The A to Z of Baking: J is for Jo Pepper ‘Surprise’ Cake

Much like the ‘E’ of this baking challenge (Enormous Chocolate Surprise Cupcake), the latest recipe for the letter ‘J’ was a bit of a tenuous link but when an occasion to bake arises and you can shoe-horn it into the challenge then why not go for it, I say!

Quite handily, a friend at work, Jo Pepper, had her last week in our Department before she moved on to pastures new on the same week as the ‘J’ of my challenge, so when a few of us thought of hosting an afternoon tea party in her honour, it just seemed like the obvious choice to make a ‘Jo Pepper Surprise Cake’. It was a surprise for two reasons: firstly because, well, she didn’t know she was having a cake or a tea party, and secondly, the middle of the cake was filled with edible POLKA DOTS!

I’ve blogged before about my obsession with polka dots, so when I came across the recipe for a polka dot cake in a recipe book (Hidden Surprise Cakes by Angela Drake), I jumped at the chance to take my love for all things dotty to new heights and try out this cake.

The recipe I followed is below but I personalised it in Jo’s honour by ordering an edible photo cake topper from eBay (there are lots of sellers to choose from), and placed a selection selection of mini edible photo cupcake toppers, also imprinted with Jo’s face, that were left over from the cupcakes that another friend at work was making for the tea party. I also chose to decorate the edges with M&Ms for an extra splash of colour.



High points

Using cake pop moulds to create polka dots within the cake certainly makes an impression upon cutting into the cake and is a good talking point! Personalising the cake in Jo’s honour also ensured we gave her a send off in style! The cake was very tall but moist and the layer of the frosting in the middle (as well as around the edges) broke it up a little so it wasn’t too ‘spongy’.

Low points

I used baby pink food colouring paste for the polka dots, mainly because it was one of only two food colourings I had in the house, but it wasn’t vibrant enough a colour in my opinion. A really vibrant colour would have added to the wow effect. Next time, I would consider using multiple colours.

For the sponge balls:

  • 100g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • Food colouring paste in a colour – or colours – of your choice (I opted for baby pink)

For the chocolate sponges:

  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 35g cocoa powder
  • 225g unsalted butter, softened
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of milk

For the glossy chocolate frosting:

  • 175g plain chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 100g unsalted butter, diced
  • 100ml double cream


  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350 F/ gas mark 4. Lightly grease both halves of a 20-hole silicone cake pop mould and place the bottom mould on a baking sheet.
  • To make the sponge balls, place the flour, butter, sugar and eggs in a large bowl and beat with a hand-held electric mixer for one to two minutes until smooth and creamy. Beat in enough food colouring paste to give the mixture a bright colour.
  • Use a teaspoon to distribute the mixture evenly in the bottom mould, taking care not to overfill each dip in the cake mould. Then place the other mould on top. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the sponge balls are risen and firm to the touch. Leave the cake in the moulds for 20 minutes, then carefully remove them, trimming off any excess sponge around the balls with the tip of a small knife. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Do not switch off the oven.
The cake pop creations go into the cake tin with the cake mix...

The cake pop creations go into the cake tin with the cake mix…

  • To make the chocolate sponges, sift together the flour and cocoa powder into a large bowl and add the butter, sugar and eggs. Beat with a hand-held electric mixer for one to two minutes until smooth and creamy, then beat in the milk.
  • Grease two cake tins (original recipe calls for two 6.5 inch tins but I used two 8 inch tins as this was all I had) and place on a large baking sheet. Divide the chocolate sponge mixture in two. Spread one third of each quantity in the base of each tin. Arrange ten sponge balls in each mould, placing one in the centre and the remaining nine in a circle.
  • Spoon the remainder of each mixture into each cake mould, making sure the mixture goes down around the sides of the sponge balls. Gently level the surface with a palette knife.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until the cakes are risen and just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the moulds for ten minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

To make the frosting:

  • Put the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, and heat until the chocolate and butter have melted.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat and stir the mixture until smooth. Leave to cool for 2-3 minutes, then stir in the cream. Leave to stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes, then chill in the fridge for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to spread.

To decorate, sandwich the two sponges together with a quarter of the frosting. Spread the remaining frosting around the sides and over the top of the cake, smoothing and swirling it with a palette knife. I then placed the round edible photo cake topper on top of the cake. I decorated the side of the cake with M&Ms and a selection of mini edible photo cupcake toppers. You could go crazy here and decorate however you like!

My Random Musings

One thought on “The A to Z of Baking: J is for Jo Pepper ‘Surprise’ Cake

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