For as long as I can remember, Easter has always been celebrated with some Hot Cross Buns in my family. Well, growing up in a bakery meant that each holiday was always associated with baked goods of some sort, but I have always held a soft spot for Hot Cross Buns. This sentiment only amplified when I moved to Switzerland and discovered that these spiced buns were not as universal as the religious festival.
Hot Cross Buns are small, spiced yeast buns and which are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. In Australia, bakeries start selling these buns almost as soon as the Christmas items have been removed from the shelves. In my family’s bakery, three varieties of Hot Cross Buns were always on offer – plain, with fruit or with chocolate chips. Of course, chocolate Hot Cross Buns are not traditional but gosh they are good!
This is a cake which I love to make when we have guests over, and this extra-chocolatey version is a favourite at Easter.
The recipe is based on the Chocolate Cloud Cake from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites which has the inclusion of Cointreau for a liqueur kick and is simply decorated with whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa powder. But Nigella also offers an Easter version in her book, Feast, a child-friendly version whereby the alcohol is replaced with vanilla, the cake is swathed in a decadent chocolate cream, and this elegant concoction is then adorned with pastel-coloured, sugar-coated chocolate Easter eggs.
Whether you are making the original or Easter version, this is the perfect cake to make for anyone who has a gluten intolerance as it does not contain any flour. The absence of flour also guarantees that the cake will be tender and moist within, rich with chocolate flavour. The chocolate intensity of the cake depends much on the type of chocolate that you use. Nigella specifies using “best quality dark chocolate” which I interpret as meaning chocolate with minimum 70% cocoa solids, but I think 60% and upwards is fine (I used 68%). The dark chocolate might not sound kid-friendly but there is also sugar in the batter to sweeten things a bit.