This celebration cake is sure to steal the show at your next get-together – and makes the perfect showpiece for a garden-enthusiast. It has layers of moist chocolate sponge, homemade cherry jam and a liqueur-spiked buttercream, and is also vegan.
Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/Gas 6.
Start by making the cake layers. Whisk the soya milk and vinegar in a bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to thicken. Sift the sugar, flour, cocoa, espresso powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the oil and vanilla into the well, add the soya milk mixture and whisk until smooth.
Divide the cake batter unequally between the prepared cake tins, filling each tin roughly half full. Bake the large sponge on the lower shelf and the small sponge on the shelf above for 25 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the small cake comes out clean. Remove the small sponge from the oven and continue to cook the larger sponge for a further 10–15 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave the sponges to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then carefully turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Leave the oven on.
Meanwhile, make the cupcakes. Make the batter using the cupcake ingredients and following exactly the same the method as you used for the large and small sponges (steps 2 and 3 above) and divide the batter equally between the hollows in the prepared cupcake tin. Bake for 18–20 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the cupcake sponges comes out clean. Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the cupcakes from the tins, peel off the baking paper discs and leave the sponges to cool on a wire rack.
Make the jam. Put a small plate in the freezer to chill. Put the cherries in a saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice. Cook over a low heat for about 5–6 minutes, stirring regularly, until the sugar dissolves and the cherries soften. Mash the cherries with a potato masher or fork, bring the mixture to the boil and simmer for 8–10 minutes, until thick and jammy. Drop a teaspoon of jam onto the chilled plate from the freezer and push it with your fingertip – if it wrinkles, the jam is ready; if not, cook for a further 2 minutes, then test again. Transfer the jam to a bowl and leave to cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, make the buttercream – you’ll need to do this in two batches, so use half the quantities in the ingredients each time. In a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment, beat the vegan butter (remembering to use half each time) until soft and smooth. Gradually add (half) the icing sugar in 3–4 portions, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add (half) the kirsch. Increase the speed to medium–high and beat for another 2–3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Repeat to make a second batch, then if you have a bowl big enough, mix together the two quantities into one.
Set aside one-quarter of the buttercream. Divide the remaining buttercream between 4 bowls. Add the cocoa powder to one bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until well combined and no streaks remain. Spoon the chocolate buttercream into a piping bag fitted with the basket weave nozzle and set aside. Colour another portion of buttercream green and spoon half of this into a piping bag fitted with the leaf nozzle and half into a piping bag fitted with the grass nozzle.
Fit two of the piping bags each with a large closed star nozzle. Using the paint brush, paint pink gel in vertical stripes on the inside of one of the remaining piping bags and purple inside another. Divide the remainder of the large portion of buttercream between these two bags and twist the ends to close.
To assemble, slice the larger cake in half horizontally and place the bottom cake layer on the base of the cake frame. Make a hole in the cake to correspond with position of the rod attachment for the cake stand. Spread the top of the cake with 3 tablespoons of the reserved quarter-portion of buttercream and then with 3 tablespoons of cherry jam, leaving the hole for the rod attachment exposed.
Using the 13cm cake tin as a guide, cut a circle out of the middle of the top sponge layer and set this aside to make the plant pot. Cut the remaining ring of sponge in half to make it easier to lift, then arrange the two halves on top of the large sponge, reforming them to make a complete circle around the top edge. Cover the sides of the sponge in a thin crumb coat of plain buttercream and chill for 20 minutes.
Trim the top of 13cm sponge to flatten, reserving the trimmings. Then, slice the sponge in half horizontally. Spread the top of each sponge layer with 2 tablespoons of the plain buttercream followed by 1 tablespoon of cherry jam. Stack one sponge on top of the other. Place the reserved sponge disc from the larger sponge on top, creating three layers in total. Freeze for 15–20 minutes, until firm (this makes the sponge easier to carve into shape).
Pipe the chocolate buttercream in a basket weave pattern over the sides of the large sponge. Transfer any remaining chocolate icing into the final piping bag, fitting it with the medium star nozzle and pipe a wavy edge around the top of the large cake. Using the piping bag fitted with the grass nozzle, pipe green tufts of grass all around the base of the sponge. Chill the sponge while you decorate the cupcakes.
Cut a 1cm slice off the bottom of each cupcake and reserve the trimmings. Using the pink and purple buttercream, pipe roses onto the cupcakes. Position 4 or 5 cupcakes in the middle of the large cake. Crumble the cake offcuts to resemble soil and scatter these into the gaps in between the cupcakes. Pipe green buttercream leaves around the roses. Transfer the cake to the fridge to chill again.
Make the marshmallow crispy treats. Melt the marshmallows and vegan butter in a pan over low heat, stirring regularly until melted. Scoop the mixture into a bowl, add the rice crispies and stir until thoroughly combined. Leave to cool slightly and, then, using lightly oiled hands, press the rice crispy mixture around the pole that will support the flowerpot cake.
Using a serrated knife, carve the tiered small sponge into a plant-pot shape (the top wider than the base) and place this on the smaller cake base of the cake stand. Cover the top and sides with a thin crumb coat of plain buttercream and freeze for 10 minutes, until firm.
Colour the remaining plain buttercream terracotta and, using a palette knife, spread this over the top and sides of the plant pot. Take a very small slice out of the front of the cake to make it look as though the plant pot has cracked. Cover the cracked section of the pot in crumbled cake soil and pipe a few green leaves into the crack.
Arrange 3 or 4 rose cupcakes on top of the plant pot, fill in the gaps with cake crumbs and pipe leaves around the cakes.
Press the pole into the cake stand through the large sponge and very carefully position the plant pot on top. Use the remaining pink, purple and green buttercream to pipe small flowers and leaves completely covering the rice-crispy-covered pole. Any remaining cupcakes can be served alongside.