Easter is a big deal in my family. Ever since I can remember it’s been marked with celebrations, normally with my cousins, family friends and more. When we were little these celebrations involved rolling eggs we’d painted down hills, welly wanging (not as rude as it sounds!), and culminated in the inevitable chocolate egg hunt. Although I haven’t thrown my welly across a field in over a decade, the Easter Egg Hunt is still a huge feature of every spring.
Even as an ‘adult’ (not that I feel like one) the ‘children’ in the family and any friends and partners we’ve brought along, all in our twenties now, make elaborate Easter baskets from the dwindling craft supplies while the ‘adults’ hide eggs in the garden, or the house if the weather is bad. Once we’ve hunted out all the eggs and counted up to find out who has won, the family tradition is to dole all the goodies out fairly so everyone ends up with the same amount of chocolate. This is not necessarily the same in other families, where I think it’s a case of keeping your bounty, no matter how uneven!
Some years the egg hunt has been scaled down, or taken place months later if there’s no timely family gathering happening. It’s one of those traditions which sounds slightly mad, but I completely love. I’ve been scanning lots of family photos recently, and seeing the yearly photos of me, my sister and my cousins lined up holding that year’s baskets with a motley collections of friends and partners has brought me such joy.
I wanted to make a cake that would be perfect for the egg hunt family gathering, and took inspiration from that sense of childish glee, which had to mean chocolate cake. I infused the buttercream with earl grey tea and added a decent pinch of salt to lift it. The biscuit decorations are inspired by an amazing speckled egg cake from the Cake Blog that I’ve had pinned for a very long time, nestling in a chocolate nest made from Flake bars, like the rice crispy cakes I used to make at school. If you don’t have time to make biscuits for the nest just add some chocolate eggs of an appropriate size and colour. I used slightly weird tin sizes to test if this cake freezes (it does, very well!) so yours will have three layers rather than two.
Tell me all about your family traditions for Easter – I’d love to hear them!
Recipe: Speckled Egg Chocolate Cake
Biscuit Ingredients (recipe from Baking a Moment)
112g unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten together with 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour
3/8 cup cornflour
Royal icing ingredients (recipe from Julia Usher)
300g icing sugar
100g egg whites, either from separated eggs or from a carton
Small pinch of cream of tartar (optional – keeps the icing white)
1tbsp Cocoa powder
Cake ingredients (from Hummingbird High)
315g plain flour
95g cocoa powder
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150ml vegetable oil
400g caster sugar
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
1 tsbp vanilla extract
355ml whole milk
230ml strong brewed coffee, still warm or hot
Buttercream ingredients (adapted from Hummingbird Bakery)
50ml whole milk (semi skimmed would be fine)
1 heaped tsp loose leaf earl grey tea leaves (I used Blue Lady Earl Grey from Wilkinsons of Norwich)
100g butter, room temperature
300g icing sugar
40g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
Flake bars, roughly broken, to decorate
- First, make your biscuits. In a stand mixer beat the butter and sugar until combined. Add the egg and beat to combine. In a separate bowl whisk together the flours, then add to the butter mix and beat until just combined.
- Roll out to the thickness of a pound coin, stamp out your egg shapes and place on lined trays. Refrigerate the cut biscuits for at least 20 mins, then bake at 190C for 9-12 minutes until the edges are just starting to turn brown. Cool the biscuits completely. Either now, or once decorated you can store the biscuits for a few days before you decorate the cake.
- To decorate the biscuits, make up a batch of royal icing. Beat the icing sugar, cream of tartar and egg whites together for a few minutes until completely combined and very white. You’ll need to scrape down the sides a few times. Take about 1/4 of the mix and add water a few drops at a time until you have a thick but pipeable consistency. Pipe outlines on each of the biscuits and leave to dry. All the remaining icing into as many bowls as you want colours. Add the colour to each bowl first then enough water to give a consistency which moves slowly, but isn’t runny, and use it to flood each biscuit. I fill them almost to the edges then use a toothpick to tease the icing up to the lines. (I highly recommend Julia Usher’s very detailed guide and videos). Leave to dry completely.
- For the speckles, mix together the cocoa powder and enough vodka to give a runny, paint like consistency. With a clean paintbrush suitable for food use, load up the brush and flick the ‘paint’ at your biscuits. Practice first using a bit of paper, as it can get quite messy. Leave to dry completely.
- To make the cake preheat the oven to 170C fan. Line three 20cm tins. Add the flour, cocoa, bicarb, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and whisk to combine. In a stand mixer beat the oil and sugar together until combined. With the beater still going add the eggs and vanilla until fully combined. Scrape down the bowl, and beat for 10 seconds. Add half the flour mix, then half the milk, then the remaining flour, then milk, beating to just incorporate each time. Finally, add the coffee in a steady stream with the mixer on low, until it is just combined. Pour into the tins and bake for 25-35 minutes until a cocktail stick comes out clean. Leave to cool.
- To make the buttercream, put the milk and tea in a small pan and heat gently until it starts to simmer. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse and cool for 15-30 mins. Strain the tea leaves out.
- In a stand mixer, beat the butter, icing sugar, cocoa and salt until the butter is no longer in visible lumps. Now add the milk a few tbsp at a time until the frosting comes together. Turn the mixture and beat for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy. The colour will lighten as more air is whipped into it. Put to one side until you’re ready to decorate. If you are decorating another day, cover and put in the fridge and bring back to to room temperature before you use it. It might also need another few minutes of beating to get the light texture back.
- To decorate, spread buttercream on the bottom layer, place the second cake half on top add more buttercream, then the top cake and roughly spread on the remaining buttercream. Arrange your eggs, and add your flake bars in a nest shape around it.