Cocoa, Coconut & Rooibos Cake with Peppered Caramel

Why are we so quick to salt caramel? There is a whole world of flavour waiting to foil the sweetness in its unique way. Don’t get me wrong, a bitter caramel with crunchy salt flakes is divine, but all too often we are bombarded with saccharine blobs infused with metallic saline solution.

Alcohol, Citrus and Spices all play an essential role in the creation of a caramel that is teetering on the edge of the sweet/ bitter boundary. Where the Maillaird reaction is pushed to its max, imparting flavour over pure sweetness. That is what caramel should be.

So here we have a cake, laced with Coconut and fragrant Rooibos, side-lining Cocoa Powder for Nibs, in a gentler nod towards chocolate without being full blown chocolate. Topped with a coconut buttercream, it seems right to spice it up with a peppered dark caramel.

The result? A Rustic, pile it and pour it cake that sings of faraway places and summer vibes.

Easy to make and even easier to eat.



180g Unsalted Butter, room temperature

150g Caster Sugar

30g Coconut Sugar (Substitute brown sugar if needed)

3 Large Eggs

200g Plain Flour

2 tsp Baking Powder

50g Desiccated Coconut

50g Cacao Nibs

50g Milk

2 Rooibos Tea Bags

Pinch Salt

Coconut Buttercream:

340g Unsalted Butter, room temperature

600g Icing Sugar

90g Coconut Cream (from the top of an unshaken, chilled can)

Pinch Salt

Peppered Caramel:

200g Caster Sugar

90g Unsalted Butter

120ml Double Cream

1 tsp Cracked Black Pepper


1. Preheat oven 160C, grease and line a 6” deep cake tin and set aside in the fridge.

2. Beat the butter and both sugars in a stand mixer until soft and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a pan or microwave with both the tea bags and set aside to infuse and cool. Squeeze out the tea bags and discard, leaving the warm milk aside.

4. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the cacao nibs and coconut.

5. Once the butter is fluffy, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Once all three have been added, beat on high for 1 minute to incorporate air.

6. Add ½ the milk, followed by half the flour mixture and mix until only just combined. Repeat with the remaining milk and flour.

7. Once combined, fold through the coconut and cacao nibs.

8. Transfer to your tin, make a small indent in the centre and bake on the middle shelf for 60-65 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

9. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

10. For the caramel, add the sugar to a heavy flat-bottomed pan over a medium heat, do not stir, just gently swirl until all the sugar has dissolved.

11. Increase the heat and bubble the caramel to a dark amber colour, darker is better but take care not to burn it.

12. Stir in the butter (it will splatter) and whisk for 1 minute until smooth. Add the cream, stop whisking and boil for 1 minute.

13. Remove from the heat, stir in the pepper, and allow to cool. This can be stored in the fridge where it will set but just needs warmed slightly to melt again.

14. Set aside while you make the buttercream.

15. Add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth. Add the icing sugar in batches so as not to form a cloud in your kitchen. Beat for 3-5 minutes, or until soft and fluffy.

16. Add the coconut cream and salt and beat again until smooth.

17. When the cake is cold, haphazardly pile on the buttercream, top with caramel and sprinkle with cacao nibs and shaved coconut.

18. Serve in not so dainty chunks and devour with glee.