This chocolate cake, with meringues and ganache is every chocolate lovers dream...
1. Bake THREE 20 cm cakes using this chocolate sponge recipe. Bake your cakes at least a day prior to decorating.
2. Make the meringue kisses at least a day in advance of serving the cake. (They can be made up to a week ahead and stored in an airtight container.)
Preheat oven to 120°C.
Put the egg whites and caster sugar into a glass or metal bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water (don’t boil the water as this will cook the egg whites). Stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is warm to the touch.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer. Then, using the whisk attachment, whisk until thick and cool. This should take approximately 15 minutes and the meringue should hold stiff peaks.
Line 3 baking trays with baking paper. Use small blobs of the meringue mixture to stick down the baking paper in the corners of each tray.
3. To pipe the meringue kisses: Fit the extra-large round tip to the piping bag, fill it with one-third of the meringue mixture and pipe small kisses with a 3 cm base onto one baking sheet, keeping them as uniform in size and shape as possible. To ensure the kisses are all the same size, draw 3 cm circles (about the size of a 50 cent piece) onto baking paper and use these as a guide when you pipe each kiss. To make a kiss shape, squeeze the bag until the circle is the size of the base you want, then release the pressure and pull up to create a peak on the kiss.
Sprinkle this first tray of meringue kisses with finely chopped hazelnuts.
For the second baking tray, repeat this process with the second third of the mixture, this time dusting the kisses with cocoa powder. For the final baking tray, crush the freeze-dried coffee into a fine powder, then mix it into the remaining third of meringue mixture before piping kisses onto the tray.
Place the trays of kisses into a preheated oven and bake for 1 hour with the door slightly ajar to allow moisture to escape. Then turn the oven off, and keeping the door ajar leave the kisses to dry out in the oven overnight.
The following day, remove the kisses from the baking tray and either store in an airtight container until required (up to a week) or use them to decorate your cake.
4. Make the ganache as follows and set it aside to firm up. Place a medium-size stainless steel bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Add the chocolate and cream to the bowl, and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the chocolate has just melted and is combined with the cream to a nice glossy finish. Remove the bowl from the heat and allow to cool.
Ganache can be made in advance. Covered in the fridge, it will keep for up to 2 weeks. Before using, bring it back to room temperature then mix well. It should be the consistency of toothpaste – not runny, not solid and just a little sticky. If it is too hard to stir, warm it slightly by giving it short 10-second bursts in the microwave or, alternatively, in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. If it is too runny, leave it to cool in the fridge.
5. Level the cakes using a cake leveler if possible. Turn cakes over.
6. Fill and stack the cakes with ganache. Place the stacked cake on a serving plate and cover it with ganache to a smooth finish.
7. While the ganache is still sticky, carefully press the meringues into the side of cake in vertical lines, making a striped pattern as shown.