Hidden bulb cake

Frances Quinn shares her showstopping chocolate and beetroot cake recipe finished with filo ‘bulbs’, chocolate soil and terracotta icing

  • Prep:2 hrs
    Cook:1 hrs 25 mins
  • Serves 12
  • A challenge

Nutrition per serving

  • kcal 657
  • fat 43g
  • saturates 21g
  • carbs 42g
  • sugars 35g
  • fibre 4g
  • protein 11g
  • salt 0.9g


  • 175g salted butter, softened, plus a little extra for greasing
  • 175g light muscovado sugar
  • 100ml soured cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 125g cooked beetroot (not in vinegar), drained and blitzed or grated
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 50g ground almonds
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g dark chocolate, blitzed or grated
  • 150g dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 150ml double cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 25g salted butter, softened
  • 25g golden caster sugar
  • 25g self-raising flour
  • 10g ground almonds
  • drop of vanilla extract
  • drop of almond extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 whole almonds
  • 100g white marzipan, shop bought or make your own (see tip, below)
  • ½ pack filo pastry sheets (about 135g)
  • 20g salted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 800g white marzipan, shop-bought or make your own (see tip, below)
  • paste food colouring (we used Sugarflair Dark Brown, Tangerine/Apricot/Christmas Green and Spruce Green)
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • icing sugar, for dusting


[{"title":"Homemade marzipan","body":"

To make roughly 1kg marzipan: Put 1 large egg, 1 egg yolk, 1⁄2 tsp almond extract and 1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract into a large bowl and beat together with a fork. Sift over 300g icing sugar400g ground almonds and a pinch of salt. Mix together and work into a paste, adding a little water if it looks dry or crumbly. Colour with paste food colours as desired, then transfer to the fridge to firm up slightly before using. (Takes 20 minutes, plus chilling)




  1. Start by making the loaf cake. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease and line a 900g loaf tin with baking parchment. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Measure the soured cream into a jug, beat in the eggs and stir through the beetroot, the vanilla and almond extracts. Sift all the dry ingredients into a separate bowl and add this along with the soured cream mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix thoroughly, then fold in the dark chocolate.

  2. Scrape the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 40 mins. The cake should be risen and firm to the touch. Test with a skewer to ensure the cake is cooked in the middle. Leave to stand for 10 mins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Keep the oven on for the cupcakes.

  3. Make the chocolate ganache. While the cake is cooking, make the ganache. Put the chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan over a medium heat, and when it is just coming to the boil, pour it over the chocolate, leave to sit for 1 min, then stir until smooth and shiny. Add the vanilla extract and mix, then leave to cool completely.

  4. Make the bulb cupcakes. Put all the ingredients except the whole almonds in a bowl and beat using an electric hand whisk. Put 3 cupcake cases in a muffin tin and divide the mixture between them. Bake for 15 mins until the cakes are risen and firm to the touch. Test with a skewer to ensure the cakes are cooked in the middle. Leave to stand for 10 mins, then make an incision in the top of each cake with a sharp knife and insert a whole almond into each one.

  5. Make the marzipan filo bulb tops. Roll 3 walnut-sized pieces of marzipan into balls for the bulbs. Unroll the filo sheets and cut into strips, roughly 5cm wide. Brush with melted butter and wrap the strips around the marzipan balls, buttered side facing outwards. Cut off the bottom 2.5cm of each ‘bulb’ so that they sit flat , then pinch the tops together slightly. Unfold and curl back some of the layers of pastry – don’t worry if the pastry cracks, this all adds to the effect. Place each bulb top in a muffin case in a muffin tin and bake for 10-15 mins until the filo is crisp and golden. Dust with a little cocoa powder then set aside to cool.

  6. Create the bulb tips. Colour the remaining marzipan green for the bulb tips and mini tips – it’s nice to use a few different shades of green. Twist 3 short sausages of green marzipan together to create each bulb tip – you’ll need three large ones, then make as many smaller ones as you can from the leftover green marzipan.

  7. To carve and plant the bulb cupcakes. Remove the cases from the cooled cupcakes and, using a small knife, cut away the sharp edges of the cupcakes, to create a rounded bulb shape (step I).

  8. Carve out 3 evenly spaced holes at the top of the loaf cake with a round cookie cutter (about 5cm wide) and spoon out to accommodate the cupcake bulbs. Place the carved-out cake into a bowl and break into crumbs. Mix in the 100g chopped chocolate – this will be the top soil. Fill each hole with a little ganache to help the cupcakes stick in place, then place each one into a hole. Spread a thin layer of the chocolate ganache around the sides of the loaf cake with a palette knife, then set aside while you make the terracotta pot.

  9. Make the terracotta. Knead the brown and apricot food colours, extracts and cinnamon into the remaining marzipan until smooth. Roll out on an icing sugar dusted surface to 1cm thickness, roughly 7.5cm high and 65cm long (or big enough to cover your loaf cake). Trim the edges to neaten – this is easiest with a pizza cutter and ruler, then wrap the marzipan around the cake, seal the ends together and smooth. Using a ruler or knife, score a line around the pot for definition.

  10. Decorate the top. Using some of the ganache as glue, stick the marzipan filo bulb tops on top of the bulb cakes. Spoon and spread the rest of the ganache over the loaf and around the bulbs – this is easiest using a large paintbrush, then scatter over the chocolate soil.

  11. Poke a marzipan bulb tip into each filo bulb top (step S), make a few incisions with a cocktail stick into the soil and insert the mini marzipan bulb tips. Store in a sealed container for up to 3 days, best eaten within 2 days.

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