Easter Layer Cake 2017

Easter layer cake with mixed spice, almond buttercream, pistachio ganache and filled eggs

Making actual, proper cakes is something I don't do very often. You guys that do this day in day out are legendary; it's hard work!

A few weeks ago, I made a lemon version of this for Mother's day (are we really already at Easter?), so I thought I'd do it again with an Easter twist. I've provided a list of alternative ingredients at the bottom incase you want to make the lemon version instead.

Ingredients (Makes 1 individual cake, serving 8 people with lots of meringues left for the chef)

For the cakes (you'll need to make 2 and split them both)

  • 350g Self-raising flour
  • 350g Unsalted butter
  • 350g Golden caster sugar
  • 6 Whole large eggs
  • 10g Baking powder (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 10g Mixed spice (about 2 teaspoons)

For the white chocolate pistachio ganache

  • 100g Shelled green pistachios or 2 tablespoons of pistachio butter
  • 300g Whipping cream
  • 300g White chocolate coverture (chips or callets if possible - this is what I'm using at the moment)

For the almond buttercream

  • 120g Egg whites
  • 200g Caster sugar
  • 250g Unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon of a strong almond extract

For the white chocolate drip ganache

  • 150g Whipping cream
  • 130g White chocolate coverture
  • 20g Cocoa butter
  • Paste or powder food colouring (I've used Wilton Ivory here)

For the meringues

  • 75g egg whites
  • 150g caster sugar
  • Blue paste food colouring or any you feel like

Filled Eggs

For the tempered dark chocolate

For the tempered white chocolate

  • 250g White chocolate coverture

White chocolate passion fruit ganache filling

  • 150g White chocolate coverture
  • 150g Whipping cream
  • 15g to 25g Passion fruit powder to your own taste (This one from Sous Chef is especially good)

Dark chocolate Manhattan ganache filling

  • 150g Dark chocolate (at least 55%)
  • 100g Whipping cream
  • 30g Bourbon (I've used Four Roses Small Batch)
  • 20g Sweet Vermouth (I've used Antica Formula)
  • A few dashes of Angostura or other bitters

Other bits

  • Gold and silver edible spray
  • Dark rum for soaking into the cake layers


  • 18cm diameter, 8cm tall cake tin
  • Plastic or other small egg mould
  • Disposable piping bags and nozzles
  • Silicone mat
  • Stand mixer
  • Sieve
  • Stick blender

Make the cakes

Pre-heat your oven to 170C, and line two (or one if you have to do it twice in the same tin like me) with baking parchment. Spray the insides of your tin and parchment with spray oil, cake spray or lightly butter the surfaces.

Place the butter in your stand mixer with the sugar and cream until the butter is soft. Sieve in the flour and baking powder, then add the eggs and mixed spice. Mix for a few minutes until you get a nice smooth mixture.

Pour half the mix into each cake tin, then level off with a spatula and bake for 35 to 40 minutes (until a chopstick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean).

Remove from the oven, and let cool for 10 minutes; then remove from the tins onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Make the pistachio ganache (for both inside the cakes and one of the filled eggs)

If you're using shop-bought pistachio butter, skip this first section.

Pre-heat your oven to 200C, then spread the pistachios out on a tray and toast for 10 minutes

Pour the nuts into a food processor, and blend for 10 minutes until the oils are released and the nuts turn into butter

Place the double cream in a heavy bottomed pot with around two tablespoons of the pistachio butter and mix with a spatula until combined.

Put the while chocolate into a heat-proof bowl (and chop if you're not using callets).

Heat the cream gently until it starts to bubble, then immediately pour over the white chocolate. Leave it for two or three minutes, then blend with your stick blender until all the white chocolate has melted. Finally, and it should still be warm at this point, add the unsalted butter and blend again.

Pour into a tray, cover with cling film and let set in the fridge for an hour.

Make the passion fruit ganache (for inside one type of filled eggs)

Place the double cream in a heavy bottomed pot and add the passion fruit powder. Stir to combine (note - you can use fresh passion fruit juice here, but it's just not as intense. If you use it, reduce the amount of cream by the weight of juice used)

Put the white chocolate into a heat-proof bowl (and chop if you're not using callets).

Heat the cream gently until it starts to bubble, then immediately pour over the white chocolate. Leave it for two or three minutes, then blend with your stick blender until all the white chocolate has melted. Finally, and it should still be warm at this point, add the unsalted butter and blend again.

Pour into a tray, cover with cling film and let set in the fridge for an hour.

Make the Manhattan ganache (for inside one type of filled eggs)

Place the double cream in a heavy bottomed pot with the vermouth, bourbon and bitters. Stir to combine.

Put the dark chocolate into a heat-proof bowl (and chop if you're not using callets).

Heat the cream gently until it starts to bubble, then immediately pour over the dark chocolate. Leave it for two or three minutes, then blend with your stick blender until all the chocolate has melted. Finally, and it should still be warm at this point, add the unsalted butter and blend again.

Pour into a tray, cover with cling film and let set in the fridge for an hour.

Temper and make the dark chocolate shells

Prepare a pot of water and place a heatproof bowl over the top. Weigh out your chocolate, then place two thirds into the heatproof bowl and reserve the rest.

Using a thermometer, heat and stir the chocolate until it reads between 45C and 50C.

Immediately remove from the heat, and mix in the remaining third of chocolate (chopped or callets) and stir vigorously until mixed. As you're doing this, take occasional temperature readings - when it hits 31 to 32C it's ready to use. If you dip below, very gently heat again over the bain marie - but don't exceed this temperature. If you're struggling to make the last third of the chocolate melt, use a stick blender to help.

When the chocolate is ready, pour it into the shell mould so that it fills them entirely - the amount given in this recipe is for the type of mould I'm using - you may need more or less.

This part all proper chocolatiers will want to collectively punch me in the face for - place your mould into the freezer for 60 seconds. This will help firm the outside of the chocolate shell.

When time is up, remove and pour the excess chocolate out, leaving a layer of around 5 or 6mm around the outside. Place back into the freezer for 5 minutes.

This time your chocolate should be completely solid - so scrape the edges of the mould with a sharp knife to release the shells (keep any shavings for decoration at the end of the cake), then flip the mould and tap hard on your work surface. If you've got a good temper (the chocolate, not your own demeanour) they should fall straight out. You may need to tap or drop the mould a few times to release them all. Reserve the shells for the next stage.

Temper and make the white chocolate shells

Follow exactly the same process above, except that you should wait until the temperature is 28 to 29C until pouring it into the mould.

Fill the shells

Remove the ganaches from the fridge, and spoon the Manhattan one into the dark shells. Smoothen with a spatula, but leave a little extra over the shell's edge. Press two halves together until some of the ganache leaks out, then take a paper towel and rub the excess off around the edge so that the shells stick together.

Repeat with the pistachio and passion fruit ganaches - you can mix and match these two between dark and white chocolate if you like; the Manhattan one only works well in the dark shells though!

Reserve the eggs in the fridge

Split and layer up the cake

Take each of the two cakes, then cut the top off so that you have an even top and bottom. Split each of these in two, so you end up with 4 pieces of equal height.

Use the bottom of one cooked cake as the base, and the bottom of the other cooked cake as the top so you can really ensure a decent flat surface.

Place your first layer on a board or cake stand, then pour 3 tablespoons of dark rum over the surface as evenly as you can.

Spread around two tablespoons of the pistachio ganache over the cake, then level it up. Repeat with another two layers, then finally place the last layer over the top so you have a 4 layer cake with 3 layers of ganache sandwiched between. Place sin the fridge to firm up.

Make the meringues

This is the brilliant Meringue Girls technique, which gives a chewy and delicious result.

Heat your oven to 200C, then place the caster sugar into a try lined with baking paper for 7 minutes.

When time's up, reduce your oven 100C.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer and whisk until firm peaks form. Gradually shower in the heated sugar, then keep whisking until the meringue is glossy.

Prepare a tray with a silicone mat, and piping bag with the food colouring - you want to take your piping bag, then turn it inside out, except for a tiny bit where you'll put the piping nozzle. Place this over a tall bottle, then grab your food colouring paste and paint 4 evenly spaced vertical lines from the top to the bottom of the bag. Remove from the bottle, place your piping nozzle in, and invert back the other way. 

Fill the piping bag with your meringue, then pat it down with your hands to both remove the excess air and also get the colouring going. Tie, fold or clip the top then cut open the end and push out the nozzle.

Pipe evenly spaced meringues onto the silicone mat, pulling upwards to get a taller meringue. Leave a centimetre or two between each one.

Place in the oven for around 40 minutes

Make the drip ganache

Do this first, as it needs to thicken to exactly the correct consistency, and that can take some time.

Place the cream in a heavy bottomed pot. Weigh the chocolate and cocoa butter into a heat-proof bowl.

Heat the cream until it's bubbling, then pour onto the chocolate. Leave to stand for 2 or 3 minutes, then mix with a spatula or blend with a stick blender. Drop in the paste - I've used Wilton's Ivory colour here. Once completely combined, place in the freezer to firm up.

This is the trickiest part of the recipe; if you've not left it long enough, the ganache will be too runny and simply drip off the cake leaving a mess. If it's too thick it won't drip at all. You want it to be relatively heavy, and closer to fully setting than being liquid. It can take a couple of hours in the freezer - so wait it out, but check regularly. Get on with the buttercream while you're waiting.

Make the buttercream and ice the base cake

Place a pot of water on your hob, and heat until simmering. Weigh the egg whites and sugar into a bowl, then place this over the simmering water. Immediately start to whisk - and I'd recommend a hand-held electric whisk at this point. Keep going until it whips to a stiff peak.

Transfer to your stand mixer bowl, and whisk again. While it's still hot, start dropping the butter in piece by piece until it's all gone. The heat will melt the butter, so it won't cream straight away - but give it 5 or 10 minutes at high speed and you'll end up with a smooth buttercream. Before you stop whisking, add the almond essence.

Finally, ice the cake by plastering the outside and top with buttercream, then placing back in the fridge for 20 minutes. When time's up, remove the cake from the fridge and you'll find the buttercream has firmed up slightly. Begin to smoothen the sides and top with a long spatula. If you've got one of those rotating cake stands, use that by placing the spatula up against the cake and spinning the base instead. You can keep dipping your spatula into warm water if you want to make it really smooth. The top is less important to get totally perfect, as the ganache will cover any minor imperfections.

Place back in the fridge until the drip ganache is ready.

Drip the ganache

When the ganache is just about moving when you spoon it, it's ready. Start to spoon small amounts near the edge; if it starts to drip down the cake all the way to the bottom, it's still not firm enough - so return to the freezer. If it starts to drip and stops somewhere down the buttercream, you're good.

Continue doing this all around the cake using more or less each time so the drips are different lengths.

When you've gone all the way around, use the remaining ganache to fill the top of the cake, then place in the fridge to solidify one last time

To serve

Place a toothpick into the bottom of each egg you're adding to the cake. If you've got / are using gold and silver edible spray, spray them at this stage. Stick 6 or 7 eggs on top at different heights.

Place some meringues around randomly, then finally throw over some hundreds and thousands.

If you kept any of the chocolate scrapings, place these around the bottom of the cake.

Hope you enjoy this one and Happy Easter!

Lemon variation

If you fancy making the lemon version, then:
  • Substitute the mixed spice for the zest of two lemons and the juice of half in the cake mix
  • When layering, substitute the rum for gin mixed with lemon juice
  • When making the buttercream, substitute the almond essence for more lemon zest and a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla powder or extract
  • Instead of the pistachio ganache between the cakes, make or buy lemon curd and spread between each layer. Here's my recipe from way back in post #2
  • Instead of the filled eggs, make some lemon macarons filled with curd and whipped cream. Here's one receipe for the shells from post #19
  • Substitute out the random colours for yellow!


Passion fruit and Jasmine Tart

Delicious curd filling with a thick Italian meringue topping

Sometimes I find my entire fridge is full of random bowls of leftover egg whites. I'm still not entirely sure where these come from, but I guess I'm either making a lot of ice cream or they are naturally multiplying in there. Eventually I need a purge, and this recipe is ideal.

The combination of passion fruit and jasmine tea is really delicious, but that toasted Italian meringue topping provides the killer blow. I say "serves 8" below, but it depends on how many of your guests are in pig mode (read: I ate most of the one pictured).

Ingredients (one pie, serves 8)

For the filling

  • 150g Passion fruit juice (from 8 to 10 passion fruit, seeds sieved out)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 210g caster sugar
  • 15g Jasmine tea pearls [Buy]

For the tart case

  • 250g type 45 flour [Buy] (or just plain if you don't have any)
  • 140g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 40g ground almonds
  • 90g icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

For the Italian meringue

  • 200g egg whites
  • 75g caster sugar (for the egg whites)
  • 325g water
  • 85g caster sugar (for the sugar syrup)

Equipment required

  • 24 cm flan ring
  • Stand mixer
  • Thermometer
  • 1 baking mat (Fibrelux, Silpat etc)
  • 1 heavy tray
  • Baking beans or equivalent

Make the curd

To begin, juice your passion fruit. This is sometimes an arduous process, even if you have a decent orange juicer. I find the quickest thing to do is use the juicer to extract the main juice, then tip the seeds into a sieve and push down with a spoon or crush them against the side with your hand. This will help you get to the 150g required.

Next, measure your tea out, and get an empty bowl ready with another sieve over the top. Pour the juice into a small heavy bottomed pot over a low heat, and use a thermometer to get the temperature up to 85C. As soon as it hits, take it off the heat and stir in the jasmine pearls. Set a timer for 3 minutes.

When the time's up, pour the juice into the sieve to collect the tea, and give it a push with a spoon to release any retained liquid. At this point you should re-measure the juice, as you'll have definitely lost some during the process. If it's less than 150g, just make up to the weight with water.

Now prepare a double boiler - bring water to a simmer in a pot, and place a clean bowl over the top. Pour in the brewed juice, sugar, butter and let them melt together, stirring occasionally. Beat the three eggs until they are homogeneous, then pour that into the juice. Make sure the water stays at a simmer or you'll get scrambled eggs.

Stir slowly until combined, then keep it on the low heat and stir every few minutes. Eventually - and that might be 10 or more minutes - the eggs will start to thicken up as they cook. When you reach a nice, thick texture, take it off the heat and strain it again into a clean bowl. Note that as it's hot, it will look more "liquid" than curd normally does. If you want to test the thickness, take a teaspoon out and leave it on the side for a few minutes; if it's thick enough you're done. Leave to cool, then cover with cling film and place in the fridge for a few hours to firm up.

Make, bake and fill the tart case

This is pâte sucrée, so be prepared for some falling-apart-madness.

Attach a whisk to your stand mixer, and add the butter. Whip until the butter has been creamed, then add the vanilla extract, icing sugar, ground almond and eggs. When combined, tip about 1/3 of the flour in. It should be combined in a few seconds, so repeat with the next 1/3 and then the final amount of flour. Stop the mixer when the mixture looks combined and a bit like wet sand.

Turn this out onto your work surface and press it all into a smooth ball. Place the ball on some cling film, then flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Wrap it in the cling and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

When the pastry has rested, take your baking mat and place it on a tray, then the flan ring on top of this. Remove the pastry from the fridge and, working really quickly, flour it and use a floured rolling pin, roll to a thickness of about 3mm. Dust it with flour again, then roll the pastry back over the rolling pin, lift, and unroll over the flan ring. This is the part where disaster can strike, so try and start the unrolling with enough "edge" to cover the closest part to where you're standing. If it has worked, start pushing the dough into the edges of the ring, leaving any excess folded over the top. Don't trim it yet. If you find any cracks, just patch them with spare pieces of pastry or some of the edge overhang.

Turn your oven on to 170C. To help stop shrinkage, freeze the tart case instead of just putting it in the fridge. Leave it in there for about 30 minutes until nice and cold. When you're ready to blind bake, quickly remove the case from the freezer and place some silver foil (matte side down) into it. You will probably need two pieces going in alternate directions to cover the whole ring. Scrunch it down over the top edges of the case so it's completely covered in foil, then gently pour in your baking beans.

You need to add a bit of extra cooking time due to the frozen case, so bake for about 20 minutes. After this time it should look anaemic but be solid - so remove the foil and beans, then brush with a beaten egg and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes. Now it should be golden.

Remove and leave to cool for about 10 minutes, then use a sharp paring knife to trim the outer edge. Carefully remove the ring, then brush out any pastry crumbs.

After it has completely cooled, take your curd and spoon it into the case. Use a spoon or palette knife to even the filling out. Cover with cling film, then place in the fridge to firm up again.

Italian meringue and putting it all together

This is the fun part. Place your 200g of egg whites into your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Pour 325g of water into a heavy bottomed pot, add the 85g of sugar, and place over a high heat. While the syrup is boiling, whisk the whites until they are stiff. Reduce the speed, then shower in the sugar until combined.

Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the sugar - when it hits 118C, remove from the heat, whack the stand mixer up to full power and slowly trickle the syrup over the beaten egg whites. Leave this to whisk until completely cool, then place into a piping bag without a nozzle (you just want to get it onto the tart without disturbing the curd).

Remove the tart from the fridge. Gently pipe the meringue over the curd, making sure the centre has a bit more than the outside. When it's all in, use a wet palette knife to even out the mass into a small hill. Use a fork to gently "knick" the surface and create small curls - the more of these you have, the more surface area you're going to get toasted and the better it will taste.

When you're happy, grab the blow torch and toast the top. The smell is unbelievable.

Either serve straight away if you want the curd to be nice and runny, or place in the fridge for an hour or so to firm up. When I take a slice, I like to torch the sides again to make even more of that toasted flavour.