German Chocolate Vanilla Cream Torte

Week 5 of Bake Off saw the tent take inspiration from the German baking scene with signature German biscuits, showstopping German yeast leavened cakes and a technically challenging Prinzregententorte, consisting of 8 layers of genoise sponge filled with a chocolate cream. I took my inspiration from this technical challenge but wanted to make the recipe simpler while still tasting delicious and having those fantastic layers. This is my German Chocolate Vanilla Cream Torte!

The original recipe calls for 8 thin layers of plain genoise sponge to be baked on individual trays and then assembled with a chocolate cream made from a custard base and then coated in chocolate ganache. I decided to invert the flavours of the genoise sponge and the cream, opting for a chocolate sponge and a vanilla cream, simply so that I can impart the flavour of vanilla much more strongly into the filling.

The genoise sponge is made using the whisking method, where eggs are whisked with sugar until they reach ribbon stage. This means that you can lift up the mixture, draw a figure of eight with the whisk and the mixture will sink back in after a couple of seconds. Then the dry ingredients are sifted in and folded through and a portion of the mixture is mixed with some fat and reincorporated into the batter. This step allows the fat (and in this case, the liquid) to be incorporated much more easily without deflating the batter too much.

The vanilla cream filling has a pastry cream base which is made in advance. Milk and vanilla is heated until warm and whisked slowly into egg yolks, caster sugar and cornflour which will thicken the custard. The entire mixture is cooked over a medium heat until thickened and all of the starch from the cornflour has been released. The pastry cream, once cooled, is whisked and folded through some whipped cream to create a rich delicious filling for the torte. The cake is finished off with a layer of chocolate ganache and a white chocolate feathered decoration on top. The entire sides of the cake are covered with chopped hazelnuts for an extra decorative element and a classic torte finish.

For the chocolate genoise:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 70g plain flour
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 50g margarine, melted
  • 1 tbsp whole milk

For the vanilla cream filling:

  • 200ml whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 20g cornflour
  • 15g margarine or unsalted butter
  • 150ml double cream

For the decoration:

  • 150ml double cream
  • 150g dark chocolate, broken into chunks
  • 25g white chocolate, melted
  • 75g toasted chopped hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan. Grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm round springform tin with baking parchment.

In a large mixing bowl, place the eggs and the caster sugar. With an electric hand whisk (or using a stand mixer), whisk the eggs and sugar until the mixture is lighter in colour, aerated and when you use the whisk and lift the batter and draw a figure of eight shape, the mixture settles after two seconds (this is called ribbon stage).

Sift over the plain flour and cocoa powder in an even layer over the surface of the eggs and sugar. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the eggs and sugar, making sure to scrape down to the bottom of the bowl to make sure the flour hasn’t clumped together.

Pour a small amount of the batter into a small bowl with the melted margarine and milk and mix well until even. Pour this batter back into the original bowl and fold until the cake batter is evenly combined. Pour the cake batter into the lined tin and spread out to cover the entire surface of the tin. Give the tin a few taps on the surface to pop any large air bubbles.

Bake the sponge for around 20 to 25 minutes or until the sponge is risen, springs back when touched on the surface and a cocktail stick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave the sponge to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before releasing the spring and transferring to a wire rack to cool fully. When you are ready to assemble the cake, slice the chocolate genoise into 3 even layers.

To prepare the pastry cream for the filling, place the milk and the vanilla bean paste in a saucepan over medium heat to warm. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with the sugar and the cornflour until a relatively thick paste forms. Once the milk is heated, slowly pour into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly until all the milk is added. Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the pastry cream has thickened and bubbled, stirring constantly to avoid lumps being formed or the pastry cream burning.

Pour the pastry cream out in a thin layer on a small tray or plate and cover with clingfilm, ensuring that it touches the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill for 1 hour until set. Once set, transfer to a bowl and whisk until smooth. In a larger bowl, whisk the double cream until it forms firm but soft peaks, which means it holds the shape of the whisk but is easy to spread. Gradually fold the cream through the custard until it is even. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.

When you are ready to assemble the cake, line the base of the tin with parchment. You can cut out a sheet of parchment larger than the tin, place it on the base and then fit the ring of the tin on top so the parchment is hanging out – this will make it easier to transfer the cake after assembly. Line the sides with a collar of parchment, ensuring it is flush with the sides of the tin.

Place one of the sponge layers at the bottom of the tin and spread over about one third of the cream filling on top of the sponge. Top with another layer of sponge, spreading over another third of the filling. Then place the final layer of sponge on top, with the flat side facing upwards. Fill in any gaps using the rest of the cream and cover the top layer of sponge with a thin layer of the cream. Chill for 30 minutes. Once chilled, remove the cake from the tin and with a palette knife, fill in any spaces around the sides of the cake with the remaining cream. Ensure that the top and sides are level. Place the cake on top of a wire rack above a tray to catch any ganache that drips off the cake.

For the ganache, heat the cream in a saucepan until it just starts to boil. Turn off the heat and add in the dark chocolate, making sure the chocolate is submerged in the cream and sit for 2 minutes. Then stir until all of the chocolate has melted and the ganache is smooth. If the chocolate hasn’t melted, place over a very low heat to finish melting. Leave the ganache to sit until it is spreadable and will coat the cake but will not run off the cake completely.

Pour the ganache over the cake, using a spoon or palette knife to help encourage it down the sides of the cake, allowing the excess to drip onto the tray below. Use the palette knife to remove any drips that hang off the bottom of the cake.

Place the melted white chocolate in a piping bag and starting from the centre of the cake, pipe a swirl on the surface of the cake. Using a cocktail stick and starting from the centre, draw lines towards the outside of the cake through the white chocolate to create a feathered effect. Then before the ganache sets, press the chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake. Place the cake into the fridge until it sets completely. Slice the cake into 8 slices and serve with fresh fruit or on its own.

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