Monday, 5 October 2015

Boozy Baking: A Showstopping Black Velvet Cake

I'm in a bit of a sorrowful state this week; it's the finals of The Great British Bake Off... THE. FLIPPIN'. FINALS.

Sure, I'm looking forward to finding out who wins - though all my favourites have left already (Saaaaandy *weeps*) - and watching them flap as they're knelt in front their ovens or frantically shoving things in freezers is always funny. But after seeing who's crowned the GBBO winner of 2015, what the hell am I going to do on Wednesday evenings?!

To soften the blow, cake is required and, according to the TV guide, the contestants last bake is set to be a showstopping classic British cake. We're all about the booze here though, so a traditional Vicky Sponge ain't going to cut it I'm afraid, even with all the bells and whistles. (You can find all our other boozy bakes *here*)

Luckily, a recent bloody-good-book-purchase of mine - Gizzi Erskine's Gizzi's Healthy Appetite (available from Amazon for just £7.99) - has the perfect recipe for this very moment; Black Velvet Cake... I'll just leave you with that thought for a moment...

First created by the bartender of Brooks's Club in London in 1861, the Black Velvet cocktail - made from Guinness and Champagne - was drank to mourn the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's Prince Consort. Now, if that's not classic British I don't know what is, and made into a cake? BOOM.

Guinness cakes are pretty well known amongst the sweet toothed community, but Gizzi Erskine describes her mind-blowing first experience with one beautifully - it was a Nigella Lawson recipe no less. "The contrast of dense, sticky, chocolaty and mildly boozy sponge with sharp and creamy cream cheese frosting was an instant win." Developing her own homage to Nigella's cake, she added extra richness with proper chocolate (instead of using just cocoa), and swapped the Guinness for chocolate stout. Pimping up the icing by adding a bottle of champagne, which is reduced down to a syrup, completes the 'cocktail' and the result is the BEST cake you'll probably ever make. FACT. 

I'd been itching to make this Black Velvet Cake since the moment I laid my eyes on it; with three layers of the deepest chocolate sponge, defined by the off white frosting, it's a thing of beauty. Boiling away a whole bottle of fizz is quite an extravagant thing to do for flavouring though, so a special occasion for it to be shown off is required. The Bake Off finale is just that occasion. 

I chickened out of champers and used Arestel Cava Brut from Lidl for under a fiver, along with Meantime's Chocolate Porter (£1.90 from Waitrose), and it all worked a treat. A typo in the book resulted in me using too much bicarb though (I knew I should've trusted my instincts), and my cake rose to extreme proportions before slowly sinking in the centre - god damn! I styled it out with the epic amount of cream cheese icing, and it didn't taste bitter in the slightest, so other than aesthetics, it was spot on. The recipe below has all the correct quantities, so you won't have any problems other than not being able to stop yourself eating it. I may have eaten two mahoosive slices in one day *guilty grin*. 

Thank you Gizzi for creating this indulgent showstopper, full of all the best things in life! And for the final time this week: Ready, set, BAKE! 

Gizzi Erskine's Black Velvet Cake
(serves 10-12)

  • 250g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 250ml chocolate stout or guinness
  • 100g plain chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 35g cocoa powder
  • 400g golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 142g natural yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 275g plain flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • 75cl bottle of champagne/cava/prosecco
  • 500g full fat cream cheese
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 250ml double cream

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease and line a 24cm loose-bottomed, round cake tin. 
  2. In a large pan, melt the butter together with the stout, then add the chocolate. Once the chocolate has melted, add the cocoa powder and sugar and mix well. 
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, yoghurt and vanilla extract, then add to the chocolate mixture. Whisk in the flour and bicarbonate of soda and whisk until you have a smooth batter. 
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin. 
  5. To make the icing, pour the champagne into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce it down until you have just 2 tablespoons left, then leave to cool completely. 
  6. In a large bowl, lightly whip the cream cheese together with the icing sugar and champagne reduction until smooth. 
  7. In a separate bowl, whip the cream until it thickens, then fold into the cream cheese mixture until it's smooth and spreadable. You can whack it in the fridge whilst your cake is cooking and cooling. 
  8. Remove the cake from the tin. If the top is a little crusty and domed, level it with a knife (saving these bits for decoration), then cut the cake into 3 even layers. Place the base slice on a plate or cake stand, spread over 4-5 tablespoons of the icing, sandwich the next layer on and repeat with another 4-5 tablespoons of icing, placing the final layer on top. 
  9. Take half of the remaining icing and spread around the sides of the cake, levelling it out to be smooth (it should be approx. 3mm thick). Pour the remaining icing on top and level it out flat. If you cut off any excess cake, blitz those in a processor to make bitchin' black crumbs to sprinkle on top, or simply grate some dark chocolate over and serve! 


  1. I've just set my eyes on this recipe in Gizzy's book and I'm so glad I read your post before getting started - the bicarb in tablespoon proportions would have not been such a good idea...
    Just wondering: How long does it take to reduce the Prosecco, and is it really worth it? (Does the icing taste a lot of Prosecco or is it very subtle?)

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