Chocolate Hues (and how to style them)

Triple layered, double chocolate, sprinkle covered Button Cake. 

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The ultimate chocolate cake is a subjective thing. But let's face it, it's also one of the most forgiving: taste-wise, if you go heavy on real chocolate it's likely to be a people-pleaser. It can, however, be a messy business. So here's how I get a cake looking more swank than shambles (even if it is for a three-year-old's birthday, like this one).

1. Start with the Base. Choose carefully - a tender crumb but dependable structure is crucial. I go for a Devil's Food Cake style, which I've adapted to make signature 3-tier whoppers like this one. Start with something like this classic and make your own tweaks - I sub in light brown sugar for greater depth, always use vanilla paste in the batter and bake at 160C when making larger sizes (this gives a flatter, more uniform rise).

2. Softly does it. For a smooth finish, your icing needs to be easily malleable, ready to swoosh round the cake. Standard butter/icing-sugar buttercream can sometimes feel too stiff, so I've developed my own version to help things along. Try my White Chocolate Buttercream.

3. Freezer Friendly. When assembling your cake, think cold. I fill between each layer, then pop my cake in the freezer for 10 minutes. This chills down the edges, making them a firm surface on which to apply the icing. This avoids a shower of crumbs mixing in with your first icing coat and makes an altogether cleaner finish. After you apply the first thin layer of buttercream, put the cake in the fridge for 10-15 mins too: much easier to get those satisfying sharp edges and flawless swoops.

4. Get Dressing. The easiest way to get a perfect finish is to think about dressing your cake with a stylish outer coat. Giant buttons, chocolate cigarellos or even maltesers give an instantly perfect, even finish.

EASY.