Chocolate cake with whiskey caramel sauce

A splendid decorated layer cake fit for any special celebration
Nicky Ryan

It’s always good to have a trusty chocolate cake recipe handy for special occasions. But this is not your average chocolate cake. A naughty-but-nice whiskey caramel sauce takes it to the next level, while layers of caramel-flavoured frosting melt in your mouth with each bite.

We’ve used Honeycomb & Hamlet Chocola’s (curved Belgian-chocolate thins) to decorate the top, but you can use shaved chocolate, honeycomb pieces, caramel popcorn or dehydrated orange slices instead.

Serves 16


Chocolate cakes

  • 500g unsalted butter, room temperature, chopped
  • 1⅓ cups caster sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3½ cups self-raising flour
  • ½ cup dark cocoa powder
  • Honeycomb & Hamlet Chocola’s (see tip, below), to decorate

Caramel & frosting

  • 300ml thickened cream
  • 250g salted butter, room temperature, chopped
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1½ cups icing sugar mixture, sifted
  • 1-2 tbsp bourbon whiskey, to taste



1. To make chocolate cakes, preheat oven to 160°C. Grease, then line bases and sides of three 20cm round cake tins with baking paper. Put butter and sugars in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and creamy. Add vanilla, then eggs, 1 at a time, beating between each addition until just combined.

2. Transfer to an extra large bowl. Add milk, sifted flour and cocoa, in 2 batches, stirring until combined. Use kitchen scales to divide mixture evenly among tins. Smooth tops. Bake 3 cakes at once for 50-55 minutes, swapping cakes from bottom shelf to top and turning tins after 25 minutes. Bake until a skewer inserted in the centres comes out clean. Stand in tins on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto a piece of baking paper on a flat tray or bench, to cool base-side up. This will flatten tops of cakes.

Chocolate caramel celebration cake with layers of caramel frosting
(Credit: Photography: Nicky Ryan)

3. To make caramel, put cream, 80g of the butter and sugar in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Transfer to a bowl. Cool, then refrigerate until thick.

4. To make frosting, beat remaining butter in the small bowl of an electric mixer for about 4-5 minutes or until pale and creamy. With motor running, add icing sugar, ¼ cup at a time, until all combined and smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl as you go to incorporate sugar evenly. Reserve 1 cup of chilled caramel. Add remaining caramel to frosting and beat until combined. Refrigerate frosting for 20 minutes or until firm enough to spread.

5. To assemble cakes, trim top of cakes to sit flat, only if necessary. Place 1 cake on a serving plate. Sandwich 2 layers of cake with 1 cup of frosting on each layer, placing top layer, cut-side down. Swirl remaining frosting on top.

6. Combine reserved caramel with whiskey, to taste. Decorate cake with pieces of honeycomb and Chocola’s. Drizzle some of the caramel over the top. Serve with remaining caramel on the side.

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