• Recipe, styling and photograph by Katelyn Allegra
    Assisted by Cassandra Upton

    Chocolate and almond “stained glass” cake

    Serves: 8 - 10
    Cooking Time: 3 hrs + overnight drying


    • CAKE

    • 200g cake flour
    • 300g castor sugar
    • 60g cocoa powder
    • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • 120g salted butter, chopped
    • 125ml (½ cup) freshly brewed coffee
    • 125ml (½ cup) full-cream milk
    • ½ tsp almond extract/1 tbsp almond-flavoured liqueur
    • 2 large eggs
    • 50g flaked almonds, lightly toasted

    • 6 large pears
    • a squeeze lemon juice
    • 115g white sugar
    • 250ml (1 cup) water
    • gel food colouring of your choice (we used green, orange, turquoise and purple)

    • 350g 70% dark chocolate, finely chopped
    • 430ml fresh cream
    • 125ml (½ cup) sour cream
    • ½ tsp almond extract/1 tbsp almond-flavoured liqueur
    • PEAR GEL

    • 250ml (1 cup) pear juice
    • 50g white sugar
    • 50ml water
    • 1 tsp agar agar (find at faithful-to-nature.co.za or takealot.com)

    • 200g icing sugar
    • 75g unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 100g full-fat cream cheese



    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line 2 x 17cm cake tins with baking paper. Set aside until needed.


    For the cake, sift the cake flour, castor sugar, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the salted butter and beat on low speed until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Set aside.


    In a separate bowl, mix the freshly brewed coffee, full-cream milk and almond extract/almond-flavoured liqueur together. Add the liquid to the butter-mixture, along with the eggs and flaked almonds. Beat on low speed until combined and smooth.


    Divide the batter between the prepared cake tins. Bake in the preheated oven until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly before turning the cakes out on a wire cooling rack to cool completely. Use a serrated bread knife to cut a very thin slice off the top of each cake to create a flat surface. Cut each cake in half so as to create 4 individual cake layers. Set aside.


    For the dyed pear chips, line 2 – 3 baking sheets with baking paper. Set aside until needed. Preheat the oven to 80°C.


    Cut the pears into 0,5cm-thick slices using a mandolin slicer/sharp knife. Place the slices in a bowl of water. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Set aside until needed.


    Make a sugar syrup by bringing the 115g white sugar and 250ml (1 cup) water to a boil in a small saucepan placed over medium heat, stirring continuously until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and divide the syrup among 4 small pots. Tint each ¼ with one of the gel food colourings of your choice.


    Divide the pear slices among the pots of coloured sugar syrup. Place the pots over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the pear slices turn translucent, about 3 – 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the slices from the pots and place on paper towel to absorb excess liquid. Arrange the slices on the prepared baking sheets. Bake in the preheated oven until dried yet still flexible, about 2 hours


    For the chocolate-ganache icing, place the finely chopped chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Set aside until needed. Heat the fresh cream, sour cream and almond extract/almond-flavoured liqueur in a small pot over medium heat until just boiling. Pour the warm liquid over the chocolate and set aside to melt, about 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Once the icing starts to thicken, whisk it slightly until the mixture reaches a spreadable consistency. Be mindful not to whisk the icing too much, as it will split. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Set aside until needed.


    For the pear gel, place the pear juice in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil until ½ the juice has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the 50g white sugar, 50ml water and agar agar, and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the agar agar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour the mixture into a standard sized loaf tin. There is no need to grease or line the tin. Refrigerate until set. Once set, break the block into manageable chunks and place in a blender. Blitz until smooth. Transfer the gel to a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Set aside until needed.


    For the cream-cheese icing, place the icing sugar and unsalted butter in the bowl of a hand held/stand mixer. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese and mix until just incorporated.


    To assemble, place a cake layer on a cake stand. Pipe alternating rings of chocolate-ganache icing and pear gel onto the cake. Place a second cake layer on top and repeat with piping alternating rings of chocolate-ganache icing and pear gel. Repeat once more, ending with the fourth cake layer on top. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.


    Spread the cream-cheese icing over the outside of the cake. Next, layer the dried pear chips onto the layer of icing. Starting from the top, arrange the slices in alternating colours, overlapping the pears slightly to create a stained glasses effect. Use any leftover icing to secure the slices in place, if needed. Before applying the final layer, use a sharp knife to level off the bottoms of the selected pair chips before adhering them to the cake. This will make for a neat finish. Serve immediately.