopped
  • 320 gr plain flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 400 gr (2 cups) sugar
  • 180 gr unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk, divided

Buttercream

  • 450 gr unsalted butter, softened
  • 400 gr (2 cups) powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons ras el hanout, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt

Chocolate ganache

  • 100g dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 100ml double cream

Assembly

  • Poached pears
  • Sprinkles if desired

METHOD

• Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).

• Grease two 20 cm (8 inch) cake tins and line their bottoms with baking paper.

• In a small bowl, stir the cocoa powder with the water to make a paste and set aside.

• Melt the chocolate. Place the chocolate and a few drops of water in a microwave-safe bowl stopping and stirring at 15 seconds intervals until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

• In a large bowl, mix together the sifted flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. 

• In a large bowl use an electric mixer (or a stand mixer) to mix the sugar and the eggs until creamy and the colour turns into a yellow pale. On low speed, add the reserved cocoa paste and melted chocolate and mix until well combined.

• Still on low speed, progressively add the flour and the milk until smooth. 

• Equally divide the cake mixture into the greased cake tins (you can use a scale for a more precise result) and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Until the cake feels spongy to the fingertips and when inserted in the middle of the cake, a skewer comes out a clean.

• Carefully remove each cake from the pan and leave to cool on a wire rack. Leaving the cakes inside their pan will make them cook longer so make sure you don’t leave them for more than a few minutes inside their pan.

Buttercream

• In a large bowl, use an electric whisk (or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment), to slowly beat the butter and gradually add the sugar, vanilla extract and ras el hanout until smooth and fluffy.

If your ras el hanout contains things such as whole rose petals and seeds, make sure you sift it before mixing with the butter. 

Ganache

Make the ganache once the cakes have cooled down and you are about the start assembling.

• Place the chocolate and the double cream a microwave-safe bowl stopping and stirring at 15 seconds intervals until smooth and creamy. Set aside for 2 minutes and not more before pouring onto the cake, otherwise the ganache will become to hard to drizzle over the cake. 

Assembly

• Once the cakes have fully cooled down, you can start assembling.

• Place a cake on top of a cake board and spread a thick layer of buttercream on top. Stack up another cake on top of the first one and spread the rest of the buttercream on top and all over the cake. Use an offset spatula to even the buttercream all over the cake.

• Pour ¾ of the ganache at center of the cake and use an offset spatula to make the ganache drizzle on the sides. Add more ganache if necessary. Top the cake with poached pears and sprinkles if desired. 

Notes

• My sprinkles are a mixture of crushed rose petals, crushed coriander seeds, crushed cumin seeds, demerara sugar and coarse salt. 

• Enjoy cake at room temperature.