Inspired by the Bombay bakery chocolate cake, this chocolate vanilla cake is the best of both worlds. A layer of vanilla cake is sandwiched between two layers of chocolate cake and frosted with a chocolate ganache. Perfect for teatime, a birthday party, or a celebratory dinner.
This right here is a childhood favourite cake of mine! It’s the chocolate cake from the famous Bombay Bakery in Hyderabad, Pakistan. It’s a chocolate vanilla cake with a layer of vanilla cake sandwiched between two layers of chocolate cake and then frosted with chocolate ganache.
The iconic Bombay bakery
Known as the ‘bakery in a bungalow’ this iconic Pakistani bakery is over a hundred years old. The cakes at this bakery are so popular that people line up for hours, and when you finally get your turn you can only buy two cakes. Why? Because regardless of the demand they only make a limited number of cakes in a day. So, if the cakes sell out (and they inevitably do) you have to come by again.
I loved the cakes from Bombay Bakery so much that every time someone would come from Hyderabad I would only ask for one thing – a cake from Bombay Bakery. Whichever one they could get. I would always hope for the chocolate cake, but I could never be sure what I would get. Because the thing is, the bakery also had time slots for different cake varieties. Super complicated, right?! In the morning, you could only get the macaroon cake. In the afternoon you get the chocolate cake or the coffee cake (another cult classic).
I had been reminiscing about the cake so much that I decided to try baking it at home myself. It took a couple of tries, and I have come up with a version that tastes pretty close to the original. Read on ahead for the full recipe, and tips.
Why this recipe works
The first step in developing this recipe was to identify all the elements of the Bombay Bakery chocolate cake. The cake itself which is a pound cake style cake. Two vanilla cake layers and one chocolate cake layer. The buttery filling in the middle and finally the chocolate frosting on top. The next step - lots and lots of recipe testing along with feedback from friends and family. Let's just say all my friends were super happy with all the cake boxes that I was distributing.
It's taken quite a few attempts to come up with a recipe that is easy to make and tastes like a copycat version of the Bombay Bakery chocolate cake.
The ingredients required to make this cake can be easily found in the baking aisle of a regular supermarket.
Flour - all purpose flour or maida
Butter - Used to make the batter as well as the butter frosting. I prefer to use salted and omit the salt. If you use unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the cake batter
Sugar - use finely granulated or caster sugar otherwise pulse sugar for a few seconds in a coffee grinder till turned into powder
Eggs - should be at room temperature
Cocoa powder - to make the chocolate cake layer
Milk chocolate - make sure to use baking quality milk chocolate for the frosting, available in bars in the baking aisle of supermarkets. It's also possible to use dark chocolate.
Milk - use full fat milk
Cream - tetra pak dairy cream or thickened cream is what is required to make the chocolate frosting
Baking powder - should be fresh
There are four components to the Bombay bakery chocolate cake – a layer of vanilla cake, two layers of chocolate cake, a buttery filling in the middle and a chocolate ganache on top. Sounds like a lot of work, but it’s pretty easy. Plus, the components can be made 1 (even 2 days) in advance.
- The cake layers: To make this cake, you need two types of cake – a vanilla cake, and a chocolate cake. There’s no need to make two separate batters though. Just make the base batter, and use ⅓rd of it to make the vanilla cake. Add cocoa powder and milk to the remaining ⅔rd to make a chocolate cake. The chocolate cake will be cut into half once baked and cooled.
- The butter filling: One of the signature elements of the Bombay bakery chocolate cake is the filling in the middle, which looks like a layer of butter. This filling is made by cooking butter (or ghee / clarified butter) with sugar and milk till thick. In case you don’t have time to make this filling, substitute with condensed milk.
- The chocolate frosting: The frosting for this cake is a simple chocolate ganache made with baking chocolate and cream. I feel that milk chocolate is closest in taste to the original Bombay bakery chocolate cake, but you can use dark chocolate if you prefer a less sweet taste.
Making the recipe
- Make the cakes: Start off with creaming butter and sugar together till light and fluffy. Then add the eggs, followed by vanilla essence. Fold through the flour and baking powder to make a base batter. Pour ⅓rd of the batter in a greased square baking pan. Whisk cocoa powder and milk together to make a paste, and then add it to the remaining ⅔rd batter. Fold and then pour the chocolate cake batter into a greased square baking pan. Bake both cakes in the oven done. Once the cakes are cool, use a serrated knife to cut off the tops reserving the cake scraps. The chocolate cake will be cut into half resulting in two chocolate cake layers.
- Make the butter frosting: Heat butter, milk and sugar in a small saucepan till it comes to a boil. Turn heat to low, and then cook on low simmer till reduced into a thick creamy paste. Let this mixture cool.
- Make the chocolate ganache: Microwave the cream in a bowl till it’s hot (but not boiling). Add chopped chocolate and let sit for a few minutes. Stir till the chocolate melts. Let the mixture cool to a spreadable frosting consistency.
- Assembly: To assemble the cakes, place the chocolate cake on the bottom. Spread a layer of the butter frosting on top, and then top off with a layer of vanilla cake. Spread another layer of the butter frosting and then top off with the second chocolate cake layer. Carefully cover the cakes with clingfilm and keep them in the freezer for about 30 minutes to let the butter frosting harden. Remove the clingfilm, and then use a serrated knife to cut sharp corners of the cake. Apply the remaining butter filling to the sides of the cake, and then carefully add the reserved cake crumbs on top. Frost with the chocolate ganache on top, and use a pastry comb to make a design on the cake.
The unfrosted cake layers can be made in advance and kept in a cool place outside for 2 days. Make sure to cover them with clingwrap or place in an airtight container so they don't dry out. Once the cake is assembled it should be kept in the fridge. To serve, warm it in the microwave for 10 - 15 seconds or let it sit outside for 30 - 35 minutes so it can come to room temperature. If it's served cold from the fridge, it will taste dense as the butter would have hardened.
Other Pakistani nostalgic snacks and desserts
Nan Khatai (Pakistani cardamom flavored shortbread biscuits)
Cardamom jam thumbprints (Jam cookies)
Lemon biscuits (Lemon Sandwich Cookies)
Cake rusk (The perfect biscuit for dipping in chai)
Would love it if you could try out and rate the recipe, and let me know how it was in the comments below!
Chocolate vanilla cake (Copycat Bombay bakery chocolate cake)
For the cake:
- 170 g / 6 ounces flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 227 g / 8 ounces salted butter softened
- 226 g / 8 ounces / 1 cup finely granulated sugar see note 1
- 4 eggs room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 27 g / 1 ounce / 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 4 tablespoons milk
For the butter filling:
- 2 cups milk
- 120 g / 8 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
For the chocolate ganache:
- 180 g / 6 ounce baking milk chocolate chopped
- ½ cup cream
For the cake:
- Grease two 8-inch / 20 cm square cake tins with oil and line the bottoms with parchment paper / baking paper.
- Sift flour and baking powder together in a medium bowl and set aside.
- Place softened butter in a large bowl and add sugar. Cream together using an electric hand whisk till light and fluffy. It is also possible to use a stand mixer.
- Add the eggs one by one, beating for 30 - 45 seconds after each addition.
- Add the vanilla essence and stir through.
- Add the flour in three separate parts and fold it through using a spatula.
- One part of the batter (⅓rd) will be used to make the plain cake and two parts (⅔rd) of the batter will be used to make the chocolate cake.
- Divide the mixture into two bowls – one part (~250g) in one bowl for the plain cake and two parts (~500g) in the other bowl for the chocolate batter.
- Stir cocoa powder and milk together to form a smooth paste, and then fold it through the larger portion of batter to make a chocolate batter.
- Pour the plain batter in one square tin, and the chocolate batter in the other square tin.
- Bake the cakes for 20 – 25 mins until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool. Peel off the parchment.
For the butter filling:
- Place milk, sugar and butter in a small saucepan and bring to a boil stirring every minute to dissolve the sugar.
- Once the mixture has come to a boil, turn heat to low and cook till the mixture reduces to a thick syrup consistency. This will take about 15 – 20 minutes, and the consistency will be similar to condensed milk. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
For the chocolate ganache:
- Place the cream in a bowl and heat in a microwave in 30 seconds interval. It should be hot with little bubbles at the edges, but not boiling. Add the chopped baking chocolate to the cream and let the chocolate sit in the warm cream for about 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes use a dry spatula to stir the chocolate and cream together till a smooth ganache is formed. Keep the ganache in the fridge for about 20 - 30 minutes so that it firms up and becomes a thick spreadable consistency.
- Use a serrated knife to cut off any doming from the top of both the cakes and then cut the chocolate cake in half. Reserve the scraps and turn them into crumbs.
- Start assembling the cake by placing one chocolate cake on the bottom. Spread a few tablespoons of the butter icing on top of the cake, and then top with the plain cake. Spread the plain cake with more butter filling, and then top off with the other chocolate cake. Reserve the remaining butter icing.
- Wrap the cakes in cling film and keep in the freezer for about 20 – 25 minutes. This will chill the cakes as well as the butter filling.
- Remove the cakes from the freezer and unwrap. Use a serrated knife to cut off the edges of the cake to create a straight square edge. Use a pastry brush or a spoon to apply the remaining butter filling to the sides of the cake. Use your hands to carefully apply the crumbs to the sides of the cake. Finally, frost with the chocolate ganache on top, and use a pastry comb to make a design on the cake.
- If you want the signature Bombay Bakery chocolate cake look, add a few tablespoons of powdered sugar / icing sugar to the remaining butter filling till it is of piping consistency. Pour the filling in a piping bag or a Ziploc bag, and snip of the top. Pipe one straight line from left to right about ⅓rd of the way from the top of the cake. Pipe another straight line from top to bottom about ⅓rd of the way right of the cake. Place a yellow fondant flower in the intersection of the two lines.
- Note: This cake shouldn’t be served chilled from the fridge as the butter filling will be too hard. I serve at room temperature, or I warm it up for a few seconds in the microwave and then serve.
- It’s important to use finely ground sugar for this cake so that it dissolves into the batter. If finely granulated sugar isn’t available pulse granulated sugar in a spice grinder for a few seconds till it turns into powder. Do not substitute with icing sugar / powdered sugar.