Let us take the pressure out of entertaining this Easter with a gorgeous parade of chocolate-themed baking from the YOU recipe storecupboard.
Each recipe is simple to whip up, but makes a truly stunning centrepiece. In fact, the toughest part might be limiting yourself to just one…
Flourless chocolate nest cake
MAKES 1 X 20CM CAKE
250g unsalted butter diced plus extra for the tin
250g dark chocolate (about 50 per cent cocoa) broken into pieces
6 medium eggs separated
120g golden caster sugar
FOR THE TOP
100g dark chocolate (about 50 per cent cocoa) broken into pieces
3 tbsp cooled strong black coffee
mini chocolate Easter eggs for decoration
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and butter a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin 7–9cm deep. Gently melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water in it, stirring occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with half the sugar in a large bowl for several minutes until pale, thick and creamy. You can do this in a food processor and then transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
3. In a separate clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff using an electric whisk. Gradually whisk in the remaining sugar in three goes, whisking for about 20 seconds with each addition so that you end up with a stiff glossy meringue.
4. Fold the melted chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture, and then carefully fold in the meringue in two goes. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and give it a couple of taps on the worktop to bring up any large bubbles.
5. Bake for 1 hour until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging. Run a knife around the edge and leave the cake to cool in the tin. It will sink in the centre and collapse so you end up with a crater surrounded by chocolatey peaks.
6. For the top, melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water. Whisk in the coffee until you have a smooth glaze. Remove the cake collar, but leave it on the base of the tin. Transfer to a plate or cake board and drizzle the icing over the crater and the surrounding peaked edges, allowing it to trickle down the sides. Set aside in a cool place overnight. To serve, fill the centre with mini chocolate eggs (a few crushed, if wished) of your choice. The cake will keep well lightly covered or in a covered container for several days. It is also good eaten chilled.
Salt caramel chocolate roll
FOR THE SPONGE
unsalted butter for tin
pinch of fine sea salt
3 large eggs
75g light muscovado sugar
icing sugar for rolling
FOR THE FILLING
100g salted caramel milk chocolate or milk chocolate with sea salt
1 tbsp light muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
200ml whipping cream
FOR THE TOP
Easter-themed decorations of your choice see finishing touches below
1. Butter a Swiss roll tin measuring 23cm x 32cm, line with baking paper and butter this also. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
2. Sift the cocoa into a bowl, add the salt and mix. Place the eggs and muscovado sugar in a bowl and mix for 8-10 minutes using an electric whisk, until the mixture is pale and mousse-like. Lightly fold in the salted cocoa in two goes. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, smooth it using a palette knife and give the tin a couple of sharp taps on the worktop to eliminate any large bubbles. Bake for 8-10 minutes until set and springy to the touch.
3. Lay out a clean tea towel and sift over a fine layer of icing sugar. Run a knife around the edge of the sponge and turn it out on top of the icing sugar. Leaving the paper in place, with a short end facing you, carefully roll up the sponge with the tea towel to achieve a short fat roll. Leave this to cool for 40-60 minutes.
4. To make the filling, break up and gently melt the chocolate with the sugar, vanilla and 2 tablespoons of the cream in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water, stirring until smooth. Set the bowl aside to cool. In a large bowl, whisk the remaining cream until it forms soft fluffy peaks and fold in the cooled melted chocolate. Pop into the fridge until ready to complete the roll.
5. Reserve a few dollops of the filling for decoration if wished (see finishing touches below). Carefully unroll the sponge and peel off the baking paper. Spread sponge with the remaining filling then roll it up again and tip it onto a long serving plate, seam downwards. Chill uncovered for a couple of hours. (Alternatively it will keep well loosely covered in the fridge for a couple of days).
FINISHING TOUCHES Shortly before serving, dust over some icing sugar and decorate as desired. In the picture we added dollops of reserved filling, mini Easter eggs, chocolate shavings and a pinch of cocoa. The undecorated roll freezes well.
Big chocolate fudge cheesecake
MAKES 1 X 23CM CAKE
FOR THE BASE
75g plain flour sifted
25g cocoa powder sifted
40g ground almonds
50g golden caster sugar
85g unsalted butter melted
FOR THE TOPPING
850g cream cheese
270g golden caster sugar
2 medium eggs plus 1 extra yolk
420ml whipping cream
50g plain flour
75g cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
FOR THE GLAZE
50g milk chocolate
100g dark chocolate (about 70 per cent cocoa)
2 tsp salted butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
150ml double cream
cocoa for dusting
chocolate eggs or Easter decorations
1. Select a 23cm loose-bottomed cake tin about 7cm deep. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/gas 3.
2. Combine the ingredients for the base in a bowl and, using your fingers, press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool.
3. Turn up the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. To make the filling, whiz together the cream cheese and sugar in a food processor. Add the eggs, the extra yolk and cream, then sift and fold in the flour and cocoa, and the vanilla extract. Carefully pour the mixture into the tin on top of the base.
4. Bake the cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour until puffy around the edges and just set (it should wobble if you move it from side to side). Turn the oven off, let out some of the hot air, then prop the oven door open using a large spoon and leave the cheesecake to cool for an hour. This should help prevent cracks, but don’t worry about any that do appear as the glaze will fill them. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely, then run a knife around the collar of the tin. Loosely cover the cheesecake with foil (but not clingfilm) and chill overnight.
5. To finish, break up and gently melt the two chocolates with the butter and syrup in a large bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water, stirring until smooth. Gradually stir in the cream a third at a time. Dust the cheesecake rim with cocoa. Pour the chocolate cream glaze into the cheesecake crater, and smooth it into an even layer within the rim. Return to the fridge for another couple of hours until set. Before serving, decorate with a few chocolate mini-eggs if wished. The cheesecake should keep well loosely covered for several days.
Standby Easter traybake
MAKES 15–35 SQUARES
unsalted butter or vegetable oil for the tin
FOR THE CAKE
75g cocoa powder
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 medium eggs
370g light muscovado sugar
180ml groundnut oil or vegetable oil
200g self-raising flour sifted
FOR THE TOP
150g dark chocolate (about 50 per cent cocoa)
3 tbsp milk
mini Easter eggs or other Easter-themed decorations of your choice
1. Whisk the cocoa with 200ml boiling water, whisk in the bicarbonate of soda, set aside and leave to cool for about 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.Butter or oil a traybake tin measuring about 30cm x 23cm and 4cm deep or near equivalent. There is no need to line it unless you are planning to turn out the cake whole.
2. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and oil in a large bowl, then fold in the flour, and then the cocoa solution. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 30–40 minutes or until risen and firm and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Run a knife around the edge of the cake and leave to cool.
3. To make the icing, break up and gently melt the chocolate with the milk in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water, stirring until smooth. Pour this over the traybake and spread out evenly using the back of a spoon or a palette knife. Arrange some whole or chopped mini chocolate eggs over the top (or decorate the traybake with Easter-themed decorations of your choice) and leave for a couple of hours to set.
4. To serve, cut into squares, bars or bite-size pieces – you should get about 15 medium and up to 35 minis. They will keep well in an airtight container for several days.
Truffle-iced Easter cupcakes
MAKES ABOUT 18
25g cocoa powder
50g unsalted butter diced
100g golden caster sugar
1 medium egg
85g plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp baking powder
FOR THE TOP
100g dark chocolate (about 70 per cent cocoa)
100ml double cream
Easter-themed decorations and icing sugar for dusting (optional)
1. Pour 100ml boiling water over the cocoa in a small bowl and whisk until smooth, then leave to cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 200C/180°C fan/gas 6 and arrange 18 paper cases in fairy cake tins.
3. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and cream together until pale. Whiz in the egg, the dry ingredients and finally the cocoa solution until combined. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases so they are about half full, and bake in the preheated oven for 17–20 minutes or until risen and springy to the touch. Remove and leave to cool.
4. To make the icing, break up the dark chocolate and place in a small bowl. Bring the cream to the boil in a small pan, then pour this over the chocolate. Leave to stand for 2 minutes then give the mixture a stir. Repeat every 2 minutes, until the chocolate has melted and you have a thick glossy cream. (If necessary set the bowl over a pan containing a little simmering water and heat gently, stirring until melted and smooth).
5. Dollop a teaspoon of the icing onto each cake and spread it towards the edge using a small palette knife. Decorate with Easter-themed decorations and a dusting of icing sugar. Set aside for about an hour to set.
Easter rocky road
MAKES ABOUT 25 SQUARES
100g whole blanched almonds
about 90g mini pink and white marshmallows or 6 Barratt Flumps
300g dark chocolate about 70 per cent cocoa
400g milk chocolate
mini Easter chocolate eggs or other themed decorations of your choice
1. Select a brownie tin or similar about 23cm square or near equivalent. Line the base and sides with baking paper, snipping the corners so that it sits neatly in the tin.
Preheat the oven to 200C/180ºC fan/gas 6.
2.Scatter the almonds over a baking tray and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes until mid-golden brown. Leave to cool, then halve or coarsely chop two-thirds of them. Cut the marshmallows or Flumps into 1cm dice using a very sharp knife.
3. Break up the dark and milk chocolate keeping them separate. Melt each in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water. Set both aside to cool to room temperature.
4. Fold the chopped nuts into the milk chocolate and two-thirds of the marshmallow nibs into the dark chocolate. Spoon the milk chocolate mixture into the tin in three rows, one on each side and one in the middle. Then fill the gaps in between with rows of dark chocolate. Using a knife or the tip of a skewer, trace a figure of eight down each row to marble it. Scatter the reserved whole almonds and marshmallow nibs over the surface followed by the mini eggs (chop a few if you wish; we also added a mini chocolate bunny in one corner, see the picture). Chill for a couple of hours until the slab hardens.
5. To serve, bring back to room temperature for 30–60 minutes – do this before slicing otherwise it may crack. Remove the paper and cut into squares the size of your choice using a sharp knife.
Recipes by Annie Bell