Bitter Caramel & Chocolate Custard Layer Cake

When I get into the office in the morning I usually take ten or fifteen minutes to prep my morning cup of tea and breakfast – whether it’s some maple porridge or an open toastie. Recently the open toastie has been a slab of rye sourdough from a beautiful loaf I purchased from Schwarz Bakery Wentworth Falls last week, with some smoked honey ham, dijonnaise, fresh tomato and vintage cheddar. Sadly I’ve now used up the end of that loaf 😦

I take a moment to myself in the morning slowly digesting my breakfast and will read through the online newspaper, taking particular interest around the Traveller and Good Food sections. It was while doing this one morning that I spotted Adam Liaw’s recipe for his Bitter Caramel and Chocolate Custard Layer CakeI was fascinated, as the description said that upon baking, the single mixture splits into a sponge and custard layer – what sorcery was this?! I can only assume it’s a chemical reaction stemming from the combination of the egg whites and the white vinegar, but I’m no scientist….so this for me was magic!

The “doneness” of this cake was a little hard to gauge as the recipe directs to remove the cake while the centre is still wobbly. My timer for some reason didn’t go off properly, and so when I – in a panic – removed the cake from the oven ten or so minutes late, it was just firm to the touch. After setting in the fridge to cool and slicing the next day, I found it quite wobbly and a little wetter in the centre than I had been anticipating; more of a liquid custard than a firm custard that was pictured on the original recipe. I have to say though, Night Owl absolutely loved the wobbly custard bits, and the cake went down a treat with her work colleagues.


I’m not completely sold on the cake as it’s chocolately but not chocolately enough – there’s cocoa but no chocolate, and even though the caramel milk was the base of the cake I didn’t really taste the notes come through. However it’s a very moreish, fudgy and not overwhelmingly sweet – perfect for those cravings when you want both something creamy and cake! Give it a go and let me know what you think?

You will need:

  • 125g butter, melted and kept warm;
  • 1 cup caster sugar;
  • 4 eggs, separated;
  • 1 cup plain flour;
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt;
  • 375ml milk;
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, plus one teaspoon for dusting;
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar;
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar.

Heat your oven to 160 degrees Celcius and grease and line a 20cm square cake tin. Place 3/4 cup of the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the sugar until it becomes a dark, liquid caramel, swirling occasionally to ensure it cooks evenly and doesn’t burn.

Reduce the heat a little, add 1/2 cup of water and whisk for a minute or two until the caramel is dissolved. Set aside for five minutes, then whisk in the milk and strain.


In a large bowl with a handheld electric whisk or a stand mixer, combine the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar, beating until pale and fluffy. Add a tablespoon of cold water and the warm butter and whisk to combine.

With the mixer set to a low speed, add the flour, salt, and two tablespoons of cocoa, and add the caramel milk a little at a time until the mixture is smooth. Pass the mixture through a sieve to remove lumps.


Separately whip the egg whites to firm peaks and add the vinegar, whisking to combine. Fold half of the egg whites into the batter mixture until combined, then fold in the remaining egg white. Transfer to the cake tin and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the top is brown and the edges well set. If you want more of a liquid custard in the centre, the cake should still be wobbly in the centre – if you want a more firm custard, have the centre of the cake just give on a slight touch.


Cool to room temperature in the tin, then chill in the fridge for overnight, or at least two hours. Remove from the tin and dust with the remaining cocoa mixed with the icing sugar, and cut into thick cubes to serve.


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