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This deliciously chocolate cake is perfect for all ages - make the little sugar cakes that go on top a few weeks ahead and store then in an airtight container so they'll be ready to go when you make the cake.
For the cake:
- 175g unsalted butter, softened (plus more to grease the tin)
- 100g 50–60% cocoa solids
- Chocolate, finely chopped
- 200g plain flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 100g ground almonds
- 275g dark muscovado sugar
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 150ml buttermilk
For the fudge icing:
- 90g 50–60% cocoa solids
- Chocolate, broken into pieces
- 40g unsalted butter, softened and diced
- 1tbsp golden syrup
- 2tbsp dark muscovado sugar
- 150ml double cream
For the decorations:
- 1 x 25cm decorative foil board
- 120g white sugarpaste
- 12 foil petit four cases
- 200g icing sugar, sifted
- Pink food colouring
- Green food colouring
- Yellow food colouring
- 3tsp coloured sprinkles (1/ 4 tsp per cake)
- 3–4 rolls metallic ribbon, each cut into 1m strips
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/fan 170ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4. Butter 2 x 20cm round sandwich tins, each 4.5cm deep, and line the bases with baking parchment.
- Place the chocolate in a bowl and pour over 120ml just-boiled water. Stir until melted, then set aside to cool.
- In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, then stir in the ground almonds. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or in a bowl with a electric hand whisk), cream together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy (this will take a good 5 minutes). Add the vanilla extract to the eggs. With the whisk running, very slowly add the egg mixture to the butter and sugar, adding 1tbsp of the flour during the process to prevent curdling, then add the melted chocolate and the buttermilk.
- Fold in the remaining flour very gently and divide the mixture between the tins. Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Leave for a minute or 2 in the tins before turning out on to a wire rack. Remove the papers and leave until absolutely cold.
- To make the fudge icing, melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl suspended over gently simmering water. Make sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water. Remove the bowl from the heat, then stir in the syrup and sugar and, lastly, gradually pour in the cream until all is well blended and smooth. Allow to cool completely, then whisk until it thickens. Spread half on the base of 1 cake. Sandwich the 2 cakes, bases together, then spread the remaining icing on top.
- Place the chocolate cake on to the board. To make the little cakes, simply place a disc of sugarpaste into each case. Make up a small amount of icing by very gradually adding 2tbsp water to the icing sugar until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, then divide between 3 bowls. Colour the first pink, another green and the third yellow. Spoon into the paper cases, making 4 of each colour, then top with the coloured sprinkles. Arrange them on the cake.
- Curl the ribbons by running the blade of a blunt knife along the length of each, then lay these streamers casually over the cake, allowing them to cascade down the sides.
Top Tip for making Fiona Cairns' chocolate party cake
You can use an alternative milk but buttermilk helps to lighten the texture and adds flavour