Happy Mail Cake

Chocolate Box Cake Recipe

Martine Lleonart has created the perfect cake for chocolate lovers – It’s even tied up with string!

Serves: 16


180 g (61/2 oz) unsalted butter, chopped and at room temperature
345 g (12 oz/11/2 cups) caster (superfine) sugar
3 eggs
335 g (12 oz/21/4 cups) wholemeal (whole-wheat) self-raising flour (or 335 g wholewheat flour with 21/4 teaspoons salt and 41/2 teaspoons baking soda)
125 g (41/2 oz/1 cup) Dutch (unsweetened) cocoa powder
375 ml (121/2 fl oz/11/2 cup) full-cream (whole) milk
3 teaspoons white vinegar
185 ml (6 fl oz/3/4 cup) hot water
Half batch of chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream

For Swiss meringue buttercream

4 egg whites
225 g (1 cup /8 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
Pinch of salt
340 g (12 oz) butter, cubed and at room temperature
1 teaspoon clear imitation vanilla extract

For the cake decoration + topping

White fondant – White fondant is readily available from supermarkets and cake supplies stores.
Letter cookie cutters (or a piping bag if you are confident with writing on cakes)
Red gel paste food colour
Chocolate buttercream or icing


Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F). Grease and line a 23 cm (9 in) round cake tin with baking paper (parchment).

Throw everything together in a large bowl. Beat slowly until it starts to mix, then beat faster.

Beat for around 5 minutes – the batter will lighten in colour as you beat.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for around 80–90 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Once cool, cut the top off with a long serrated knife to create a flat top (if required). You can store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a few days or freeze wrapped in plastic wrap and foil for up to two months.

Making the Swiss meringue buttercream

Before starting, wipe down the inside of a large metal bowl with vinegar to remove any grease.

Whisk the egg whites and sugar in the bowl until combined. Place the bowl over a double boiler and whisk for around 3 minutes – until the meringue no longer feels grainy (the sugar should have melted).

Take off the heat and beat on high until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to the touch. Don’t proceed with the next step until it is at room temperature.

Add salt and slowly beat in the cubed butter a piece at a time. If the mixture separates, don’t panic. It will be fine – increase the beating speed, continue adding the butter pieces and keep beating until it becomes smooth, light and delicious. This could be anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes (or more).

Mix through the vanilla or any other flavourings.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat on slow until smooth.

When serving cakes that contain buttercream, always remove them from the refrigerator a couple of hours before the party – buttercream should be eaten at room temperature.

Making the buttercream chocolate flavour

Prepare the buttercream as per the above recipe, but omit the vanilla. Instead, melt 200 g (7 oz) of bittersweet chocolate and let it cool. After you have incorporated the butter, whisk in the chocolate.

Decorating the cake

Roll out the white fondant and make a rectangle large enough for the birthday child’s name and address. Use the letter stamp to personalise to your child.

Make a little batch of red fondant and make a long, thin rectangle. Stamp ‘FRAGILE’ on this label. Store until you are ready to decorate.

When the cake is cool cut the top off the cake with a long serrated knife so that it is level.

Cut the sides straight to form nice sharp, boxy edges. Now you can pop it in the refrigerator or freezer.

When you are ready to ice, use chocolate meringue buttercream or icing to do a coat.

Chill the cake in the refrigerator, then do the final coat. Run your knife or spatula under very hot water, then dry it. Use the knife to make the icing as smooth and level as possible and try to keep the edges sharp. Chill again.

When the cake has chilled, cut four long pieces of the twine. Poke the pieces of twine under the cake on opposite sides of the cake.

Now gently pull the pieces up together over the cake and tie a bow.

Pop on the fondant labels just before serving.

Let's Party By Martine LleonartThis is an edited extract from Let’s Party by Martine Lleonart, published by Hardie Grant Books, $32.99 and is available in stores nationally.

Images by Lauren Bamford






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