Dark chocolate and herb cake

Aromatic honey and fragrant herbs add an extra-special touch to Paul Young's sensational chocolate dessert cake
By Paul A Young
Dark chocolate and herb cake
  • Rating:
  • Serves: makes 30 buns
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Prep Time: plus chilling
  • Effort: medium


For the dark chocolate and herb dessert cake

  • 160 ml water
  • 1 tbsp rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped thyme
  • 1 tsp lavender flowers
  • 185 g self-raising flour
  • 70 g dark cocoa powder
  • 1 pinches sea salt
  • 225 g caster sugar
  • 110 g butter
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 140 ml evaporated milk

For the manuka honey ricotta

  • 500 g ricotta cheese
  • 3 tbsp honey, preferably manuka honey from New Zealand
  • 1 lemons, zest
  • 1 pinches sea salt

For the almond caramel

  • 100 g blanched flaked almonds
  • 200 g caster sugar

For the decoration

  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 tsp lavender flowers
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey, preferably manuka honey from New Zealand, to drizzle


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Line a 15cm (or 20cm for a slightly thinner cake) square, loose-based cake tin with baking parchment. 2. In a saucepan, place the water, rosemary, thyme and lavender and warm through. Set aside to infuse. 3. Meanwhile, place the flour, cocoa, salt and sugar into a large mixing bowl, add the butter and rub in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. 4. Whisk the eggs thoroughly in a separate bowl then mix in the evaporated milk and the infused water and herbs. Mix well and pour onto the flour mixture. Whisk very well until smooth. 5. Pour into the lined cake tin and bake for 35 -40 minutes until springy to the touch. Once cooked, remove from the oven and rest for 15 minutes before removing from the tin. 6. While the cake is cooling, the manuka honey ricotta and almond caramel can be prepared. 7. To make the mauka honey ricotta, place the ricotta cheese, honey, lemon zest and sea salt in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth creamy and incorporated. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, while the cake is cooling.8. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Place the almonds on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 3-4 minutes until evenly golden, turning halfway through. 9. Meanwhile, place a medium saucepan on to a medium heat, add the sugar and slowly heat the sugar until it begins to melt. Cook carefully until the sugar caramelises, becoming liquid and golden in colour. 10. Lightly oil a clean muffin or cupcake tray. While the almonds are still warm, pour them into the hot caramel and mix well. Immediately spoon the caramel mixture into the greased muffin tray to form discs of almond caramel. Allow to cool thoroughly, then turn the tray upside down to release the discs of caramel. 11. To assemble the cake, place the cooled cake on a work surface and, using a sharp knife, slice the risen top off the cake to flatten it. Discard the top. Carefully cut the cake into three even-sized layers. 12. Spread the ricotta mixture on to two of the layers and sandwich the cake back together. Spread the top of the cake with the remaining ricotta and place the discs of almond caramel in a decorative pattern on top of the cake. 13. Strip the leaves from the rosemary and thyme. Place with the lavender flowers in a small bowl and mix with the icing sugar. Sprinkle the herb mixture onto the cake and serve in slices with a drizzle of manuka honey.

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