Chocolate Collar Cake Showstopper Challenge

Baileys cake with chocolate collarTo top off Cake Week, Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith’s showstopper challenge tasked the bakers with a two-tier cake that was finished off with a chocolate collar. In the heat of the tent, Cake Week’s showstopper challenge was definitely tricky. But even in a climate-controlled setting, getting the chocolate tempered and timing the placement of the collar can also be difficult.

If you get it just right though, the end result is well worth the effort.

I made my chocolate collar Christmas themed as I was serving it for our family Christmas party.


  • Use acetate if you are making intricate designs for your chocolate. If not, parchment paper works just fine. On one side, draw your designs so that you can use it to trace as you pipe the chocolate on the other side.
  • I used white chocolate to create a winter scene contrast to the dark chocolate. If you want to do this, pipe your design first and set aside so that the white chocolate sets. I just took a handful of white chocolate chips and melted them in the microwave at 20-second intervals until smooth. I then made a piping bag from parchment paper so I can pipe the white chocolate design on the acetate.Drawing on acetate for a chocolate collar
  • Make sure you cut the acetate to be slightly longer than the circumference of the cake so the ends can overlap and you end up with a full circle.
  • Place the collar on when the chocolate has set just enough so it doesn’t slide off the acetate but not set hard enough that it cracks when you bend the piece. You’ll just have to eyeball this and test by lifting the acetate up a little. It is ready in just a few minutes.
  • Make your cake the night before to reduce how much you have to do the day of. After the cakes have cooled, wrap them tightly in cling film and refrigerate.

Baileys Cake Recipe

  • 282g (2 1/4 c) Flour
  • 170g (3/4 c) softened butter
  • 300g (1 1/2 c) sugar
  • 100ml Baileys (the Baileys Minis are 3pk of 100ml bottles)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 240ml (~1 c) whole or reduced fat milk
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 176°C / 350°F. Grease and flour one 6-in cake tin and one 8-in cake tin. Line both with parchment.
  2. Combine milk and vinegar to make buttermilk; stir then set aside. (You can also use store-bought buttermilk.)
  3. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; stir together with a fork and set aside.
  4. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on med-high until pale and fluffy. Reduce to medium-low and add eggs one at a time, making sure egg is fully incorporated.
  5. Add vanilla extract and Baileys, beat to combine.
  6. Incorporate the dry ingredients and buttermilk with alternating turns, starting with the dry ingredients.
  7. Pour 1/3 of the batter in the 6-in tin and the rest in the 8-in tin. I did this by weight.
  8. Bake on the center rack for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean. Do not open the oven until at least 30 minutes have elapsed.
  9. Let cakes cool in the pan for 10 – 15 minutes before moving to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Baileys Buttercream Recipe

  • 4 egg whites
  • 200g (1 c) sugar
  • 120 ml (4 oz) water
  • 1 tbsp baileys
  • 345g (1 1/2 c) softened butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  1. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan with a pouring spout and simmer until the syrup reaches 116°C / 240°F. Use a candy thermometer.
  2. Whilst the sugar is heating, whip the egg whites using the whisk attachment with your stand mixer. Start off medium-low and increase speed as the syrup gets closer to the desired temperature. You should have firm peaks when the syrup is ready.
  3. Carefully pour the syrup into the bowl, avoiding the whisk. This sugar is very hot and you don’t want it to splatter as it will burn anything it touches.
  4. Once all the syrup is added, whisk on high until you have stiff, glossy peaks. Let cool to the point where the bowl isn’t hot to the touch and there’s no condensation on the sides of the bowl.
  5. Switch to a paddle attachment and beat on medium. Add the butter in cubes about a tablespoon at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. The mixture will start to look soupy but it will come together. Once all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high until the mixture is smooth.
  6. Add the vanilla and Baileys and beat to combine. Set aside.

Make your filling and set aside. I recommend making a dark chocolate mousse to go with this cake.


Tempering Chocolate

For this recipe, I used 100g of 72% cacao dark chocolate.

  1. Chop your chocolate to small pieces. Set aside 30 grams in one bowl and put the rest in a metal bowl.
  2. Place bowl over simmering water using a bain marie (double boiler) and melt until it reaches 55 – 58°C (131 – 136°F).
  3. Remove from heat and pour about a third of chocolate into a heat-proof bowl. Place bowl in oven set to warm. Or, you can preheat your oven to the lowest temperature and turn off once you’ve put the bowl into the oven. Leave oven door slightly ajar.
  4. Add in the chocolate you set aside earlier to bring the chocolate’s temperature down to 28 – 29°C (82 – 84°F).
  5. Once to temp, add the melted chocolate that was warming in the oven to bring the temperature up to 31 – 32°C (88 – 90°F). It is now ready for pouring.


  1. Make two layers out of each cake so you have four layers. Put chocolate mousse between the bottom two layers and between the top two layers.
  2. Put a crumb coat on each cake with the buttercream and chill in the fridge for a few minutes. Make sure the 6-in cake is on a cake board as it will be the top tier.
  3. Coat with buttercream. It doesn’t have to be perfect since you’ll be putting a collar on and no one will see the buttercream anyway. Put in two dowels in the middle of the 8-in cake and set the 6-in cake on top of the 8-in cake, lined up with the dowels.
  4. Temper the chocolate after you’ve put the final coat of the buttercream and stacked the cakes. Pour tempered chocolate on the acetate. Allow to set enough not to slide off but pliable enough that you can wrap the collar around the cake.
  5. Wrap the collar around both layers and put in the fridge to set. It’s set once you’re able to pull the acetate off but the chocolate stays on the cake.


Christmas may be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a couronne — a traditional French Christmas bread. Sign up for the But First, Dessert email list and get access to an apricot and almond couronne recipe!

Author: Jorina Fontelera

I love eating carbs, feeding people and watching the Great British Bake Off (aka in the US, the Great British Baking Show). I'll be chronicling my attempts at all the challenges per GBBO season.

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