A Birthday Indulgence – Chocolate and Amaretto Cake

Of all the family traditions we seem to have collected over the years – they range from the bizarre to the utterly ridiculous – one of my favourites is the birthday cake. if you’re at home on your birthday (or about the right time) you get an exciting and customised birthday cake – home-made, of course. This has led to many interesting creations over the years, like a 7 with the long part as runway with plastic fighter jets on it Chocolate and Amaretto birthday cake(my then life’s desire), a zoo with a chocolate finger fence and a jelly penguin pool, a chocolate and orange cake (made with some liqueur brought back from some Spanish holiday), and a Martian-green After Eight cake – to name but four of mine from over the years. But these masterpieces are almost always created by my mum; this leaves us a problem when her birthday comes around. The last couple of years I’ve been around, and so the predicament of what to make has fallen to me. Last year, after much debate, I made a chocolate and ginger cake with orange icing, so the pressure was on to come up with something original for this year.

Chocolate and Amaretto birthday cakeHaving flicked through a couple of cook books and put them back on the shelf with as much inspiration as before, I turned to my trusty childhood toy box (a big wooden box, covered in stickers, which once held all manner of games and jigsaws) which has now been recycled into an alcohol cabinet. It was here I came across my trusty bottle of amaretto. It’s a sweet, almond liqueur from Italy and as well as being very tasty as a drink it also works fantastically in baking – I use Disaronno, others are available but they’re not as good (I’d specifically warn against the other, cheaper, brand that Tesco sell – that experience was not pleasant).

I’ve also been watching a ridiculous amount of the Great British Bake Off recently (well, I had to catch up on the episodes I’d missed whilst on holiday!) so I got a little bigger than my boots and let ambitions reach some lofty heights (for me, that is). And so the matter was settled – I would make a Chocolate and Amaretto cake with a whipped Dark Chocolate and Amaretto ganache. Simple…Chocolate and Amaretto birthday cake

The recipe for the sponge is adapted from the blog of a former GBBO contestant, Holly Bell, and the ganache was made up as I went along from a combination of GBBO watching and recipes I found online. My ambitions may have got the better of me when it came to piping the ganache, but we’ve all got to start somewhere, and as the rest of my family are terrified of piping bags the thought and effort was noted, rather than the final presentation. Clearly I need to make more cakes with piped ganache on top!


For the sponge:

150g castor sugar
175g butter (room temp.)
150g plain flour
3 large eggs (room temp.)
2 tsp cream of tartar
35g cocoa powder
35g Greek yoghurt
40ml amaretto

For the ganache:

300ml double cream
200g (good) dark chocolate (broken/cut into little pieces)
20ml amaretto (or other alcohol of your choosing – or no alcohol, if you’re so inclined)Chocolate and Amaretto birthday cake


1. Butter and line two cake tins; put the oven on to 180ºC (GM 4).
2. Cream together the butter and the castor sugar – I was lazy and used the mixer – until the mixture’s light and ‘fluffy’. Then add in the flour, cream of tartar, bicarb soda and cocoa powder and combine.
3. Add in the eggs and Greek yoghurt slowly until the mixture comes together. Then add in the amaretto – I might have been slightly more liberal with the measurements than the volume stated above.
4. Mix for about 3 or 4 minutes, or until the mixture is light and smooth. Scrape into the two lined cake tins and shake gently to level.
5. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until risen and bouncy. (My oven appears to be playing up at the moment and over heating – the originally suggested 30 mins in the oven – so keep an eye on them!)
6. Allow the cakes to cool – do not ice until completely cooled as you’ll melt the ganache.

7. To make the ganache pour the cream into a saucepan and heat until it starts to bubble. Then add it into a large bowl containing your chopped up chocolate.
8. Stir the chocolate-cream mixture until the chocolate is fully melted, then add in your amaretto – again I might have taken a liberty on quite how much amaretto went in.
9. Allow the ganache to cool until it has semi-set. For a glossier finish you’re meant to do this at room temp., but I was short on time so chucked it in the fridge, where it took about 20 mins.
10. Once the mixture is thick enough, whip it until it forms soft peaks, then put a couple of spoonfuls in between the two sponge layers and spread almost to the edges. Pipe the rest on to the top of the cake in whatever fashion you chose.

Give it a try – it’s a pretty simple recipe and tastes absolutely wonderful, even if I do say so myself.



7 thoughts on “A Birthday Indulgence – Chocolate and Amaretto Cake

  1. I may do so, thanks for the recipe. I always struggle knowing how much almond flavoured anything to put into cake; I tend to overdo it because I forget that it’s actually quite a pungent flavour. I use a lot of Cointreau in baking, mainly in chocolate puddings, and another one I’d like to try with chocolate cake is Chambord. Chocolate and raspberry together could be difficult to get right though.

    • As always, you’re most welcome. It is a tricky one – especially when I’m baking for my family who aren’t really nuts people (in the taste sense, not the sanity level) and I can’t say I’m much better, but I do love amaretto. I think the bitterness of the cocoa helps level out the sweetness of the liqueur in this one, so you can probably get away with slightly too much, if there’s such a thing. I am a big fan of Cointreau in baking it’s much better than suspicious Spanish versions. Chocolate and raspberry is one of my favourite flavour combos of all time, but definitely quite hard to get right, although I find using dark chocolate makes the ratios easier and the end product tastier.

    • I think you’re right about the dark chocolate; I always forget how much sugar there is in fruit and worry about overwhelming it, but that’s where copious experimentation comes in, I suppose! How would you use raspberry with chocolate; actual fruit, puree or liqueur? I have recipes, I’m just nosy.

      Have you ever tried Frangelico, the hazelnut liqueur, in baking? I haven’t and I’m thinking it’s got to be good, though I can’t justify buying a big bottle of it right now.

      • And who can resist a bit of experimentation when puddings/cakes are involved? Hmm, I’d go for liqueur (or maybe fresh if they were really in season), but I suppose it would depend on what you were making…

        I haven’t, but my friend has and I’ve tasted the results – it’s definitely worth the investment!

  2. Your piping looks better than I expected from your description! I really have to try whipping ganache (ooh er…) – I’d never heard of it until you told me about it. The possibilities are endless, particularly when it comes to alcoholic ganaches… Speaking of alcohol, I’m jealous of your alcohol “cabinet” – all mine is shoved under a side table. Terribly impractical.

    • I only took photos of the bits that were the most presentable, to be honest. But thanks. I only came across it a few weeks ago (on the GBBO, I think), so thought it would make a better topping that a flat ganache, does rather open up flavour (primarily alcoholic) possibilities though. I do love my alcohol cabinet, definitely of more use than a box full of jigsaws…

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