My desserts tend to be tarts and simple cakes that are quick to make and need little decoration. Sometimes, though, an impressive, labour-intensive creation is needed. Chocolate layer cake with salted caramel, praline and caramelised hazelnuts This cake recipe is based on one in Rose’s Heavenly Cakes (2009), by Rose Levy Beranbaum, and the caramel recipe is adapted from The Last Course (2001), by Claudia Fleming. Store the leftover caramel in the fridge, where it keeps for weeks. Melt it in the microwave, or put the container in a bowl of hot water, and use as a sauce for ice cream and desserts, or as a filling for tarts. Leftover ganache can be made into chocolate truffles: leave at room temperature until firm, shape into balls, dust with cocoa powder and chill. For the cake: 45 grams unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder 2 large eggs, at room temperature 1½ tsp vanilla extract 115 grams unsalted butter, slightly softened 160 grams cake flour or plain (all-purpose) flour 200 grams caster sugar 2 tsp baking powder ½ tsp fine sea salt 30ml oil 1 Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Spray a 20cm springform pan with pan coating and line the bottom with parchment paper. 2 Whisk the cocoa powder with 120ml of boiling water until smooth, then cool. 3 In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the vanilla extract and 45ml of room-temperature water. 4 Cut the butter into small pieces. Sift the flour. 5 In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until combined. Add the butter, cocoa mixture and oil, and whisk with an electric mixer on low speed. 6 Turn the mixer speed to medium and beat for 90 seconds, then use a rubber spatula to scrape the bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low, add half of the egg mixture and stir until incorporated, then beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl, then repeat the process with the remaining egg mixture. 7 Pour the batter into the panand bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the cake is done – it will smell fragrant, start to come away from the pan, and when you lightly touch the surface with your fingertip, it will leave no indentation. Cool the cake in the pan. For the salted caramel: 400 grams granulated sugar 80 grams light corn syrup 120 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature 150ml cream, at room temperature ½ tsp fine sea salt 1 Put the sugar and corn syrup in a saucepan and stir in 120ml of cool water. Place on a medium-high flame and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved. 2 Put the lid on the pan and simmer for a few minutes. Remove the lid and simmer without stirring until the mixture turns deep amber. As the caramel cooks, occasionally swirl the pan so it colours evenly. 3 Turn off the heat and immediately stir in the butter and cream, taking care not to get burned by splatters or steam. 4 Stir in the salt and cool until spreadable. For the crunchy praline and caramelised hazelnuts: 120 grams granulated sugar 1 tsp fresh lemon juice, strained 120 grams whole hazelnuts 1 Lightly spray two sheets of aluminium foil and two forks with pan coating and set aside. 2 Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Bake the hazelnuts until toasted, then rub between your hands to remove the skins. Set aside 12 for the garnish and roughly chop the rest in a food processor. 3 Put the sugar in a saucepan and stir in the lemon juice and 60ml of cold water. Place over a medium-high flame and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for a few minutes. Remove the lid and simmer without stirring to a pale-medium amber. Remove from the heat. Working quickly, use the forks to dip the whole hazelnuts into the caramel and place onto the oiled foil. Return the pan to the heat and cook until medium-dark amber. Stir in the chopped hazelnuts then spread onto the second sheet of oiled foil. Cool until hard, then crush to a rough powder in a food processor. Place the praline and hazelnuts in separate airtight containers. For the ganache (for the filling and icing): 225ml cream 250 grams bittersweet chocolate, 60 per cent cacao 15ml cognac, brandy or rum 1 Finely chop the chocolate and put into a medium bowl. 2 Heat the cream until simmering, then pour onto the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes without stirring. 3 Using an immersion blender on low speed, move the blender slowly around the bowl. When the ingredients are smooth and shiny, blend in the liqueur. 4 Cool until spreadable, stirring occasionally. For the sugar syrup: 50 grams granulated sugar 75ml boiling water 20ml cognac, brandy or rum Dissolve the sugar in boiling water, then cool to lukewarm. Stir in the alcohol. Assemble the cake: 1 Remove the cake from the springform pan, peel off the parchment paper and place on a flat surface. Wash, dry and reassemble the pan to use as a mould. 2 Use a long serrated knife to trim off the domed top of the cake and discard. Cut the remaining cake into three even layers. Put the top layer into the springform pan. 3 Brush the layer with syrup and spread with a 5mmlayer of ganache. Chill until firm (about 15 minutes). 4 Spread a 5mmlayer of caramel over the ganache, sprinkle lightly with praline, then add the second layer of cake and press lightly. 5 Repeat the layering (chilling after the ganache). 6 Invert the third layer of cake, so what was once the bottom – the smoothest part – is uppermost. Brush with syrup and spread with a thin layer of ganache. Chill the cake in the pan for an hour, or until the layers are firm. 7 Carefully remove the outer ring of the springform pan, but leave the cake on the base. Use a metal offset spatula to smoothly ice the top and sides with the ganache. Cover the lower edge of the cake with praline. Refrigerate until set. 8 Pipe ganache over the top of the cake, then add the 12 caramelised hazelnuts. Place the cake (still on the base) on a serving platter. Slice the cake with a hot knife.