Whatever happened to a plain old chocolate cake? Gizzi says she wanted to put a simple chocolate cake back on the map, so she went out and researched American baking. She generally prefer their methods, because the cakes are lighter and hold on to more moisture due to the inclusion of buttermilk and using fewer eggs and more fat. Here's her own take on the American classic devil’s food cake, stuffing it full of salted chocolate mousse and dousing it with real chocolate icing. It’s everything you want from a chocolate cake: stacks of chocolate, moisture, lightness and sponginess, and adding the creepy, but ever-so-hypnotic spider’s web swirl on top makes a devilishly good cake for Halloween.





180g (6oz) self-raising flour
200g (7oz) caster sugar
50g (1 ¾ oz) good-quality cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon sea salt flakes, crushed
180g (6oz) unsalted butter, at room
temperature, cut into pieces,
plus more for the tin
120ml (4fl oz) hot, strong-brewed coffee
120ml (4fl oz) buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large free-range eggs, at room


For the mousse filling
100g (3 ½ oz) milk chocolate
200ml (7fl oz) double cream
80g (2 ¾ oz) unsalted butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of sea salt flakes, crushed


For the chocolate glaze and web
200ml (7fl oz) double cream
100g (3 ½ oz) milk chocolate
100g (3 ½ oz) dark chocolate
2 tablespoons glucose (but honey
would do)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g (1 ¾ oz) white chocolate


Heat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan (375°F), Gas Mark 5.


Butter and line two 20cm (8 inch) cake tins and set aside. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl or into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (if in a large bowl, use electric beaters). Add the butter, then turn on your machine or beaters and blend until the butter is fully blended in and the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.


Stir the hot coffee, buttermilk and vanilla together and add it all at once to the flour mixture, blending until smooth. Break the eggs into a small dish and stir them with a fork, then add them to the batter, again blending on medium speed just until smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared tins and tap them on the counter to eliminate any bubbles.


Bake the cakes for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes for 20 minutes in their tins, then tip out on to a cooling rack to cool completely to room temperature. The cakes can be baked a day ahead, wrapped and stored at room temperature before filling and icing.


For the mousse filling, place the chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl and place it over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir the chocolate and cream occasionally and gently until all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the butter, vanilla and salt. The mixture will become a pale and fluffy mousse. Let it cool completely to room temperature. Place the base of the cake on a wire rack set over a plate that’s larger than the cake (this is to catch the chocolate glaze that falls off the edge). Spoon over the chocolate mousse and sandwich with the other cake. The mousse will make a thick layer – swipe round the edge of the cake to even out the sides, a bit like a builder would when using filler on a wall.


For the chocolate glaze, melt the cream, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and glucose together in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Melt the white chocolate in another bowl, using the same method, and pour into a small piping bag with a fine nozzle. Working quickly, pour the dark chocolate icing over the middle of the cake. With a palette knife, use long strokes to push the icing over the sides to create an even coating over the whole cake. Starting slightly off centre, pipe a white chocolate spiral from the middle of the cake out to the edges (the tighter the lines, the more dramatic the effect). Take a cocktail stick and, starting from the centre, pull it through the white chocolate to the edges. Repeat, working around the cake, to create a spider’s web effect. Let the icing set for about 20–30 minutes before slicing and eating. This cake isn’t one that will keep, so to enjoy it at its best be sure to eat it within a couple of days.



'Gizzi's Season's Eatings: Feasts & Celebrations from Halloween to Happy New Year' by Gizzi Erskine, published by Mitchell Beazley, £25, octopusbooks.co.uk

Photos by Emma Lee

Article by: EKBB