How to make a pinata cake

Phillippa Grogan and her pinata cake.
Phillippa Grogan and her pinata cake. Photo: Tim Young

There is nothing more exciting than a surprise. The lollies in this Pinata cake are so well concealed, no one will have any idea that they are about to pour out when the cake is cut. The lovely hues come from pure vegetable juice; beetroot, spinach and carrot.

Pinata cake

You will need:

1-1.5 cups lollies; I like a combination of chocolate-covered raisins, nuts and licorice and a few wrapped sweets.

1.1kg buttercream

22cm round cake board

small palette knife

1.5 x 21cm butter cakes

Butter cake


This cake recipe is just the thing if you ever need a birthday cake in a hurry as all the ingredients are mixed together in one bowl. There is no need to ever buy a packet of cake mix again.

You will need to make two batches of the cake below. Depending on your oven size and mixer bowl size you may be able to double the batch and make and bake two at once. Otherwise make them separately. They can be made in advance and frozen, then assembled when required. Cake recipe from Phillippa's Home Baking.

160g butter, must be soft

150g castor sugar

225g self-raising flour, sifted

3 eggs

80ml milk

2 tsp vanilla essence

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan-forced. Line the base of a 21-centimetre round cake tin with baking paper, then butter and flour the sides.

2. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat together on a slow speed until they are combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat for a further three minutes until the batter is thick, smooth and pale, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. You can also use a hand-held beater on a low setting, beating for 2 minutes.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake on the lower middle rack for 60-70 minutes or until light golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. If your oven has uneven heat you may need to turn the cake around but don't do this until after 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and rest in the tin for five minutes, then turn out the cake onto a wire rack to cool completely.


6 eggwhites

330g castor sugar

540g unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla paste or pure essence

natural vegetable colouring; about ΒΌ cup each of: pure spinach juice, beetroot juice (not the golden variety), carrot juice. If you do not have a juicer you can usually buy some at a juice bar.

1. Beat the eggwhites and sugar together in a bowl with a hand-held beater over simmering water until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch, about 40C. .

2. Transfer to a freestanding mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat until it is cool with firm shiny peaks.

3. Gradually add small pieces of soft butter, one-third at a time, and whisk until fully incorporated before adding the next third. Continue beating until very smooth and fully incorporated, adding the vanilla. This may take five-10 minutes.

4. Measure buttercream into three 300-gram separate bowls and, using a hand-held beater, blend into each, about four teaspoons of one of the juices. Keep whisking until well mixed and fluffy. Don't use much more than six teaspoons as it may start to curdle. Reserve remaining plain buttercream for the base coat of the cake.

Tip Buttercream can be made a day or two in advance and stored in a cool place. It needs to be beaten really well though, before using, and importantly before adding the juice colouring or it will curdle.

Assembling the cake

1. Using a wide-bladed, long serrated pastry knife such as a Victorinox, cut each cake horizontally in half ,ensuring as much as possible that each half is of uniform thickness. This will be important when assembling the cake. The final top layer needs to sit very flat. You will only need three of these halves, so choose the cakes that sit best when assembled on top of each other. Choose the two base pieces, for the top and bottom. When assembling, sit the top layer with the base facing up. This will give your cake a nice clean square finish on top. The extra half cake can be frozen and thawed at a later date for an impromptu afternoon tea.

2. Cut a 10-centimetre diameter circle out of the piece that you will use for the centre layer. I use the top of an old-fashioned baking volume measuring cone but a sharp knife will work.

3. Then, starting with the base piece, put it on a cake board with the cut surface facing up. If you don't have a board, use a flat cake plate. However, a board is best as it allows you to move the cake around.

4. Place the volume cone in the centre of the base cake and spread the green butter cream on the surface of the cake around this. This is to prevent spreading buttercream on to the section of the cake that the lollies will be on. Spread the buttercream slightly beyond the edge of the cake. Use a palette knife and be careful not to let it touch the cut surface of the cake. This will reduce the risk of picking up crumbs and mixing them with the buttercream.

5. Then lay the ring-shaped cake on the top. Slowly turn the cake all the way around and check that the sides arestraight and the top is flat. Now place your lollies inside the cavity that has been created but do not over fill. Spread the purple buttercream layer on the top of this ring, being careful to spread it beyond the edge.

6. Place the final layer on top with the cut surface facing down. Again, turn the cake to check that the top is flat and the sides are straight. Check from a distance to see that the cake is not appearing to lean to the side from any angle.

7. Next is the cover coat layer, which is essentially a base coat. This is where you can patch any dents and holes and make a nice smooth surface. Before starting, use a pastry brush to brush off any loose crumbs from the top and sides. Then, using a small palette knife, start applying a very thin coat of buttercream to the sides and push it in to fill gaps, dents or holes. Starting from the base, use an upward motion over the entire surface of the sides to make it smooth and straight. If necessary, apply a thin layer also to the top to fill in any dents.

8. Leave this to dry for a few minutes before applying blobs of green buttercream, using a palette knife around the entire base on the bottom half quite thickly. Then repeat with the pink icing to the top half.

9. Now, using the orange buttercream, and in the same way, apply blobs of this to the top of the cake. Put the palette knife in a deep jug of boiled water to heat it, dry it with a cloth then run it around the sides, applying a little pressure to obtain a smooth finish. At the same time, encourage the buttercream to rise above the top edge of the cake. Turn the cake around to check that it is still sitting straight. Again, use a clean, hot palette knife to smooth the top surface. Blend the colours a little where they meet halfway up the sides and on the top.

Now your pinata birthday cake is complete and you only need to add candles.

Serves 8-12