Are you celebrating a birthday and want to make a really yummy festive cake? This vanilla custard layer cake with chocolate is my absolute favorite one and no birthday seems right without it.
In Denmark birthdays and layer cake go hand in hand. For Danes a really good layer cake usually consists of mouse with thin layers of sponge cake and lots of whipped cream. The mouse may have added flavors or be plain vanilla. I normally don’t use a recipe when I make this type of cake for family and friends, but that is easy for me to say since I have made hundreds of these layer cakes over the years.
In Denmark you can get store-bought sponge cakes for precisely this type of cake and you can also buy special custard powder, where you only need to add milk and whipped cream and the macarons. Since I made this cake in Canada in Dorthe’s house I had to make everything from scratch, but it was well worth it.
The plain vanilla custard layer cake version of this cake is called an “Othello cake” and is a Danish invention named after Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello, which, among other things, is about racial differences. The combined colors of the dark chocolate and the white cream must have inspired the inventor to choose this name. Fortunately, we’ve moved beyond racial discrimination in a lot of places in the world, and though we can’t run away from the fact that this cake is very ‘black and white’, it is, after all, just a layer cake, and one yummy one at that.
‘Othello’ layer cake – best vanilla custard layer cake ever! (serves 10)
For the sponge cake layers
1 ¼ cup (150 g) all purpose flour
2/3 (150 g) cup sugar
½ tsp baking powder
1 3/4 oz (50 g) sleved almonds
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1 egg white (M/L size egg)
½ Madagascar vanilla pod
2 tbsp corn starch
1 1/4 cup (3 dl) full fat milk
4 tbsp (75 g) caster sugar
2 cups (½ l) full cream
6 sheets of gelatine or 1 ½ tbsp gelatine powder
3 oz (75 g) dark chocolate
5 ½ oz (150 g) icing sugar
½ tsp water (or more if needed)
Assembly and decoration
1/2 cup (150 ml) good port wine
2 cup (½ l) cream
Sponge cake layers (day 1)
1. Whisk together eggs and sugar until it turns into a fluffy mixture with a light yellow color.
2. Then sift in the flour and baking powder and stir only until the ingredients are mixed together. You want the sponge cake to be light and fluffy, so don’t stir too much, because that takes the air out of the mixture.
3. Now divide the dough mix into 3 even sized portions. Line the bottom of a round baking pan (8 inches (20 cm) in diameter) with baking paper and spread out one portion of the dough on it. (Alternatively, you can simply spread out the dough directly on a normal oven plate covered with baking paper. Just make sure that the dough is spread out in a circle with the same diameter of 8 inches.)
4. Bake the 3 sponge cakes one after another for 5 minutes each in the middle of the oven at 460 degrees Fahrenheit (240 Celsius). If you use a round baking pan you should not wait more than 5 minutes before you remove them from the pan. It is perfectly normal for some or all of the cakes to stick a little to the baking paper. As long as the cakes for the layers are not torn apart when you remove them. you’ll be fine. And as you only need 2 layers for the Othello cake, if you ruin one you can just toss it or eat it. Once cooled you can store the cake layers in an airtight container between baking paper (so they don’t stick to each other) or plastic bag for up to a day.
Macarons (day 1)
1. First, chop up the almonds in a food processor or blender with blade knives until they turn into a fine almond flour.
2. Then add the sugar and the egg white and keep blending until the dough is smooth.
3. Now fill the dough into a piping bag and make 30 little tops of dough on a baking tray covered with baking paper. Make sure that they are not too close together since they grow to 3-4 times their size when they bake.
4. Bake the macrons for 25-30 minutes until golden on top in the middle of the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 Celsius). Once cooled the macarons can be stored in a airtight container for up to a week.
Vanilla mousse (day 1)
1. Mix the seeds from the vanilla pod with the sugar and the corn starch in a small saucepan. Add one quarter of the milk and whisk the mixture together.
2. Pour the rest of the milk into the mixture together with the eggs and the empty vanilla pod. Whisk hard and heat gently until boiling point. Keep whishing thoroughly till it thickens and becomes a custard.
3. Remove the vanilla pod and pour the vanilla custard into a bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film directly on top of the custard so that no condensation can form, and leave the bowl in the fridge for at least 3 hours. Once the custard is cold whisk it smooth.
4. Soak the gelatine in water for 5 minutes to bloom. If you use sheets of gelatine, the amount of water is not important, but if you use gelatine powder you should use no more than 4 ½ tablespoons of water.
5. Now the gelatine needs to be gently heated in a bain marie. If you use gelatine powder just heat the mixture as it is. But if you use gelatine sheets, only heat the gelatine and discard the rest of the soaking water. Once the gelatine turns into a smooth liquid, mix it with 1/2 a cup of the custard. Now the gelatine/custard goes into the rest of the custard. Make sure that you whisk it well with a electronic mixer when it goes in, so that no gelatine lumps form.
6. In another bowl whip the cream till its stiff (not too stiff… you don’t want to make butter). Carefully fold the whipped cream into the custard. You will want as much air in the mousse as possible.
Assembly (day 1)
1. Place a cake ring (8 inch (20 cm) in diameter) on whatever serving tray you wish to serve the cake on. Line the inside of the cake ring with cake collar. Place one of the sponge cake layers in the bottom of the cake ring with the topside down.
2. Now mash up the macarons into smaller pieces with your hands, and soak the pieces in the port. Then distribute the macarons on the spongy bottom layer, and make sure to pour on any leftover port that hasn’t been soaked up as well.
3. Put the vanilla mousse in a piping bag and pipe it out in a thick even layer on top of the macaron layer. Then the final sponge layer goes on, with the golden side up and the spongy one down. Put a bit of pressure on the sponge layer, when you put it on to make sure the sponge connects to the mousse and evens it out completely. You will want a smooth surface to put the icing on.
4. Now the cake goes in the fridge for at least 5 hours or preferably till the next day. It gets better when left longer in the fridge.
Icing (day 2)
1. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie. Stir together icing sugar and water into a thick white icing. Heat the white icing a little in a small saucepan and then add the melted chocolate. You can add more water if needed. The icing should not be runny, but still soft enough so you can distribute it on top of the cake.
Decorating (day 2)
1. Once the cake has rested and set, remove the cake ring and collar. Then distribute the icing in an even layer on top of the cake. Make sure to get the icing all the way out to the sides of the sponge layer.
2. Whip the cream for decorating till its quite stiff and put it in a piping bag. If you like, you can fit a star piping tip in the bag before you put the whipped cream in, but it is not a must. Pipe out the whipped cream in vertical stripes all the way around the side of the cake. The stripes should be a little higher than the actual cake, so that any part of side on top of the cake that is not covered with icing is covered with whipped cream.
3. Once you are done with the piping, it’s up to you if you want to decorate the cake even more with springles or strawberries, but traditionally the vanilla custard layer cake is ready to be served as it is.
Ready to make more yummy cakes after trying our delicious vanilla custard layer cake with chocolate? Here are a couple of great options: