Well, here we are. A tall cake, full of flavour and texture: there’s chocolate cake, a coconut filling that is better than a Bounty bar, salty-sweet pecan-feuilletine crunch, and mellow Ovaltine frosting. Each layer is delicious on its own but makes the most sense together. It’s a lot of work and I’m very proud of it.
Are there less fussy, just as spectacular cakes? Most certainly! No point lying about that. It’s true that it won’t be possible for a lot of people; I wish that I could send you a slice.
This is a recipe which isn’t technically hard, but requires willpower to get through multiple stages and, ideally, some ability to plan ahead. The difficulty of such recipes lies in the numerous elements, but once it’s all done, it’s fairly straightforward to put together. It helps that the individual recipes don’t take that long to make and can be kept for at least a week, so you really can spread it out. I made one or two things over the previous week.
This is a 3 layer cake with 2 whole layers, with the bottom layer cobbled together from cake bits. The chocolate cake is soaked with ovaltine, then layered with squidgy pie filling, homemade pecan butter and feuilletine crunch, and chocolate malt frosting inside a round of acetate and a cake ring. Now, I don’t have a cake ring but I’ve provided instructions on how to make your own from normal kitchen foil, and this baker has successfully made another Milkbar cake with doubled-up parchment. It’s all about creating a mould to support the tall cake and being able to press the fillings right to the edges, creating that smoothly striated surface.
- All the recipes I found were copy-pastes of the same written instructions, so I’ve added my observations in case it helps you. If I may be uncharitable for a moment, I prefer cooks to write recipes in mostly their own words rather than having 58694869467 beautiful and nearly identical photos of the same cake, but… it’s only dessert. Sometimes a piece of cake will be tricky, I guess.
- I make everything with a hand mixer and will tell you when it’s better to fold by hand, since from what I can tell the motion of hand mixer beaters is more aggressive with less coverage, and risks over-working the batter.
- As this recipe involves so many elements, I’ve provided page jumps so you can simply skip instead of scrolling for decades.
GERMAN CHOCOLATE JIMBO CAKE
Makes a 6 inch cake which is 5 – 6 inches tall. Keeps in freezer for 2 weeks or 5 days well-wrapped in fridge. Adapted from Milkbar (contains autoplay video. Very helpful to watch if you’ve never made a Milkbar-style naked cake before.)
- Fudge sauce
- Chocolate cake
- Chocolate malt cake soak
- Crack-coconut filling
- Pecan crunch
- Chocolate malt frosting
- DIY cake ring
1. Fudge sauce
A gorgeous small-batch sauce. You’ll need just 3 tbsp for the cake batter; the rest can be used as you please. If you don’t want to do this, use bought chocolate fudge sauce.
25g (1 oz) 72% chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
4 tbsp (1/4 cup) liquid glucose (can be bought from health food stores or baking section, but golden syrup is decent in a pinch)
2 tbsp granulated sugar
4 tbsp ( 1/4 cup) double cream
- Combine chocolate, cocoa powder, and salt in medium bowl.
- Combine glucose, sugar, and double cream in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring intermittently while bringing to a boil over high heat. The moment it boils, pour it into the bowl holding the chocolate. Let sit for 1 full minute.
- Slowly begin to whisk the mixture, gradually increasing speed until the mixture is glossy and silky smooth. Sauce can be used immediately or stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks; do not freeze.
2. Chocolate cake
113g (1 stick) unsalted butter, pliably soft at room temperature, but not sloppy
350g (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
120 ml (1/2 cup) buttermilk
120 ml (1/2 cup) grapeseed oil, or other flavourless oil
3 tbsp fudge sauce, shop bought or from recipe above
1 tsp vanilla extract
175g plain flour or 1 1/4 cups cake flour
75g (1/2 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
- Cream butter and sugar in the bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high for 2 – 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions. Mix on medium-high for a further 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once more.
- Combine buttermilk, oil, fudge sauce, and vanilla in small bowl or jug. Splash into the bowl a little at a time, beating well between additions.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for a good few minutes, until the mixture is smooth and homogenous. Don’t rush the process. There should be no streaks of fat or liquid.
- Switch to mixing with a spatula. Scrape down sides of the bowl. Sift in flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Fold just smooth and combined. Ideally it should be smooth but a few very small lumps don’t matter.
- Grease and line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan (quarter sheet) with baking paper. Spread the cake batter in an even layer in the pan.
- Bake for 30 – 35 minutes. At 30 minutes, gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger: it should bounce back slightly and the middle should no longer be jiggly. Bake for an extra 3 – 5 minutes if not.
- Cool cake on a wire rack or, in a pinch, in the fridge or freezer. The cooled cake can be stored in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 5 days.
3. Chocolate malt cake soak
4 tbsp (1/4 cup) milk
2 tbsp Ovaltine powder (any variety, I used original light as that’s all was available to me. Use any type of chocolate malted milk powder, they bring different flavours and intensities of malt and sweetness.)
Whisk together the milk and Ovaltine in a small bowl.
4. Coconut filling
These instructions are for hand-mixing. I’m missing two key factors, the stand mixer and corn powder. I try hard not to be one of those people who are like, ‘I substituted dijon mustard for baking powder and my recipe was awful, this is a bad recipe and you are a bad cook!’ sooooo, yeah. The pie filling is about density and gooeyness, so I substituted with this in mind.
I used a rubber spatula since you can easily combine and deflate. Also, I can’t find any information about why exactly corn powder is crucial except for thickening and seasoning; from what I can tell, this may be much more powerful and flavourful thickener than any substitute. Freeze dried sweetcorn is even trickier to get in the UK: at the time of writing, the most accessible source (healthysupplies.co.uk) was 1. sold out 2. being discontinued. It’s not impossible but you do have to buy in bulk from overseas. Better to take the loss (and milkbar’s quiet scorn towards you for making changes to their recipes) on the chin, I think. What I ended up doing bakes differently but I’ve accounted for that in the instructions: you’ll still get a dense, deeply buttery, gooey filling.
125g (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
3 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp milk powder
1 tbsp dehydrated corn kernel powder or other thickener (or 1 1/2 tsp cornflour + 1 1/2 tsp Ovaltine, or just 1 tbsp cornflour)
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3 tbsp double cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
125g (1 cup) dried sweetened coconut
- Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F).
- Combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, milk powder, corn powder (or other thickeners), and salt in a medium bowl, rubbing with your fingers until everything is finely combined.
- Add melted butter, stirring and smearing with a rubber spatula until ingredients are moistened.
- Add the cream and vanilla, stirring and smearing until any white streaks have disappeared. Add the egg yolks and mix in the same manner until just combined. You should have a smooth, pourable, ribbony mixture.
- Line a bottom a loaf tin (or other small pan) with a sling of baking paper. Pour filling into the pan and bake for 8 – 10 minutes. Gently shake the pan to check consistency: at this point, the recipe says it should be set around the edges and jiggly in the middle; this wasn’t the case for me, twice. I had to bake it for closer to 20 minutes.
- For me, it was ready when the still-liquid filling was a little darker, thicker, and had bubbled up into a soft, thin, pale crust on top. This set into a dense, custardy filling; baking any longer resulted in a curdled mixture which was much too crumbly upon cooling.
- Once cooled, combine filling with the sweetened coconut to make a pliable dough-like mixture. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week.
5. Pecan crunch
100g (3/4 cup) chopped pecans
Splash grapeseed oil or other light-flavoured vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
25g – 50g (3/4 cup) feuilletine or lightly crushed cornflakes/rice crispies or similar–anything with a fine crunch
Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F). Spread chopped pecans on a small tray and toast them in the oven for 15 minutes until fragrant. Puree the warm pecans in a food processor (I managed in a pestle and mortar) with a splash of grapeseed oil, salt, and light brown sugar. You want this to be pourable and liquid or the final mixture will be difficult to layer in the cake; add more oil as needed.
In a small bowl, combine the pecan puree with feuilletine or whatever crunchy element you’ve chosen. There should be enough dry stuff to make a crumbly salty-sweet-roasty mixture. The crunch can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 5 days or in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
6. Chocolate malt frosting
Since there’s no malt to speak of in the original ingredients, there was possibly a typo in the versions of the recipe I’ve seen; in any case I added some more Ovaltine (get wet, go swimming, and all that). You taste the gently rounded malt with the unsweetened cocoa sharp and deep behind it. As written, it’s not too sweet, and you can always adjust the flavours to your liking. If you don’t want to use Ovaltine, omit and use 4 tbsp cocoa powder.
113g (1 stick butter), pliable and soft at room temperature
140g (1 cup) icing sugar (a little more or less is ok)
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp Ovaltine
2 tbsp whole milk
Fine sea salt to taste, start off with 1/2 tsp
Combine the butter, sugar, salt, cocoa powder and Ovaltine in a medium-large mixing bowl, creaming them with an electric mixer on medium high for about 5 minutes until the mixture is smooth, fluffy, and a lighter brown. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the milk. Increase speed to medium high and beat for another 2 minutes or so, until the mixture is silky smooth and glossy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, giving a final mix. Taste and adjust. Use frosting immediately or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Making your own cake ring
Basic method: Multiply desired cake ring size by 3.14 to get diameter and therefore length of foil needed (plus a couple inches). In this case, 6*3.14 = 18.84, so a 20 inch piece of foil was good.
For a 6 inch ring: Measure out a 20 inch long piece of foil, ideally extra strong. Fold it over on itself a few times to create a thick strip about 3 inches wide. If it’s too flimsy, measure out another length of foil and fold it over to reinforce.
Bend strip into a circle, pinching the ends and measure across the top at several points. Adjust as needed. Once close to 6 inches, fold the excess to mark it, and staple or tape it down at the fold. Gently smooth and bend the foil into a circle. It won’t be perfect, but it will do.
ASSEMBLING THE FINAL CAKE
1 recipe chocolate cake
1 recipe chocolate malt soak
1 recipe coconut filling
1 recipe pecan crunch
1 recipe chocolate malt frosting
Topping: 60g (1/2 cup) sweetened dried coconut, toasted, and/or maltesers, or whatever you like!
1 x 6 inch (15 cm) cake ring or springform tin
Acetate, overhead projector film/transparences, baking paper, or similar (2.5 – 3 inch or 5 – 6 inches wide)
- Invert cake onto a large piece of baking/greaseproof paper, peeling the baking parchment from the bottom. Map out the cutting before you do it: for 3 layers, you’ll need 2 whole circles and 2 part-circles at the edges. Use the cake ring to stamp out 2 circles from the cake (the DIY ring can be used as a cutting guide). The prettiest layer is the top, second-prettiest is the middle, and the remaining part-circles + scraps will be pressed into the base. Any remaining bits are also used to fill in gaps.
- Clean cake ring. Place it on a paper-lined tray (or in my case, foil-lined cardboard). Line inside of cake ring with acetate (I cut a sheet of OHP film in half lengthwise and overlapped them inside; this was perfect).
- Put part-circles and scraps together inside the ring, using knuckles to tamp the scraps together into a flat even layer. You should have plenty of scraps left; use these to fill in any gaps at edges of cake.
- Evenly spoon over half of the malt cake soak, thoroughly moistening cake layer.
- Take 1/2 recipe coconut filling, flattening clumps with your fingers and pressing it into an even layer. Get it right to the edges. If yours is very soft, use back of spoon.
- Sprinkle 1/2 recipe pecan crunch evenly over coconut filling, again getting it to the edges. Use knuckles to firmly press into place.
- Use the back of a spoon to spread 1/3 of chocolate malt frosting over the pecan crunch layer. Make small figure-8 movements, wiggling gently to ease frosting over without pulling up too much crumb.
- If your acetate isn’t already 5 – 6 inches wide, gently tuck a second strip of film between cake ring and top 1/4 inch (1 cm) of the first strip of acetate to provide a clear, supportive ring.
- Set the second-prettiest cake round on top of the frosting, using cake scraps to fill in gaps if frosting peeks through the edges. Repeat the process: remaining 1/2 soak, coconut, and crunch, plus another 1/3 frosting.
- Nestle the last cake round into the frosting. Cover the top of the cake with all the remaining frosting, swirling or smoothing flat as you please. Add your chosen cake topping.
- Transfer the cake to the freezer. Freeze for a minimum of 12 hours to set the whole thing. The cake will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
- At least 3 hours before serving, remove cake from freezer. Using your fingers and thumbs, pop the cake out of the cake ring, or simply peel off the foil. Gently peel off acetate. Transfer cake to a platter or cake stand. Defrost in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours (wrapped well in plastic, the cake can be refrigerated for up to 5 days).