How to make perfect chocolate cake

Elisabeth Luard shares one of her favourite chocolate cake recipes, which she learned from a friend in Wales.

For a perfect layered chocolate cake with a rich cream filling, choose a light, butterless sponge flavoured with cocoa and keep the slab-chocolate to flavour and set the filling.

Double-chocolate layer cake recipe (serves 6-8)

6 large eggs, separated
175g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
175g plain flour
6 rounded tablespoons cocoa powder
1 level tablespoon instant coffee

To finish
250ml double cream
225g high-quality dark chocolate, broken
2 egg whites
50g caster sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons apricot or raspberry jam
Extra square of chocolate for finishing

Preheat the oven to 350˚F/180˚C/gas mark 4.

Line a round cake tin, 9in diameter, with buttered greaseproof paper. Whisk the eggs together until light and fluffy, then whisk in the sugar spoonful by spoonful until the mixture is very light and pale and holds the trail of the whisk. Whisk in the vanilla essence.

Sieve the flour with the cocoa and coffee and fold with a metal spoon into the whisked egg mix. Don’t be too gentle, as the dry and wet elements should be well mixed. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until well-risen and shrunk away from the sides. Leave for five minutes to loosen the crumb, run a knife round the perimeter and tip out onto a cake rack to cool.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a small pan, bring the cream gently to the boil, remove from the heat and add the chocolate pieces, stirring until completely melted. Leave to cool while you beat the egg whites until they hold their shape on the beater, then whisk in the sugar to make a stiff meringue. As soon as the cream has cooled, fold in the meringue, turning it so no white patches remain.

To assemble the cake, slice horizontally twice to give you three equal layers and place the top layer upside down on a plate. Dissolve the cocoa powder in 250ml warm water and brush a little over the crumb.

Spread with a third of the chocolate cream. Repeat with the next layer. Brush the top with a little melted jam and top with the remaining chocolate cream. Finish with little curls of grated dark chocolate.