Chocolate-Assam tea cake

I made this cake because I was craving the chocolate cake from Matilda, but I did not want to just make the chocolate cake from Matilda. Don’t get me wrong, a rich fudgy cake with a chocolate-scented buttercream, enrobed in chocolate cake sounds like a dream all day, every day, but at the same time, it felt basic. So I thought about how I could maybe spruce it up a bit. Usually I do add a little bit of coffee to my chocolate cake, so I thought about doing coffee at first. And then I remembered assam tea. I have been seeing that kind of tea popping up in so many boba shops in SoCal, so I did a little research on what exactly assam tea was. According to multiple sites, assam tea is an Indian black tea, quite popular in the UK, that has malty, earthy notes. As soon as I read that, I knew I had a match locked in for what to pair with my Matilda/Ms. Trunchbull-inspired chocolate cake. With this recipe, I really wanted to embrace chocolate and malt. The assam team is used in quite a few ways in the cake itself, but I also used Ovaltine to reinforce those malt notes. Optionally for the cake sponge, you can use malt or Chinese black vinegar with 1 cup of milk in place of your buttermilk as well, but I listed off buttermilk since not everyone has either of those vinegars. You can actually just use 1 cup of milk with any vinegar or even lemon juice to make your own buttermilk as well, but just wanted to mention those two vinegars since they are both known for that malty goodness, which is what this recipe embraces!

For the actual components, we have a black cacao infused chocolate cake, an assam tea-Ovaltine soak, an assam tea namelaka, crunchy chocolate pearls, assam milk tea ganache, and chocolate curls, gold leaf, and gold pearl sprinkles to finish. If you somehow have not heard of the term namelaka(which I have used in a TON of recipes at this point), it is basically a ganache that is set with gelatin and whipped until creamy and mousse-like. The difference between the namelaka and ganache for this recipe is that the namelaka is made with white chocolate, and the ganache is made with dark chocolate. I used the namelaka between the layers of cake, with the crunchy chocolate pearls sprinkled in there as well, and the exterior is enrobed in the ganache, which acts like a frosting. I went with gold leaf and gold sprinkles just so that the cake has some color contrast on the exterior. Gold and dark colors work together really nicely, and in this case, it gives the cake a more refined and regal feel, which echoes back to the luxurious nature of both assam tea and Ms. Trunchbull’s chocolate cake. With this cake, you get the richness of chocolate but with an earthy, malty complexity that you normally would not see in a chocolate cake!

Assam tea namelaka:
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp gelatin powder + 2 tbsp heavy cream
a pinch of salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 assam tea bags

In a pot, melt down the white chocolate with milk, gelatin + heavy cream, and salt. Pour into a shallow container and allow the mixture to cool down and firm up in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, if not overnight. In another pot, heat up the cream with butter and tea bags on low. Once the butter is fully melted into the cream, allow the mixture to cool down at room temperature until just above lukewarm. Strain out the tea bags at this point, squeezing them to extract as much liquid as possible – normally you would not do this for assam tea as it makes the tea bitter, but in this case, the bitterness counteracts the overt sweetness in the white chocolate! Transfer the firmed up white chocolate mixture into a mixing bowl and mix using a rubber spatula or a paddle attachment until softened. Gently mix the tea cream into that until combined, and allow the mixture to firm up in the refrigerator, at least 30 minutes, before transferring to a piping bag to assemble with.

For the chocolate cake:
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup black cacao powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a bowl, combine the canola oil with eggs, sugar, cacao powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt first, whisking everything until the lumps are mixed out. In a cup, mix the vanilla into the buttermilk. Alternate between adding the buttermilk and the flour into the egg mixture to form your batter. Pour the batter into a lined quarter sheet tray and spread onto a thin layer. Bake at 350 degrees F for 22 minutes. Allow the cake to full cool before cutting out 2 6-inch disks, and then cut out a third layer using the scraps.

Assam-ovaltine soak:
1 assam black tea bag
1/2 cup hot water
1 tbsp Ovaltine powder
a pinch of salt

Steep the tea bag into the hot water for 4-5 minutes, until the liquid is a dark amber color. Strain out the bag and add in the Ovaltine and salt, mixing until combined. Refrigerate until cold to the touch before attempting to use.

For initial assembly:
Crunchy chocolate pearl sprinkles

Place down your scrap layer first and then add on 1/3 of your soak. Spread on about 1/3 cup of the namelaka and sprinkle on the chocolate pearls. Repeat with the second layer, as well as the third. Using a bench scraper, spread the namelaka so that it enrobes the sides of the cake. Freeze for at least 1 hour. Reserve any spare namelaka for piping on top of the cake with.

Assam tea milk chocolate ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream, in two parts
1/4 cup milk
1 assam tea bag
2 tbsp unsalted butter or canola oil
1 cup dark chocolate chips
a pinch of salt

In a pot, heat up the one part of your cream, milk, and tea bag on high for 5 minutes. Strain out the tea bag and add in the other ingredients. Change the heat to low and stir occasionally until combined. Pour into a shallow container and allow the ganache to firm up. Transfer your firmed up ganache to a mixing bowl and whip with the rest of your cream until soft and spreadable.

For final assembly:
Dark chocolate chips
Gold leaf
Gold sprinkles

Spread the ganache around the still-frozen cake, using a bench scraper to guarantee smooth edges. Pipe any leftover namelaka on top and garnish with more crunchy chocolate pearl sprinkles as well. Refrigerate just to keep the cake cold. Partially melt down about 1/3 cup of chocolate over a double boiler. Once the chocolate registers 120 degrees F, take the chocolate off heat and stir until it goes down to 90 degrees F. Spread the chocolate onto either parchment or acetate and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Break into smaller shards. Garnish the cake with the chocolate shards, gold leaf, and gold sprinkles to finish.

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