Death by chocolate piñata cake

I wasn’t going to post this, but several of my colleagues have told me to, so here it is. I baked a Death by Chocolate Piñata Cake on special request by someone who enjoyed the chocolate-and-rum piñata cake that I baked in the summer:

The piñata cake looking all innocent, sitting there soaking up the chocolate and rum sauce...
The piñata cake looking all innocent, sitting there soaking up the chocolate and rum sauce…
And then it vomits out a rainbow of M&M's!
And then it vomits out a rainbow of M&M’s!

A piñata cake is great for parties, as a hidden surprise for the guest of honour when they cut into it. This concept is fairly common now, so you’ll find plenty of tutorials online on how to do it, and everyone does it slightly differently. However, if you want to know how I did it and also how to make this (pictured below) particular cake, read on.

Death by chocolate piñata cake
Death by chocolate piñata cake… and yes, I recycled a Hotel Chocolat ribbon.

Doesn’t it look like it’s ready to party?

This cake will give your favourite chocoholic a chocolate overdose, if nothing else. It is basically a three-layer chocolate sponge cake with M&M’s in the middle, iced with chocolate ganache between layers as well as covering top and sides, circled with KitKats and topped with more M&M’s. I’ve used ganache this time instead of chocolate-and-rum sauce because ganache looks better, sticks the KitKats on better, and doesn’t ruin the M&M’s when they pour out.

The sponge is moist and springy, which is a good contrast to the creamy rich ganache I have slathered it with. You can make one cake and slice it horizontally into three, or you can bake the three layers separately. I opted to do the latter for a quicker, more even bake. Also because I don’t trust myself to cut even layers.

For those who are keen, here’s the recipe:

Death by Chocolate Piñata Cake
Makes: 9in round cake (after decoration)
400g caster sugar
225g plain flour
1 1/2 level teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 level teaspoons baking soda
1 level teaspoon salt
100g unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
240ml milk
120ml vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla paste
240ml hot coffee (boiling water and 1 teaspoon coffee)

275ml double cream
2 level tablespoons caster sugar
200g plain chocolate

40+ KitKat fingers of your preferred flavour (or a mixture of)
2x165g bags of M&M’s of your preferred flavour (or a mixture of, or jelly beans)
  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. Grease and line three identical 8-inch round cake tin.
  2. Mix 400g caster sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. Gradually beat in eggs, milk, oil and vanilla paste until smooth. Pour hot coffee in and whisk vigorously until a smooth, pourable batter forms.
  3. Divide the batter evenly between three tins and bake on the centre shelf for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the toothpick test comes out clean.
  4. Take the cakes out and leave for 10 minutes in the tins before turning out to cool on a cooling rack.
  5. Whilst the cake is cooling, make the chocolate ganache. Break and chop the plain chocolate into small pieces and place in a medium-sized heatproof bowl.
  6. In a small saucepan, heat double cream and 2 tablespoons caster sugar until simmering. Remove from heat and quickly pour into the heatproof bowl containing the chocolate.
  7. Stir the chocolate and double cream mix until a smooth, chocolaty ganache forms. This make look all wrong initially with bits of chocolate swimming in cream, but it will form a ganache when stirred long enough.
  8. When cakes are cooled, put your base cake layer on your cake board. For your middle layer, use a round 3″ or 4″ diameter cutter (large cookie cutter or pastry cutter) to make a hole in the middle for your piñata effect.
  9. Spoon some ganache on top of the bottom cake layer and smooth over. Carefully lift your prepared middle layer and place on top. Fill the hole in the middle with as many M&M’s as you can fit in it without squashing the sponge. Smooth a thin layer of ganache on the middle layer and top with the last cake.
  10. Pour more ganache all over the cake, covering the top and the sides. If you are not going to decorate it as I have done, that you should try for a smooth ganache application with an offset spatula. If you are going to cover it with M&M’s and KitKats, then a messy application is not a problem – no one is going to see it.
  11. Stick KitKats around the sides of the cake to form a border/fence. I’ve used regular milk chocolate KitKats and cookies-and-cream KitKat to achieve the alternating colours, but it looks just as nice with one colour. Using a very long strip of clingfilm, wrap around the KitKat fence to hold everything in place and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  12. Once chilled, take the cake out of the fridge and carefully scatter M&M’s on top, making sure you cover it evenly. Remove clingfilm and if you want, tie a ribbon around the cake for show.
  13. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

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