Even if you're not a regular baker, Easter is the perfect time to fire up your oven again, and marrying generations-old baking traditions with the chocolate of modern-day Easter celebrations is a delicious way to start. Mona de Pascua originated in Spain as a savoury roll with a whole egg (shell and all) baked in the centre. This chocolate and almond version is a definite improvement in the flavour stakes.
100g dark chocolate (61% or 65% cacao dark chocolate), chopped
1 tbsp amaretto
125g unsalted butter, softened
150g caster sugar
4 eggs, separated
50g fine almond meal
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp almond extract
75g plain flour, sifted
For the topping
175g dark chocolate (61% or 65% cacao dark chocolate)
1 cup pouring cream
1/2 cup plump dried apricots, roughly chopped, to serve
¼ cup flaked almonds, toasted, to serve
Easter eggs of various sizes, unwrapped, to serve
1. Heat your oven to 180°C and grease and line a 22cm springform cake tin with baking paper.
2. For the cake: Melt the dark chocolate in a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water with the amaretto and 25g of the butter, mixing to a smooth consistency. Set aside to cool slightly. Cream remaining butter and 100g of the sugar together, then add the egg yolks and beat until thick and pale. Add the cooled chocolate and almond extract and stir until completely combined.
3. Sift the almond meal twice, then stir into the chocolate mixture.
4. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks, then add the cream of tartar. Continue beating, gradually adding the remaining sugar, until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Fold a third of the whites into the chocolate mixture until well combined, then add the remainder of the whites and the flour and gently fold until just combined.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and allow to stand for a few minutes.
6. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the cake is set, then remove from the oven and tin. Cool on a wire rack until just warm to the touch (about 45 minutes).
7. To make the ganache topping, coarsely chop the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, watching carefully that it doesn't boil over. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes to melt the chocolate.
8. Whisk the cream and chocolate together until glossy. Pour the ganache glaze over the cake and scatter with the apricots and almonds. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then arrange the Easter eggs on top of the cake.
Mona de Pascua in Spain are often topped with coloured feathers, toy chickens and other such things. I think you'll agree that almonds, apricots and Easter eggs are a much tastier option. Still, you need to make it look festive. It's an occasion, after all.