Chocolate Cake with Fleur de Sel – Caramel Filling

October 23, 2012

We celebrated my manager’s birthday yesterday, and for her birthday dessert she had requested something chocolate. (I never would have expected anything else, haha!) As I was flipping through my copy of Bon Appetit Desserts on Friday night, this four-layer cake recipe with ganache frosting caught my eye. I initially decided against making it because it’s rated as “four-whisks,” which is the highest difficulty level in the book. Making caramel has always intimidated me due to the precise (and extremely high) temperatures needed, but this recipe relies on the baker’s judgement of the caramel’s color rather than using a candy thermometer, so I thought it would be a good first foray. I’ve made ganache many times and I am also familiar with how to cut cakes horizontally in half, so on second perusal, it definitely looked doable.

The most difficult part of the whole process was spreading the ganache filling in between the layers. The cake itself turned out fairly delicate and so it tore easily, and it didn’t help that “room temperature” in our house right now is a chilly 65 degrees. I probably wouldn’t have had as much trouble if her birthday were in July! :)

If you’re looking for a super-rich special-occasion chocolate cake, this is an amazing option. My lone complaint was that it could have used a little bit more caramel between the layers, and I did end up with caramel left over even though I used the amount the recipe called for. If I make it again, I will divide the caramel into three equal portions ahead of time and use all of it. I also had ganache left over, but I can’t imagine adding any more – it would be too thick! I will use the leftovers to make truffles. :)

Chocolate cake with Fleur de sel-caramel filling

The caramel filling and the ganache can each be made separately up to 3 days ahead. Cover and chill separately. Bring too room temperature before using. The assembled cake will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 days. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

Serves 12


Caramel Filling

  • 1  cup sugar
  • 1/4  cup water
  • 2  tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2  cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4  cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/4  cup creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 1/2  teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Large pinch of fine fleur de sel

Ganache Filling and Frosting

  • 1½  pounds bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
  • 3  cups heavy whipping cream


  • 2  cups sugar
  • 1¾  cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4  cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1½  teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½  teaspoons baking soda
  • 1  teaspoon salt
  • 1  cup whole milk
  • 2  large eggs
  • 1/2  cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1  cup hot water
  • 1  tablespoon instant espresso or instant coffee powder


  • 1¼  cups almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped, divided
  • Fine fleur de sel


  1. Caramel filling: Stir sugar, ¼ cup water, and corn syrup in deep medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium; cover pan and cook 4 minutes. Uncover; increase heat to high. Boil without stirring until syrup is a deep amber color, occasionally brushing down pan sides with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Whisk in butter, then creme fraiche, lemon juice, and a large pinch of fleur de sel. Cool caramel completely.
  2. Ganache filling and frosting: Place chocolate in large bowl. Bring cream to a simmer in medium saucepan. Pour cream over chocolate; let soften 1 minute. Whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth. Cool, then cover and chill overnight. Bring back to room temperature before assembling cake.
  3. Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line pan bottoms with parchment paper; grease paper and dust pans with flour.
  4. Whisk sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Add milk, eggs, and melted butter, Using electric mixer, beat at low speed until blended. Increase speed and beat 2 minutes. Stir 1 cup hot water and espresso powder in small bowl to dissolve. Add to batter; beat until blended (batter will be thin). Divide batter between pans (about 3 cups each).
  5. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 32 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks for 10 minutes. Cut around pan sides to loosen cakes; turn out onto racks. Peel off parchment and cool completely.
  6. Assembly: Using long serrated knife, cut each cake horizontally in half. Place 1 layer on platter; spread ½ cup room-temperature ganache over. Spoon ¾ cup ganache into pastry bag fitted with ¼-inch plain round tip. Pipe ring of ganache around edge of layer. Spread 1/3 cup caramel filling evenly inside ring. Sprinkle caramel with large pinch of fleur de sel, then 1 tablespoon almonds. Top with second cake layer, ganache, ganache ring, caramel filling, fleur de sel, and almonds. Repeat with third cake layer. Top with fourth cake layer, cut side down. Spread remaining ganache over top and sides of assembled cake. Press remaining almonds onto sides and serve.


  1. This looks amazing! I have been nervous about making caramel, too. Thanks for the encouragement to try it.

    • Yay! Glad that I was able to help. :) I’m thinking about making some more now because I love to dip apples in it. I always used to buy the Marzetti’s (I think that’s the brand?) caramel apple dip at the grocery store, but I just noticed the other day that the first ingredient is high-fructose corn syrup. I try really hard to avoid that, so homemade would be a perfect alternative!

  2. I’m glad you posted about this cake, I’m making it next week and was hoping to find some tips. Thanks!

    • Glad to help! I just got back from vacation – how did it turn out? :)

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