Happy Easter – or Ostara, the ancient Spring festival! To celebrate Easter Sunday I always put together a special post with my Easter table and a seasonal showstopper, as is now my annual tradition: you can see last year’s salted simnel caramel cake here, 2016’s lemon showstopper here, bunny macarons here, an Easter pavlova nest cake here, plus loads more Easter recipes in my archives. This year, having given up chocolate for Lent (six whole weeks – tough for a chocaholic, but my Granda always used to give it up so I did it for him this year!) I knew an extra special chocolate cake needed to be on the cards. Enter this chocolate, orange and almond simnel cake: a fudgy chocolate orange sponge, zesty mascarpone buttercream and homemade chocolate marzipan. It’s a great alternative to the traditional fruitcake, and it is Easter so a little chocolatey indulgence is definitely allowed!
To make the cake, you will need:
500g caster sugar
100g orange plain chocolate
25g cocoa powder
400g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
284g buttermilk, or yoghurt
zest and juice of one orange.
For the marzipan:
100g icing sugar
50g cocoa powder
225g ground almonds
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp of lemon juice
Approx 80ml of water
For the buttercream:
125g icing sugar
zest of one orange.
Heat oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4 and grease and line the base and sides of three 20cm cake tins. Boil the kettle. Put the butter and chocolate in a small pan and gently heat, stirring, until completely melted. Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda with a pinch of salt in your largest mixing bowl. Whisk the eggs, buttermilk, orange zest and juice together in a jug.
Scrape the melted chocolate mixture and egg mixture into the dry ingredients, add 150ml boiling water and mix briefly with an electric whisk until the cake batter is lump-free. It is quite a runny mixture!
Divide between the tins and bake for approximately 35-40 mins – swapping around after 25 mins (your cakes will be on different shelves), and covering with foil if they start to darken too much. To test they’re done, push in a skewer and check that it comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their tins.
Meanwhile, make the chocolate marzipan. Mix the sugar, ground almonds and cocoa together, then add the almond extract and lemon juice. Add the water a teaspoon at a time. At first you will get a rubble-like mix:
Keep adding the water a little at a time until the mixture comes together into a ball. Beware of adding too much water or it will quickly turn soggy. Form into a log shape and chill in the fridge.
Next, make the buttercream. Beat the mascarpone and butter in a stand mixer until smooth. (Don’t overmix or it will split – if it does, add extra icing sugar a little at a time until it comes together). Add the orange zest and icing sugar and beat until combined. Chill in the fridge.
Once the cakes are cooled, you can start to assemble your simnel. Remove the bottom layer from the tin and place on your serving plate. Spread with some frosting, then repeat to sandwich the remaining cakes on top. Brush the top of the cake with more frosting.
Roll the marzipan out until just a few millimetres thick, then use the cake tin to cut it into a matching circle. Carefully lift this onto the top of the cake. Roll the remaining marzipan into 11 balls and stick them on top (you can use a little water or more icing if you need). If you want, you can frost the sides but I prefer the cake like this!
What are you baking this Easter weekend?
Props: Denby plates (c/o); flowers and candles from Rose & Ammi; eggs (on my Easter tree) from Gisela Graham; chocolate acorns from Mary’s Milk Bar; vintage baskets, bud vases, jug, coffee pot, cups, knives, bud vases, baskets and tablecloth. I might post some table styling tips in my Instagram Stories, so watch out for those!