Published On: Thu, Jul 23rd, 2020

How to make a Surprise Cake

How to create a Piñata Sprinkles Surprise Cake! Britt Box shares her step-by-step guide to making a layered cake with a surprise filling…

I’m a big fan of bright colours. I often remark that ‘rainbow’ is my favourite colour so creating colourful bakes is something I really enjoy! This piñata sprinkles cake certainly fits that brief. With its colourful outside and its surprise inside, it’s a sure winner at any party or event. Easily customisable and simple to put together, let me show you how to make this beautiful cake!

surprise cake

I recommend a strong cake base for this design, like a Madeira. I also find this cake looks great when it is a little deeper than usual. I didn’t want to create a huge double height cake so instead I made one and a half cakes. This really was as simple as it sounds; I made my usual 18cm (7in) round cake recipe, then I halved the recipe to bake another smaller one.

Here is my recipe for a classic vanilla Madeira cake, but feel free to use any flavour or colour you like.

For an 18cm (7 inch) round Madeira Cake

  • 200g (7oz) self-raising flour
  • 50g (1¾oz) plain flour
  • 200g (7oz) unsalted butter
  • 200g (7oz) caster sugar
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Note: If you are baking one and a half cakes like I did, then simply halve this recipe for the smaller layer; 100g (3½oz) self-raising flour, caster sugar and Stork/unsalted butter, 2 free-range eggs and 1 tsp vanilla extract.

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 2½. Cream together the Stork/unsalted butter and caster sugar. Mix in the eggs.
  2. Add the self-raising flour and plain flour and mix well. Add the vanilla extract and mix for 2-3 minutes on a high speed.
  3. Spoon the mixture into a lined 18cm (7in) round cake tin. Bake for 1 hour 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. (The half layer will only need 45-60 minutes.)
  4. Once baked, leave to cool upside down on greaseproof paper.
  5. Once the cakes are cool, double wrap them well in clingfilm and leave them in a cool dry place (not the fridge) overnight to settle.
  6. The following day, make the buttercream. Below is my recipe for a classic vanilla buttercream, but feel free to use any flavour or colour you would like:

For the vanilla buttercream

  • 300g (10½oz) unsalted butter
  • 600g (1lb 4oz) icing sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  1. Cream the butter on its own for a few minutes.
  2. Slowly add the icing sugar and bring the mixture together.
  3. Add the vanilla and mix until soft and smooth.

Decorating the cake

1. Unwrap the cakes and level them using a sharp knife or cake leveller. Then turn the cakes over; I always find I get a better result using the base of the cake as the top.

2. Split the cakes using a cake leveller – how many times you split the cake will depend on how deep the cakes are. I split my smaller cake once in half, creating two layers of cake, and I split the larger cake twice, creating three layers of cake.

3. Once you have done this, place the layers out in front of you. Decide which will be the bottom and which will be the top layers. Then, using a large round cookie cutter, cut a hole out of the middle layers.

4. Place the bottom tier down onto a working board and spread over a layer of buttercream. Place down the first layer with a hole in, then cover all exposed cake in buttercream. Repeat this for all layers with holes in.

5. Spread a thin layer of buttercream onto the top ‘holed’ layer, then place it in the fridge for 5 minutes to firm up.

6. Once chilled, take the cake out of the fridge and spread a layer of buttercream around the inside of the hole, covering all exposed cake to stop it drying out. Place it back in the fridge for another 5 minutes.

7. Take the cake out of the fridge and fill the hole with sweets of your choice – I used white chocolate Jazzies and Smarties.

8. Spread another thin layer of buttercream onto the top layer and place the last slice of cake on top; this is where I have used the bottom of the cake as the top, to make a nice flat surface to work on.

9. Crumb-coat the whole cake by spreading a layer of buttercream onto the top and sides. Scrape off any excess using a side scraper and place in the fridge for a further 10 minutes.

10.While this is chilling, arrange your sprinkle station. To do this, line a baking tray with foil and, in the middle, place an upside down 18cm (17in) cake tin. Fill the lined tray with sprinkles.

11. Take the cake out of the fridge and spread with a second buttercream layer. Smooth this down with a palette knife and a side scraper, then place it on top of the upside down tin in the baking tray.

12. Fill your hand with sprinkles and gently press into the side of the cake. (I’ll warn you now – sprinkles will get EVERYWHERE. Embrace it and clean it up later!). Continue this all the way around the cake, pressing in sprinkles with your hand. Then, for the top, spoon on sprinkles and press them down gently. You may have to go around the cake a few times to completely cover it. Check around the bottom line as well as I found that the hardest bit to cover. Once the cake is fully covered with sprinkles, chill the cake for a further 5 minutes to set. Use this time to roll up the foil and pour the unused sprinkles back in the pot.

13. Once the cake is set, it’s ready to enjoy! Slice into the middle to reveal the hidden colourful piñata surprise! The cake will last 5-6 days once decorated if stored in a cool dry room (not a fridge), and 3-4 days once cut into if wrapped well in clingfilm.

This cake is so versatile! Here are a few different ways you can decorate and fill it:

a) Green and black sprinkles, filled with jelly worms and crushed Oreos for a Halloween surprise.

b) Yellow or white sprinkles, filled with a choice of pink or blue sweets for a tasty gender reveal cake.

c) Milk chocolate sprinkles and a chocolate sponge, filled with chocolate truffle shells.

d) Mixed chocolate sprinkles, filled with edible cookie dough balls, decorated with a melted chocolate drip for good measure.

e) Rainbow sprinkles and a rainbow sponge with M&M’s.

f) No sprinkles, just white buttercream, filled with pastel sweets for a springtime delight.

g) Ombre buttercream, filled with Mini Eggs for an Easter dessert.

h) Pink sprinkles, filled with Love Heart sweets.

The only limit is your imagination!

surprise cake

Have fun with it! Happy baking, Britt xxx

As featured in May 2020 issue of Baking Heaven Magazine

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