birthday chocolate layer cake & raspberry champagne cocktail

You might remember a few weeks ago I did the big kick ass Easter/Birthday chocolate cake for my friend Netty – layered with mousse and slathered in ganache…? Well this is a slightly simplified version of that same recipe – an absolute doddle to make and so incredibly good, with super moist cake (which easily lasts 3-4 days), rich filling and luscious ganache icing. The cocktail on the side looks all sweetness and light, but actually it’s not super-sweet and the vodka gives it a surprising little bit of grunt – sneaky huh?! These are two recipes I put together for Fairfax, appearing in regional newspapers around New Zealand, so hopefully they’ll be on the birthday menu for a few in the coming weeks. Current state of the nation: Nick flies back from Shanghai tonight arriving at the crack of dawn tomorrow (yay!), Henry is off to a flying start for term two in his second year of design at university in Wellington and Rich is flat out rehearsing for his lead in the school musical of Bonnie and Clyde, zipping off to do a bit of TV filming here and there and starting the preparation for his big World Challenge trip to Madagascar with a training camp this weekend. Phew! And me yoga-ing like a demon, cooking non-stop (as usual) and just finished a wee shoot so off to the hairdresser and a crusiey day today…hurrah!!!

Birthday Chocolate Layer Cake:
2 tablespoons instant espresso coffee granules
3/4 cup boiling water
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons Dutch cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups natural yoghurt
1/2 cup rice bran oil
200g 50-70% dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks
200ml cream
125g cream cheese
1 ½ cups icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 170˚C (340˚F) and line the base and sides of a 19cm removable base cake tin with baking paper. Mix the instant coffee with the boiling water and put to one side. Put sugars, flour, 1 cup of the cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a big mixer and stir briefly to combine. In a separate jug or bowl mix vanilla, eggs, yoghurt and oil with coffee. Add to the dry ingredients and beat briefly to combine. Pour (it is quite wet) it all into the cake tin and bake for 60-65 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Refrigerate while you prepare the ganache and filling.  Put chocolate and cream in a microwave safe bowl and  heat on medium power in 30 second bursts, stirring in between, until chocolate is melting. (About 2 minutes in total). Whisk until smooth. Beat cream cheese with icing sugar and remaining 3 tablespoons of cocoa until smooth. To decorate use a serrated knife to even out the top of the cake (it can be a little knobbly) then cut into two layers. Smooth cream cheese icing into the middle and cooled chocolate ganache onto the top.

Raspberry Champagne Cocktail:
½ cup frozen raspberries
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 bottle champagne / methode champagnoise
16 fresh raspberries

Heat frozen raspberries and sugar in a small pot, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Cook 3 minutes then remove from the heat and pour into a sieve over a small bowl. Leave for a few minutes before squishing with the back of a tablespoon to extract a ruby red raspberry puree – it won’t be much, but you only need a teaspoonful per glass. Chill, then to serve put 1 teaspoon puree, 1 tablespoon vodka and 2 fresh raspberries in each glass. Top with champagne.


  1. Love the cake and especially the cocktail. I was wondering if you have the recipe for the lentil pizza yet?

    1. Hi – it will be absolutely fine – the flavour won't quite have that deep, slightly bitter dutch cocoa flavour, but still great! 🙂

  2. Hi Sarah,
    I have made this wonderful cake many times, it works a treat every time and goes down so well. Do you think it would work to upscale it to a 24cm tin? If so, could you possibly suggest the scale-up factor for me? Maybe it would be better just to make 2 cakes? I have 18 for a family birthday BBQ on Saturday :). Fun times.
    Many thanks

    1. Hi Juli – you could potentially increase the recipe by 50% (so 3 eggs for example) and try cooking it up to 70 minutes. I haven’t done it myself so although in theory it is logical it doesn’t always work that way. If you do give it a try I’d love to hear how you get on…otherwise two cakes is a guaranteed option! 🙂

  3. Hi Sarah, thanks so much for your advice. Letting you know I did give it a go, cooktime ended up 85 mins, beautiful moist cake which rose evenly, great result! Would easily cater for 20 people. Next time I wouldn’t increase the filling or ganache, the amount for the smaller cake would be fine, the slices were enormous 😊, not that my boys were complaining, they were delighted! Thanks again Sarah, this is a wonderful recipe.

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