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Save the last slice for me: four cakes for Easter

Panna cotta cake by Tarunima Sinha

A sponge soaked in passion fruit panna cotta makes a delicate spring cake. It can be prepared 2 days in advance and stored in the fridge.

Serves 8-10
For the sponge
eggs 5 large
golden caster sugar 150g
self-raising flour 150g
butter 50g, melted and slightly cooled, plus extra for greasing
passion fruit puree 60ml (available online, or pulp from 4-5 passion fruit with seeds removed)
vanilla extract ½ tsp
fine salt ½ tsp

For the panna cotta
gelatine sheets 3½
double cream 400ml
whole milk 100ml
golden caster sugar 100g
passion fruit puree 60ml

For the cream
double cream 200ml
icing sugar 40g
vanilla extract ¼ tsp

To decorate (optional)
passion fruit pulp of 1
edible petals a few
icing sugar a dusting

Preheat the oven to 160C fan/gas mark 4. Grease a 20cm round springform cake tin with butter and line the base and side with baking parchment.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or using an electric hand whisk, beat the eggs and sugar on medium speed until it has trebled in volume. This can take 10-12 minutes.

Once it is light and voluminous, sift in the self-raising flour in 2 or 3 additions, each time very gently folding it into the egg and sugar mixture, until no traces of flour are visible in the batter.

In a small jug, combine the cooled melted butter and the passion fruit puree. Add the vanilla extract and salt.

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Pour the butter and passion fruit mixture very gently into the cake batter. Try to maintain the volume of the batter, taking care not to deflate it.

Then pour the batter gently into the prepared cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven. The cake is ready when it has risen and is light golden in colour. It should come out clean when a skewer is inserted in the middle. Let the cake cool in its tin for about 10 minutes.

After the cake has cooled, remove it from the tin, peel off the parchment and place it on a 20cm cake card or a plate. Now put the springform ring from the tin back around the cake and clip it into position (without the base). You just need a collar around the cake. Prick the cake all over with the skewer and keep to one side.

While the cake is baking in the oven, you can prepare the panna cotta mixture.

In a small bowl, add very cold water and place in the gelatine sheets. Soften for 10 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, add the cream, milk and sugar, and heat on medium until it simmers and the sugar has dissolved (do not let it boil). Switch off the heat. Remove the gelatine from the water and squeeze out the excess liquid, then add the gelatine to the warm cream mixture. Add the passion fruit puree, giving the mixture a gentle stir, and strain it into a jug. Keep it to one side until the cake is cooked and cooled.

When the cake is ready, gently pour the panna cotta mixture over it. The cake will start absorbing the mixture. Keep adding until all the panna cotta mixture has been used up. Gently tap the cake to remove any air bubbles and place it in the fridge for at least 4-6 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, take the cake out of the fridge and run a warm spatula around it to release the tin ring.

Whip the double cream to soft peaks. Add the icing sugar and vanilla. Spoon the mixture on top of the chilled panna cotta cake, and drizzle with the passion fruit pulp. Decorate with a few flower petals and a dusting of icing sugar.

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Tarunima Sinha is owner of baking delivery business My Little Cake Tin

Chocolate mousse gateau by JR Ryall

Chocolate mousse gateau
 Photograph: Kate Whitaker/The Observer

This cake is a chocolate lover’s dream – a light chocolate genoise cake layered with bittersweet chocolate mousse and sweet chantilly cream. A good combination and a very satisfying thing to eat. There is nothing particularly flashy or contemporary here, this is a solid and reliable chocolate cake that is, in fact, good at any time of year. It is perfect family food, generous in size, and I like to serve it on the Ballymaloe dessert trolley at Easter-time when chocolate is celebrated and everyone is looking to indulge.

Genoise cake lends itself well to being layered in a gateau like this; the cake is light in texture but has a good structure. The chocolate mousse icing is not too sweet or intense and that is why this cake is so good. There is nothing to be gained here by using very dark chocolate, something that is neither too bitter nor too sweet is just the thing – this cake intends to comfort not challenge and for the best result use chocolate with 62% cocoa solids, the perfect in-between.

Serves 10
For the genoise
unsalted butter 55g, melted but not hot, plus extra for greasing the tin
plain flour 100g
cocoa powder 25g
baking powder ½ tsp
salt a pinch
eggs 4 large
caster sugar 125g
pure vanilla extract ½ tsp

For the chantilly cream
double cream 250ml
icing sugar 2 tbsp, sifted
pure vanilla extract ½ tsp

For the chocolate mousse icing
dark chocolate 285g (62% cocoa solids)
unsalted butter 170g, softened
eggs 6 large, separated
pure vanilla extract 1 tsp

For the chocolate curls
dark chocolate 175g (62% cocoa solids)

Icing sugar to dust

To make the chocolate curls, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of hot water. Spread the melted chocolate in an even thin layer on the back of a spotlessly clean baking sheet or on a marble slab. Once the chocolate has just set, use a chocolate scraper or a paint scraper to strip the chocolate off the surface in curls. If the angle between the surface and the scraper is wide the curls will be large. Hold the scraper at a tighter angle and the curls will be smaller. A handheld cheese cutter can also be used to make nicely shaped curls.

If the chocolate sets too much it will not form curls, and it will instead crack into small shards. If this happens, simply re-melt the chocolate and start again.

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To make the genoise, preheat the oven to 160C fan/gas mark 4. Brush the inside of a 23cm round cake tin with some melted butter and line the base with a neat fitting disk of non-stick baking paper.

Sieve together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt and put to one side.

Place the eggs in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and begin to mix on medium speed. Gradually add in all of the sugar, then increase the speed to full. The mixture is ready when it has trebled in volume and falls from the whisk in a ribbon that can hold a figure of 8 on the surface of the mixture – this takes about 10 minutes.

Sift the dry ingredients again over the egg mousse in 3 additions, folding gently with a rubber spatula or a large metal spoon between each addition. When everything is combined, add the melted butter followed by the vanilla extract and fold through the mixture gently but quickly. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 25 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed lightly on top. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, prepare the chantilly cream. Whip the cream until it can hold a shape and then fold in the icing sugar and vanilla extract. Place in the fridge until needed.

Next make the chocolate mousse. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of hot water on low heat. Once melted, remove from the heat, add the soft butter and mix until smooth. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla extract. The chocolate mixture at this point should be glossy and just warm to the touch. Whip the egg whites to silky stiff peaks. Keep an eye on the whites while you whisk them to ensure they do not become grainy. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture in 3 additions. The chocolate mousse should be lustrous and light.

Set the mousse to one side and as it sits it will stiffen slightly to a consistency perfect for icing the cake. If your kitchen is quite cool, the mousse may begin to stiffen in just a minute or two. If it becomes a little too stiff, warm it very gently and it will soften.

To assemble the cake, split the cooled genoise into 3 equal layers. Place the bottom layer on a serving plate and spread with one third of the chocolate mousse. Place the second layer of genoise on top and spread it with the chantilly cream. Place the final layer of cake on top and spread the remaining chocolate mousse over the top and down the sides of the cake. Decorate with chocolate curls and a light dusting of icing sugar.

JR Ryall is head pastry chef at Ballymaloe House, County Cork

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Coconut tres leches cake by Fany Gerson

Coconut tres leches cake
 Photograph: Kate Whitaker/The Observer

Tres leches cake is great for any festive occasion. This coconut one is a twist on the original and perfect for Easter as it can be made ahead of time and is a crowdpleaser for children and adults. Also, the coconut reminds me of little bunnies for some reason, and that always makes me smile.

For the cake
unsalted butter softened, for greasing the baking tray
plain flour 125g
baking powder ½ tsp
sea salt flakes ½ tsp
eggs 5, at room temperature
sugar 200g
whole milk 80ml
pure vanilla extract 1 tsp

evaporated milk 340ml
coconut milk 380ml
condensed milk 1 x 400ml tin
sea salt flakes a large pinch

For the topping
double cream 600ml
dark rum 3 tbsp (optional)
icing sugar 2 tbsp
pure vanilla extract 2 tsp
flaked coconut 100g, slightly toasted
lemon or lime zest of 1 (optional)

Position a rack in the centre of the oven and heat the oven to 160C fan/gas mark 4.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 33cm x 23cm rectangular Pyrex baking dish or nonreactive metal tray. Line the bottom with baking parchment, then lightly butter the parchment.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a medium bowl and the yolks in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, beat the yolks with 150g of the sugar on medium speed with the whisk attachment until the mixture is thick, pale and creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the milk and vanilla, and whisk until combined, 1 minute more.

Clean and dry the whisk and bowl. Beat the egg whites, gradually increasing the speed to high, until they reach soft peaks, 3-4 minutes. Add the remaining sugar in a stream, continuing to beat on high, until you reach firm but not dry peaks, 1-2 minutes more. Whisk a third of the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in a third of the egg whites with a rubber spatula. Fold in the remaining dry ingredients and egg whites, alternately, in two more batches each, until fully incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared dish or tray and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Let the cake cool in the dish on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake on to the rack, remove the parchment and cool completely.

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Return the cake to the baking dish (the cake will soak up more of the liquid if returned to the dish it was baked in), or invert it on to a rimmed platter.

Now soak the cake. In a medium saucepan, stir together the evaporated milk and coconut milk until they are well blended. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring to avoid scorching, until it begins to bubble around the edges, 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and add the condensed milk and salt.

To make the topping, whip the double cream in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed. When it begins to thicken, slowly add the rum (if using), icing sugar and vanilla, and continue to whip just until it holds firm peaks, 3-4 minutes (be careful not to over-whip). Spread the whipped cream all over the top of the cake with a spatula and top with the coconut over the cream. Zest the lemon or lime if using and serve.

Fany Gerson is chef-owner of La Newyorkina and chef-partner at Fan-Fan Doughnuts

Banana cocoa cake with whipped ganache and pecan brittle by Helen Goh

Banana cocoa cake with whipped ganache and pecan brittle
 Photograph: Kate Whitaker/The Observer

Don’t feel you need to make all the components of this cake. Unadorned, it makes a satisfying snack – light enough for a lunchbox treat or a morning cup of tea. But with the ganache and pecan brittle, this is a cake worthy of a celebration. The brittle can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container. The recipe makes rather more of the brittle than you’ll need, but that is no miscalculation – it is an addictive snack and you will undoubtedly be munching on it before it goes on top of the cake!

For the cake
milk 200ml
unsweetened cocoa powder 70g
instant coffee powder 2 tsp (optional)
ground cinnamon 1 tsp
over-ripe banana 260g (3 large)
vanilla essence 2 tsp
plain flour 330g
bicarbonate of soda 1½ tsp
baking powder ½ tsp
salt ½ tsp
unsalted butter 250g, at room temperature
caster sugar 150g
dark brown sugar 150g
eggs 2 large, at room temperature
egg white 1, at room temperature

For the ganache
dark chocolate 200g, chopped
double cream 250ml

For the pecan brittle
golden syrup 2 tbsp
caster sugar 1 tbsp
pecan halves 120g, roughly chopped
flaky sea salt ⅛ tsp

Begin by making the pecan brittle. Preheat the oven to 190C fan/gas mark 6½ and line a small baking tray with baking paper. Combine golden syrup and sugar in a small saucepan, and stir gently over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved – about 2 minutes. Fold in the pecans and sea salt until combined, then remove from the heat and scrape on to the lined tray. Bake for about 8 minutes until golden and bubbly, then remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray. When the brittle is completely hard, roughly chop or bash with a rolling pin to break it up into irregular pieces. Store in an airtight container until needed.

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 175C fan/gas mark 5½. Grease and line a 30cm x 22cm baking tin with baking paper, then set aside.

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In a small saucepan swirl the milk gently over medium heat. When small bubbles begin to appear around the edges (just before it starts to boil), remove from the heat and add the cocoa powder, coffee and cinnamon. Whisk to combine, then set aside to cool and to allow the cocoa to “bloom” – about 10 minutes.

Mash the bananas to a smooth puree, then add to the cocoa mix with the vanilla essence. Fold to combine, then set aside.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl.

Place the butter and sugars in the bowl of a cake mixer, and beat with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and creamy. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition. Still on low speed, add the sifted dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with the banana and cocoa mixture. Beat until smooth and combined, then scrape the batter into the prepared baking tray.

Place in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool completely before turning it out on to a serving plate or board.

While the cake is in the oven, make the ganache. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl and heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. When small bubbles appear at the edges (just before it starts to boil), remove the pan from heat and pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Allow it to sit for 1 minute, then stir to combine. Cool slightly, then press some clingfilm on to the mix and place in the fridge until needed.

When ready to serve, use a hand whisk to whip the ganache until it is light and creamy (if it has set very firm, you may find it easier to whip the ganache with the whisk attachment in the cake mixer). Spread the whipped ganache thickly all over the top of the cooled cake, then sprinkle liberally with the pecan brittle.

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