Chocolate and orange surprise cake!

chocolate, cake, cakes, sponge, orange, ganache, drip, dripcake, caramel, baking, cooking, food, foodie, recipe, homecook, bbc1, philip, philip friend, philipfriend, uk

Ok, the surprise might not be up there with the denoument of a great murder mystery story, but this cake always evokes “oohs” and “ahhs” when cut into.  Granted, you might not have fallen off your chair with this reveal, but I can live with that!

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Photos updated: May 2019

When you cut into it this cake you get vertical layers rather than the horizontal layers you normally get with a cake. It is a fun cake to make, especially the assembly of it, building up the spiral effect so you get vertical layers when you cut into it. It is also quite easy to make, especially if you are just going to cover it just in melted chocolate. Either way this is essentially my take on the Cadbury’s Swiss Gateau (one of my guilty pleasures!).

A cake for chocoholics!

Quite simply, if you do not like chocolate, steer clear of this cake!

I have used a rich, chocolate-orange buttercream in the cake, with a thin layer covering the cake and finished with a chocolate ganache: to be honest there is not that much buttercream per slice, but you certainly get a full-on chocolatey hit: which you absolutely should get!

Now I prefer a dark chocolate ganache: it is less sweet and has naturally fruity undertones, but a milk chocolate ganache would certainly work.

The fatless sponge, which is flavoured with orange zest, is drizzled with freshly squeezed orange juice, but you can also add a generous splash of Cointreau, brandy or liqueur of choice……. Now normally I make a fruity syrup with orange or lemons for brushing over dessert-type cakes, but the neat fresh juice works well and makes the cake more vibrant.

I have gone for a sponge base and top, but you can omit these and just have the spiral if you prefer: just smooth off the buttercream on top so you get a flat finish.

Ganache or plain chocolate?

I was initially going to use just melted chocolate to cover the cake (in keeping with the Cadbury Swiss Gateau idea) but I decided I wanted it to cut more cleanly and easily, as chocolate on its own will shatter all over the place when cutting into it. Ok, that is hardly a reason to get upset, but on this occasion ganache, with its rich, soft creaminess won me over.

Top tip: rescuing a split ganache

I have lost count of the number of times a ganache has split on me: which is because the cream is too hot for the chocolate: it goes horribly grainly looking and then oozes oil! Quite horrid, not to mention heart-breaking.

The trick is to pour the hot, but not quite boiling, cream over the chocolate, leave it alone for a few minutes and then gently stir.

However, if a ganache does split, simply stir in a few tablespoons of cold double cream and beat with a spoon. Within moments this will bring it back together again.

Recipe: chocolate and orange spiral drip cake


  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1 large orange
  • 140g plain flour

Orange juice!

  • juice of 1 large orange

Chocolate buttercream:

  • 350g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 200g milk chocolate, melted and cooled

Orange chocolate ganache*:

  • 80g dark chocolate, in smallish pieces
  • 120ml double cream (if going for ganache)
  • grated zest of one orange
  • juice of one orange

*as an alternative covering, just pour over about 100g cooled melted chocolate and either let it drip randomly down the sides or go for full coverage!

(1) Grease and line two large swiss roll tins (15 inches by 10 inches) and two circular 7″ cake tins with non-stick baking parchment. Pre-heat the oven to 180C(fan).

Make the sponge:

(2) Put the eggs, sugar and orange zest in a large bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl does not touch the water and the water does not boil. Whisk for about 8-10 minutes with an electric whisk until the mixture becomes thick and voluminous: when you lift out the whisk, a trail should remain for about 20 seconds before slowly vanishing back into the mixture. Remove from heat.

NB: you can do this without the bowl sitting over hot water, but whisking it over the hot water gives more volume

(3) Sift the flour onto the egg and sugar mixture and fold very gently with a large metal spoon or spatula, making sure you go down to the bottom of the bowl to get any lurking bits of flour incorporated.

(4) Pour the mixture into the tins and level off: you will have a thin layer in each, which is what you want. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden: the sponge should just spring back when you gently touch it.

NB: if you do not have enough oven space you can bake these in two batches, starting with the rectangular tins: the mixture is quite stable and will not collapse while waiting to go in the oven for the short time it takes for the first batch to bake.

(5) Turn each tin out, sponge-down, onto baking paper that has been lightly sprinkled with caster sugar. Remove the baking parchment carefully and place a clean tea towel on each: this stops the sponge from drying out, so that it doesn’t crack when rolled out. Don’t worry if some of the sponge sticks to the paper and rips a little.

Make the buttercream:

(6) Beat the butter and icing sugar together for several minutes and beat in the cooled chocolate, beat or whisk for about 5 more minutes until very smooth, light and almost mousse-like.


(7) Sprinkle the sponges with the orange juice (and alcohol, if using) and spread a thin layer of buttercream over.

(8) Place one of the circular sponges on a plate or cake board, buttercream-side upwards. This is the base. Cut each of the rectangular sponges in 3 equal strips lengthways, giving 6 strips.

(9) Roll one strip up tightly, like a swiss roll. Place this on the centre of the base, so you can see the spiral. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfectly neat!

(10) Take another strip and slowly wrap it around the centre, buttercream-inwards, pressing fairly firmly as you go round. If the sponge does tear, don’t worry. Repeat with the remaining strips, placing them where the previous strip ended, and pressing fairly firmly as you go. You will now have a large spiral.

(11) Place the final circular sponge on top, buttercream-side down, and pat firmly in place. Trim the base and top if needed (a knife for the base, scissors for the top!), so that they are the same diameter as the spiral and you have a good cylinder.

(12) Spread the remaining buttercream around the sides and top of the cake, smoothing the top and either smoothing or swirling the sides. Chill for an hour or so until the buttercream has firmed up.

NB: the cake is very well behaved and will hold its shape, but if you are unsure you can pop a deep circular 7″ cake tin over it to hold it in place, or use a collapsible cake collar, contracting it around the cake fairly tightly.

Make the ganache topping:

(13) Put the chocolate in a small bowl. Heat the double cream and orange zest until it just comes to a simmer. Remove from the heat and cool for a few minutes. Pour over the chocolate and leave for a minute or two. Stir until smooth. Add enough orange juice to taste. Leave to cool and become thicker (it should have a gentle wobble to it and slowly pour off a spoon rather than run off easily)

(14) Pour the cooled ganache over the top of the cake, spreading it gently to cover the top: a gentle shake of the plate will get the chocolate perfectly smooth if that is the effect you want, or leave it fairly rough.

NB: for a drip effect, spoon a little ganache around the rim of the cake and gently nudge a little over the edge so it slowly trickles down: you can use more ganache on the spoon for a longer drip or less for a short drip.

(15) Chill until the ganache has set. You can leave as it is or decorate with grated chocolate, candied orange peel, fresh raspberries, a sprinkling of edible glitter, sweets………


Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking, teaching and eating good food.

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