I knew my birthday today wasn't going to be about me. These are unprecedented times. Time to think about the future of humankind. But, determined to keep calm and carry on baking, I made this healthy chocolate cake and lavished it with Italian meringue buttercream, to celebrate my day of birth. I've always wanted to make a 3-tiered cake with this kind of buttercream. Novices take note, don't take your eyes off your sugar syrup! I burnt my first lot but tried again.

For the chocolate cake:
3 eggs
1 c honey/brown rice syrup/maple syrup
2 c yoghurt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c cacao or cocoa powder
2 c flour (I used a white and wholemeal spelt mix)

Preheat oven to 180C. Line 2 20cm sponge pans  if you want 2 layers or 1 20cm cake tin.
In a large bowl whisk the eggs and sweetener. Add yoghurt, baking powder, baking soda, salt and vanilla and mix till just combined.
Sift in cocoa powder and flour and mix until fully combined. Pour into your cake tins.
Bake for around 25 min if you're doing 2 thin cakes or 45 min if you're baking a big cake.
Let cool in the tin for at least 10 min then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Slice your big cake into 3 layers of equal height.

For the buttercream:
250g caster sugar
35 g water (about 4 tbsp)
200g egg whites (about 5 eggs)
350g butter at room temperature, cut into 2.5cm squares
candy thermometer

Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan on a medium-high heat. Add your thermometer. Once the sugar reaches 115C start whisking your egg whites in a large bowl. When the sugar reaches 122C remove from heat immediately and slowly pour down the side of your bowl while whisking the egg whites.
Keep beating until all the sugar is dissolved and the bowl is cool to the touch. Add the butter one square at a time until dissolved while you are still whisking. The mixture will become sloppy but don't worry - it will thicken up by the time you add all the butter. Once butter is whisked in keep beating until your cream is thick and glossy - it's a wonderful transformation!

Use a dab of buttercream to keep in place your first cake layer on your serving plate. Slather generously with buttercream. Add the second layer and repeat. Add the top layer and cover the top and sides with the rest of the buttercream, reserving about 2 cups for finishing. You can be a bit messy with this crumb layer. Place cake in fridge for half an hour to firm up then coat the cake with the last of the buttercream, using an offset spatula or scraper to get a smooth finish.