A towering festive chocolate pinata cake with chocolate, chestnut and mascarpone frosting and hidden silver coins to bring good luck to the new year! Post sponsored by Waitrose.
The festive season were a BIG DEAL when I was growing up in Greece. Not only because the schools were closed and there were twinkly lights, Christmas trees and tons of presents, but because the holidays gave my supercook mum a chance to shine. We usually spent the holidays having lunch or dinner at family and friends’ houses but New Year’s Eve was our turn. My mum would prepare a festive feast for at least three days running, planning an abundance of dishes fit to feed an army. She would cook so many things that the electricity fuse would invariably blow just when the guests were due to arrive. She would then commandeer the ovens of our neigbhours… I mean, there were canapés and starters, several main dishes, dessert, petit fours, cheese and, of course, Vasilopita.
Vasilopita translates as King’s Pie – although it is not pie at all but a simple yeasted cake. It is traditional to slice the Vasilopita at midnight on New Year’s Eve and share it among family and friends. A coin would be hidden in the cake and whoever found it in their slice would be granted good fortune. I’ve given this tradition a seriously chocolatey twist, creating a towering cake with chocolate, chestnut and mascarpone frosting. And instead of one coin, I’ve included an abundance of chocolate coins ensuring good fortune to everyone at the table. Serve with lighted sparklers for a spectacular start to the new year.
Hiding the (foil-covered chocolate) coins is optional of course – you could serve this cake at a birthday or celebration and fill the cake with candy instead. I love using chestnuts in festive bakes, it reminds me of food I used to help my mother prepare. These days you can buy ready peeled and cooked chestnuts or chestnut paste instead of laboriously peeling the chestnuts for hours…
If you would rather not create the tiered cake, bake the layers into four 18cm (7in) tins to create a four layered cake or halve the recipe and frosting to create a smaller cake with only two layers.
And in other exciting news you can find a short interview with me in this week’s Waitrose Weekend. Pick up a copy as of today (December 22nd) and read my, slightly shambolic, festive tips as part of their #HomeforChristmas campaign. I am tickled pink to be included as one of “Britain’s brightest food stars”, alongside John Whaite, Tanya Balyanitsa and fellow bloggers Ren Behan, Karen Burns Booth, and Kellie Anderson.
- Makes 3x15cm layers and 1x20cm layer or 4x18cm layers
- 180 g | 6oz 70% cocoa dark chocolate chopped into small pieces
- 230 g | 8oz unsalted butter plus extra to grease the cake tins
- 180 g | 6oz soft dark brown sugar
- 2 tbsp runny honey
- 350 g | 12oz plain flour sifted, plus extra to dust the cake tins
- 50 g | 2oz cocoa powder sifted
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 180 ml | 6fl oz whole milk + 1tsp lemon juice
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- foil-covered chocolate coins to fill cake optional
- For the frosting/filling
- 500 g | 17.5oz mascarpone
- 250 g | 8.8oz icing sugar
- 200 g | 7oz chestnut purée
- 150 g | 5.3oz 70% cocoa dark chocolate cubed
- 100 ml | 3.3fl oz double cream
- 1 tbsp vanilla paste
- Chocolate drizzle
- 80 g | 3oz dark chocolate chopped into small pieces
- 100 ml | 3.3fl oz single cream
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp softened unsalted butter
- Preheat the oven to 170C.
- Grease and line your cake tins with baking parchment. Grease the paper and dust with flour shaking out any excess.
- Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl.
- Put the chocolate, butter, sugar and honey into a pot and heat gently, stirring constantly, until the chocolate and butter have melted and sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Put the milk, lemon juice, eggs and vanilla paste into a measuring jug and beat lightly with a fork until combined.
- Pour the melted chocolate into the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.
- Add the egg/milk mixture and beat gently with the spoon until you have a glossy, smooth batter.
- Divide into the tins, starting with the smaller ones, filling only halfway up.
- Bake for around 17-20 minutes or until the cakes are firm to the touch. Cool in the tins for five minutes and then gently turn out of the tins and cool on a wire rack.
- If you want to create a piñata cake with the coins hidden inside, cut holes into two of the three smaller layers using a round pastry cutter.
- Make the frosting. Melt the chocolate using the double boiler method - suspend a bowl over a small pot of barely simmering water and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
- Put the mascarpone, icing sugar, chestnut purée and vanilla paste into the bowl of your stand mixer. Start mixing on low speed until the ingredients are combined.
- Gradually add the melted chocolate and increase the speed to mix everything together. Gradually add the double cream and whisk on maximum speed until the frosting is glossy and smooth. Transfer most of the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip.
- Add a dot of frosting on your cake stand to secure the largest cake layer. Spread a small amount of frosting over the top.
- Add the smaller cake layer (with hole cut out) centrally over the base layer. Pipe a ring of frosting around it and sandwich with the second layer (with hole cut out). Smooth the frosting and add the coins in the cavity.
- Pipe more frosting over the second small layer and top with the third. Smooth frosting over the sides and top of the entire cake letting the sides show through for a ‘naked’ effect.
- Transfer any remaining frosting into a piping bag fitted with a large start tip. Pipe rosettes of frosting all around the perimeter of the base layer and around the base of the smaller cake.
- Make the chocolate drizzle. Put the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Put the cream and honey in a small saucepan and heat until small bubbles appear around the edge of the pot. Do not allow it to boil.
- Pour over the chocolate and leave to stand for a couple of minutes. Stir until chocolate melts and add the butter staring until smooth. You can warm up in the microwave for a few seconds if it sets.
- Add a drizzle of chocolate around the edge of the smaller cake then pipe the remaining frosting on top.
- Serve at room temperature. Be careful when cutting so that you reveal the coins hidden inside.
The recipe can easily be halved to make 2x18cm (7in) cake layers - remember to also halve the frosting recipe!