Sweet & Salty Millionaire’s Layer Cake

Hello, hello! After many, many months of devoted book creating, I’m excited to be back here with you, blogging on a regular basis! I’m also incredibly eager to share my book with you all, once it’s printed and released–it has been, wow, an incredible learning experience. It’s still kind of surreal to me that a book with my name on it will actually exist. A dream come true, for certain.

So . . . cake! And not just cake–the most decadent sweet & salty cake you could ever imagine. I call this layer cake “Sweet & Salty Millionaire’s Layer Cake” because it is my take on those ridiculously addicting Millionaire’s Bars–you know the ones: buttery shortbread topped with gooey caramel and a layer of rich, shiny chocolate. If that doesn’t beg to become a layer cake, I don’t know what does.

So I baked up 3 layers of dark, moist chocolate cake, torted them into a total of 6 thinner layers, and then filled them with vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream, homemade salted caramel, buttery shortbread crumble and dark chocolate ganache frosting. To finish it off, we smother the whole thing in a generous layer of more dark chocolate ganache frosting and a sprinkling of Fleur de Sel. I find that the satiny vanilla bean buttercream really balances out the intensity of the dark chocolate and sweet and salty caramel, and the shortbread adds an amazing melt-in-your-mouth textural surprise.

The ganache frosting is essentially a typical ganache (an emulsion of dark chocolate and heavy cream), but with some corn syrup and butter added in to keep it luscious and glossy and a pinch of sea salt to celebrate our love for sweet & salty.  I used a really dark chocolate this time, at 70% cocoa solids, but you could use any quality dark chocolate with at least 53% cocoa solids. I was almost out of the usual dark chocolate callets I love to use from Callebaut, so I bought 2 ginormous (300 grams each) premium chocolate bars, chopped them up and tossed in 100 grams of the chocolate callets I had left. With the super-sweetness of the caramel, I love the deep, dark chocolate frosting.

The 3-ingredient shortbread component is so quick and easy, and these bits & boulders of buttery love are just what this cake needed to really pay homage to the Millionaire’s Bars it was inspired by. Heck, they would even make an amazing little ice cream topping, along with the salted caramel perhaps? The salted caramel is so much easier to make than you might think and, as you might imagine, it can be used for so many things–pancakes, waffles, dipping apples, and more. You don’t have to “salt” it, but I feel it really heightens the natural caramel flavour and added vanilla.

One thing I’ve discovered is that when making ganache of any kind, an immersion hand blender (you know, the “stick” type hand blenders) works best to create perfectly homogenous ganache that won’t threaten to separate and become grainy. You can certainly use a whisk, but if you have an immersion blender I feel it works just that much better. I included 2 layers of ganache in the cake layers because I felt that 5 layers of caramel could be a little much, but maybe I’m crazy. So you could always keep the ganache as the frosting and fill all of the layers with the buttercream, caramel and shortbread. I’m thinking there’s no wrong way of doing this, you know?

So, here’s the recipe for this sweet & salty Millionaire’s Layer Cake along with a quick list of the layer-pattern of this cake:

cake
buttercream + caramel + shortbread
cake
ganache
cake
buttercream + caramel + shortbread
cake
ganache
cake
buttercream + caramel + shortbread
cake

Millionaire’s Layer Cake

Yield: One 6-layer, 8-inch round cake

Dark moist chocolate cake filled with satiny vanilla bean buttercream, homemade salted caramel, buttery shortbread crumble, dark chocolate ganache and frosted with more ganache and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Ingredients

    For the Chocolate Cake:
  • 2 1/4 cups (285 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups (450 g) superfine sugar
  • 3/4 cup (90 g) dark Dutch-process cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Extra Brute)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (10 g) baking soda
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (10 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (8 g) salt
  • 1 cup (240 mL) buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup (180 mL) brewed coffee or espresso, hot
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoons (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 g) sugar
  • 2 cups (454 g) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean, seeded and scraped
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Salted Caramel:
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • Generous pinch of sea salt (I used Fleur de Sel)
  • For the Shortbread Crumbs:
  • 1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
  • For the Ganache Frosting:
  • 1 pound plus 6 ounces (700 g) best-quality dark chocolate (at least 53% cocoa solids), chopped or callets
  • 2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1/3 cup (110 g) corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 8 tablespoons (120 g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract

Instructions

    For the Chocolate Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper rounds.
  2. Into the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large measuring cup with a spout, combine the buttermilk, coffee, oil, eggs and vanilla.
  4. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Divide batter among the 3 cake pans (weigh batter for even layers at about 520 grams per cake pan).
  5. Bake 2 of the layers until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs, about 20-25 minutes. Try not to over-bake. Repeat with the final layer. Let cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then turn onto a wire rack until completely cool.
  6. For the Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  7. Wipe the bowl and whisk of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 130°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot, about 8-10 minutes.
  8. Place bowl back on mixer and fit with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes, or longer). Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). Increase speed to medium and beat until the mixture becomes thick and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  9. Add vanilla bean paste and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
  10. You can also add a wide variety of flavourings, extracts, and more, but always add the vanilla first, as it brings out the true taste of the other flavours. Keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, refrigerated for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature. Bring chilled buttercream back to smooth consistency by bringing to room temperature and then beating on low speed with an electric mixer for a few minutes.
  11. For the Salted Caramel:
  12. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir the sugar and water until combined. Brush down the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush and increase the heat to medium-high.
  13. Stop stirring, and let the mixture bubble until it reaches an amber colour (about 350°F). Promptly remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the heavy cream (be careful, as this will bubble and steam aggressively for a moment) until smooth, followed by the butter.
  14. Clip a candy thermometer onto the saucepan and return the mixture to medium-high heat until it reaches 248°F). Transfer the caramel to the heatproof bowl and stir in the vanilla and sea salt. As the caramel reaches room temperature it will become thick and spreadable. Store in a sealed jar in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  15. For the Shortbread Crumbs:
  16. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.
  17. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or your fingers, until you have distributed the butter and achieved pea-size bits. Turn the mixture in an even layer onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and, using a heatproof spatula, gently break up the mixture and return to the oven for 10 more minutes. Let tray cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
  18. For the Ganache Frosting:
  19. Place chopped chocolate (or callets) in a large heatproof mixing bowl (I find a stainless 5QT mixer bowl works well).
  20. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, corn syrup and salt and bring just to a boil. Pour hot cream mixture over the chocolate and let sit for about 1 minute. Using an immersion blender (or whisk, if necessary) combine the chocolate mixture until smooth. Add butter and vanilla and mix again until smooth. Mixture with thicken to spreadable frosting consistency, and eventually become solid at room temperature. To soften, simply warm and bring to desired consistency.
  21. Assembly of the Sweet & Salty Millionaire's Layer Cake:
  22. Prepare your fillings and frosting and ensure they are all at spreadable consistency. For the ganache, this will take about 15-30 minutes after making it, and about 30-60 minutes for the caramel. If you have made ahead, simply warm the ganache and let cool until spreadable, and do the same for the caramel.
  23. Slice all three cake layers in half horizontally, so you have a total of 6 cake layers.
  24. Smear a small dollop of the ganache frosting on a cake plate, pedestal or cake board, and place your first layer cut side up (so bottom of the cake layer is touching plate), and using a small offset palette knife, spread about 1 cup of buttercream on the layer leaving about 1-inch around the edge, followed by one-third of the caramel and then a generous handful of shortbread crumble. Place your next cake layer on top, and spread about 1 cup of the ganache frosting all the way to the edge.
  25. Repeat previous step until you get to the final cake layer. Place last layer face down (cut side down) and frost entire cake with the ganache frosting. Let sit for about 15 minutes and then finish with a thick "coat" of more ganache frosting.
  26. Use a turntable and palette knife to create texture (as in photo)--use one hand to turn the turntable and hold the palette knife in the other hand. Keep palette knife in place and let the turntable do the moving. Use a small offset palette knife to create texture on the top of the cake and sprinkle on some Fleur de Sel. Finished cake can be kept at room temperature for up to 8 hours. Keep refrigerated if longer than 8 hours, but serve at room temperature.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • For the chocolate cake layers, I used Cacao Barry Extra Brute Dutch-process cocoa powder, but you can use any quality dark Dutch-process variety of your choice.
  • I have become rather fond of using vanilla bean paste instead of actual vanilla beans, as it’s convenient and more affordable.
  • When you make the ganache frosting, you’ll notice that it’s a bit jiggly and gelatinous looking as it sets, but as soon as you being to spread it, it becomes smooth, glossy and glorious.
  • Most cake does best at room temperature in terms of staying moist and fresh, but when it comes to building layer cakes, sometimes there’s no choice but to pop it in and out of the fridge a few times to stabilize it (especially when you get into sky-scraping layer cakes). That being said, I recommend only putting most cakes the fridge between the crumb coat and final coat of frosting, or if you feel that things are getting a little wobbly and you want to firm it up before carrying on. For this cake, I didn’t refrigerate it at all, so you will likely find that you won’t need to either. I was able to avoid the fridge between the crumb coat and final coat of ganache frosting because it begins to dry out at room temperature, sealing all of the crumbs.

Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Sugar & Spice Delight Cake

verybfullcakebright

Well it seems that, somehow, between hours of mad baking, book writing, recipe testing and getting my cakelets back to school, it became autumn. I’m pretty sure it was summer last time I looked out the window, but nope–not so much! And when there are crisp winds, changing leaves and backpacks, my head and heart naturally say it’s time for sugary, spicy, pumpkiny baked delights . . .

And although I was certain that the Autumn Delight Cake from last year was my go-to for towering sugar and spice cravings, I decided to go for a true pumpkin version and then switch up the fillings and frostings. Tradition pumpkin pie is one of my favourite desserts of all time, and covered in real whipped cream and sprinkles of cinnamon and sugar is the ultimate. But to me, where there is cinnamon there should be gooey cinnamon buns. My heart is divided!

So this cake is an ode to my love for pumpkin pie, cinnamon buns and, well, cake.

fullcakeside540

So what is the Sugar & Spice Delight Cake exactly?

Well, it’s 6 thin layers of moist pumpkin and crystallized-ginger cake topped with a layer of super-cinnamony and buttery Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling (think the middle of a Cinnabon), which is then topped with fluffy-as-air Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream and then the layered cake is covered in that cream-cheesy, sugary frosting fluffiness that usually adorns those beloved Cinnabons. Oh and some cinnamon and sugar sprinkled whipped cream poofs on top never hurts either. So I guess what I’m trying to say it you must bake this cake! Bake it, eat it, share it, marry it. I’m certain you won’t regret any of those decisions.

I actually made this cake twice for this post. The first time I found it had too much pumpkin puree and too much crystallized ginger, so I did the whole thing again (while my husband shook his head with utter confusion), and that was that. Guys, honestly, it really came together in taste the way I hoped, and it is really is a sugar and spice delight. It is decadent, but the whipped cream filling is so light and airy that it really balances it out.

brightcakeslice

Yep.

So more specifically, the pumpkin & ginger cake layers are essentially the sweet potato cake layers (minus the sweet potato and add the pumpkin) from my Autumn Delight Cake, the Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting is from my Cinnabon-Style Gourmet Cinnamon Buns, and the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling is that found in many of my cakes (I love this stuff). The Cinnamon Sugar Spread, though, is something that is really simple yet goodness-me, so amazing. Who knew melted butter, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla could be so awesome? Actually, I think we all knew that, but I just never thought to spread it in my cakes until now. You can also smother it on pancakes, waffles, toast . . . spouses. Anything.

As a side note, I know some of you have had issues in the past with getting the Whipped Cream Filling recipe to come together, so I’ve modified it slightly for ease. You shouldn’t have any issues now! We add less confectioners’ sugar and sprinkle it in once the whipped cream begins to thicken, so basically we’re just whipping cream (in a super cold stainless bowl) before adding the confectioners’ sugar and stabilizing gelatine mixture.

Stabilized whipped cream makes the most amazing filling because, like I mentioned above, it’s light as air and not sweet at all. It can also stand the weight of the layers, which comes in handy! I turn to this often when I want to include other really sweet elements into the cake, and as much as I love sweet frosting, I find it too much when it’s both inside and outside the cake. You know? It’s also great when you want to pipe whipped cream on top of a cake, as it will remain stable for days (in the fridge, of course).

So, let’s make this cake!

November 28th, 2013 Note: I’ve increased the flour for the cake layers, to ensure the cake doesn’t get over-taken by the pumpkin’s moisture. There shouldn’t be any trouble with this issue now.

December 31st, 2013: I’ve also decreased the pumpkin puree, so the cake should bake up nicely and not be over-powered by the pumpkin.

Sugar & Spice Delight Cake

Yield: One 6-layer, 8-inch round cake

6 layers of moist pumpkin & ginger cake smothered in buttery cinnamon sugar and filled with vanilla bean whipped cream and frosted in Cinnabon-style cream cheese vanilla frosting.

Ingredients

    For the Pumpkin Ginger Cake:
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cups (315 ml) sunflower oil (or vegetable, safflower, canola oil)
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) pure pumpkin puree (canned works well)
  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon (7 g) ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons (8 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (7 g) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (3 g) ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.5 g) ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) brandy or dark rum
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (60 g) chopped crystallized ginger
  • For the Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling:
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) ground cinnamon (I love Vietnamese Cinnamon for its intensity)
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling:
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) cold water
  • 1 packet (1 tablespoon) unflavoured gelatin (such as Knox brand)
  • 2 3/4 cups (660 ml) whipping cream (35-37% fat), cold, divided
  • 1/2 cup (65 g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla bean paste, or pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 1 package (250 g) cream cheese, softened 30 mins
  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, softened 30 mins
  • 4 cups (500 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoon (5 ml) clear vanilla extract (or pure vanilla extract)
  • 1/8 teaspoon orange flavor oil (or 1/4 teaspoon orange extract), if possible

Instructions

    For the Pumpkin Ginger Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans, dust with flour, tap out excess and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and eggs together on medium-high speed (I use #6 on KitchenAid) until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the oil and beat on medium until combined. Add the cooled pumpkin puree and mix until combined.
  3. Sift dry ingredients together (cake flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and ground ginger) and then add to pumpkin/egg mixture.
  4. Mix in brandy/dark rum (I used dark rum) and vanilla. Gently stir in crystallized ginger.
  5. Evenly distribute batter into the prepared pans (weigh them if possible with digital kitchen scale for 560 g per pan), smooth with a small offset palette knife and place in the center of the middle rack of the oven, about 2 inches apart. (Depending on your oven, you will likely need to bake 2 pans, followed by the third.) Bake until a knife or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
  6. Let pans cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack and cool them completely.
  7. For the Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling:
  8. In a medium bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the melted butter, vanilla and salt.
  9. For the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling:
  10. In a small stainless steel bowl, place the cold water and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup of the cream just to a simmer, then stir into the gelatin mixture until the gelatin has dissolved. Refrigerate, stirring frequently, until cool but not set, about 8 minutes. (Be careful to keep your eye on it, or you'll end up with Panna Cotta!)
  11. In a chilled stainless steel mixer bowl with a chilled whisk attachment, beat the remaining whipping cream until it thickens just slightly, and then add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla bean paste and salt until very soft peaks begin to form, about 1 minute. Very gradually add the gelatin mixture and continue beating until medium-firm peaks form (should be thick enough to spread, but not spongy). Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.
  12. For the Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:
  13. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend the cream cheese and butter for 6 minutes on low speed (#2 on KitchenAid Mixer).
  14. Add 2 cups (250 g) of the confectioners' sugar and mix for 1 minute on low speed. Add the remaining icing sugar and mix for an additional 2 minutes. Add the flavors and mix for 1 minute on medium-high speed.
  15. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.
  16. Assembly of the Sugar & Spice Delight Cake:
  17. Chill cake layers until cold and firm. Slice all three cake layers in half horizontally, so you have 6 cake layers total.
  18. Smear a small dollop of the frosting on the plate, pedestal or cake board, and place your first layer cut side up (so bottom of the cake layer is touching plate), and spread 1/5th of the Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling on the layer, followed by ~3/4 cup of Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling with a small offset palette knife, leaving 1" or so around the edge.
  19. Repeat previous step until you get to the final cake layer. Place last layer face down, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill cake for at least 30-40 minutes to set.
  20. Frost entire cake with a thin "coat" of Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting and chill until firm, about 30 minutes. Repeat frosting, using a turntable and palette knife to create texture (as in photo)--use one hand to turn the turntable and hold the palette knife in the other hand. Keep palette knife in place and let the turntable do the moving. Top with dollops of the remaining Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling. Sprinkle with cinnamon and white sugar. Chill cake to set.
  21. Finished cake can be kept at room temperature for up to 8 hours. Keep refrigerated if longer than 8 hours, but serve at room temperature (although it does taste very good cold!.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Pumpkin cake is similar to other spice cakes, carrot cakes, etc. in that it not only lasts several days in the refrigerator but almost gets better with age. It retains its moisture so well that you can make it up to two days ahead, chill and serve at room temperature, however it also tastes great cold!
  • The cake layers are essentially the same as the Sweet Potato Cake layers from the Autumn Delight Cake, but with pumpkin puree in place of the sweet potato puree and less crystallized ginger.
  • If you’d rather not be bothered with slicing the baked layers, you can always serve this as a 3-layer cake–I doubt anyone would complain!
  • The Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling can be made the day ahead and covered in plastic wrap. To soften for spreading, simply microwave for about 10 seconds, or until it has softened enough to spread. On a sidenote, this spread is amazing on toast, pancakes, waffles or pretty much anything. And just when you thought cinnamon was cinnamon, there are several varieties, and each one will yield a very different taste in your baked goods.
  • The Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting is very fluffy and almost “loose” because we’ve beat the cream cheese to smithereens, but it tastes so good and creamy this way. I personally like using a really soft frosting consistency when frosting a cake, but it does take getting used to it wanting to slip and slide. If you find it too soft you can refrigerate the frosting itself until more firm, and in turn if you over-chill it and it’s too firm, you can soften in the microwave in very short intervals (about 10 seconds). It’s very forgiving. Just be sure to “beat” any air pockets out of it with a rubber spatula in a back-and-forth motion against the sides of the bowl.

Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Orange Party Cake with Whipped Orange Frosting

Orange Party Cake via Sweetapolita

Hello from the land of orange cake! I’m finally getting a chance to share this happy-happy orange cake with you guys. Let’s just say since my last post, where lavender & strawberry made a summery debut, it’s been all about orange (and a whole lot of book recipe testing!). I made orange layer cake exactly 5 times in one week, and this was the one I was truly pleased with. Why did it take me 5 tries, you ask? Well, it was one-part cake fail, one-part inferior butter (we’ll talk more about that), one-part aesthetic let-down, one-part perfectionism, and two-parts me being completely Willy Wonky at (most) times. 

But alas, I really love this cake! It’s a moist yellow cake infused with fresh orange juice and zest, filled with an orange vanilla whipped cream, and frosted with an orange frosting tinted in a few sherbet shades using one of my favourite decorating techniques, the super-simple but strangely rewarding Pastel Swirl style. It’s a really neat (and quick) way to tell a story of the flavours inside the cake (much like the Vanilla Blackberry-Mascarpone Cake  I shared recently), or simply to add an artistic flair to any layer cake. Just remember that, although the colour combinations are virtually endless, I find this works best when the colours really blend together (but not over-blended or they’ll become one colour), so I’ve discovered that sticking to three (or so) colours that actually look nice when combined is ideal, not just colours that look nice beside each other. So in this case, since orange and pink make coral, I was able to blend them together to achieve a pretty new colour. I added some un-tinted frosting in there too, so that it would create pastel versions of the same colour scheme.

I made a little batch of sugar flowers (which would be super cute on the cupcake version of this cake, which I will likely do with the extra flowers from this post!), and ended up using a single little blossom and some pink and white sanding sugar to give the cake a little bit of a tropical feel. Real flowers would be so lovely on this style as well, and I can see a tropical shower cake, birthday cake, or even wedding cake a few tiers high becoming a total showstopper.

So I’m lucky enough to have you as a regular reader, you’ll likely notice that the filling and frosting recipes are variations on those found in many of my cake recipes. See, I don’t think you always have to start from “scratch,” but rather can make a few modifications on your favourite existing recipes to make a whole new cake. In this case, I simply added orange zest/juice to my favourite vanilla recipes, and it completely changes the experience. I absolutely love working with oranges in dessert, as I think they offer so much flavour and instantly make most desserts so much more interesting. And they literally fragrance the entire house one you start zesting away. It’s truly a lovely baking experience.

I typically use Valencia oranges when baking/juicing, because they’re so, well, juicy! I also find them even more fragrant than Navel oranges, offering even more orangey-ness to recipes. I did experiment with Pure Orange Extract while making this, but in the end I took it out of the recipe–it just gave it a medicinal quality that wasn’t so happy-happy. One option would be to experiment with Orange Blossom Water to the frosting, as that would give it a unique orange flavour as well (as with these cookies I made last Easter), but I find the juice and zest of the Valencia oranges worked well.

So, remember way up there when I mentioned that I had an inferior butter experience? Well, I’m actually glad I did, even though it meant 3 layers of cake in the garbage. And this feels important enough to make a separate post about butter in itself, but for now let me touch on what happened. So, as you know, I’m working on my first book (hooray!), which means I’m currently living in a sea of bags of sugar and flour that weigh more than my children, and have had to forgo buying groceries so I can make room in our fridge for the endless pounds of butter (kidding .  . . sort of), I decided that maybe I need to experiment with the less pricey butter variety, to see if it really makes a difference, or if it’s at least good enough for everyday baking. I decided that I’d buy my favourite butter, Lactancia My Country Unsalted Butter, for frostings and buttercreams, and try the Great Value butter for the actual cakes, etc. I made the cake back-to-back using each butter, while keeping every single step and ingredient the same, but the Great Value version was so dense and greasy. I tried it, and it tasted like cornbread–it was honestly, inedible, in my opinion. When I made it right then again with the Lactancia, it was just as it should be: light, tender and orange-y. I can assume that the Lactancia has a higher fat content, but it’s hard to know . . .

I can see this is a topic that likely requires extensive research, because aside from experimenting with every brand of butter out there in the same cake recipe, it would be impossible to know from simply looking at the butter packages at the store. The nutritional info on the packages are typically all the same, but that doesn’t mean that butter is made up of the same fat/water ratios. I would love to spend more time really figuring this out, because this is the first time in my life I’ve tasted a cake that tasted like cornbread, yet in this previous post from the Fluffy Vanilla Cake, some people have mentioned that they thought it tasted that way. I was perplexed! Especially since out of over 450 reader comments on that post, hundreds of people seem to share my love for how fluffy and light that cake is. Very mysterious . . .

Now I’m also wondering about those who have had separation issues with their Swiss Meringue Buttercream–again, something that’s never happened to me, and not because I don’t have epic baking fails, but maybe because I’ve only used higher-priced butter. It does kind of all make sense . . .

So that being said, it seems that in some cases, you might “get what you pay for” when it comes to butter for baking cakes and making meringue buttercream. I can’t say that every fancy brand is perfect for baking, and every inexpensive brand is terrible, but between these two brands for my cakes it was night and day. Something to think about! And if you have any experience with this, feel free to share your story in in the comments. Let’s get to the bottom of this.

In the meantime, here’s the recipe for this happy-happy orange party cake:

Orange Party Cake with Whipped Orange Frosting

Ingredients

    For the Orange Cake:
  • 4 whole eggs, room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, strained (I like Valencia oranges)
  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour, sifted
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (19 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small even pieces
  • Zest from 2 medium oranges
  • For the Orange-Vanilla Whipped Cream Filling:
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) cold water
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) unflavoured gelatin (such as Knox brand)
  • 2 cups (500 ml) whipping cream (35-37% fat), cold
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) icing/confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Zest from 1 medium orange
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Whipped Orange Frosting:
  • 2 cups (454 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 4-1/2 cups (565 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice, strained
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Orange Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment round and dust sides with flour.
  2. In a medium measuring cup with a spout, lightly break up the eggs and yolks. In a separate measuring cup, combine the orange juice and milk.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With the mixer set to low speed, add the cold butter one piece at a time, about 10 seconds apart. (You can keep half in the fridge while you add the first half of butter.) Continue mixing on low speed until all of the butter has been blended and there are no clumps. Mixture should have a fine crumbly, cornmeal-like texture.
  4. Gradually add the milk/orange juice mixture to these dry ingredients, and mix on medium speed for 4 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the egg mixture; once the mixture has been added, increase speed to medium and beat for 1 minute, but no more. Gently fold in the zest.
  5. Divide batter evenly among the 3 prepared pans (use a kitchen scale to ensure 3 even layers--cakes should weight ~460 g each). Place two of the cake pans on a baking sheet and bake until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs but no batter, about 23 minutes. Repeat with the final layer. Let the layers cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then loosen sides with thin metal spatula or knife, and carefully turn out onto wire racks, peel of the paper liners, and let cool completely.
  6. For the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling:
  7. In a small stainless steel bowl, place the cold water and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring 1/3 cup of the cream just to a simmer, then stir into the gelatin mixture until the gelatin has dissolved. Refrigerate, stirring frequently, until cool but not set, about 8 minutes. (Be careful to keep your eye on it, or you'll end up with Panna Cotta!)
  8. In a chilled stainless steel mixer bowl with a chilled whisk attachment, beat the remaining whipping cream, icing/confectioners' sugar, vanillla and salt until it thickens just slightly and soft peaks begin to form, about 1 minute. Very gradually add the gelatin mixture and continue beating until medium-firm peaks form (should be thick enough to spread). Fold in zest. Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.
  9. For the Whipped Orange Frosting:
  10. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  11. Add sifted icing sugar, orange juice and salt, and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy and fluffy.
  12. Assembly of the Orange Party Cake:
  13. Trim any dark edges or crust from cake layers with a very sharp serrated knife. Place your first cake layer, face-up, onto a cake stand, plate or 8-inch round foil cake board. Fill your pastry bag with about 1-1/2 cups of the Whipped Orange Frosting and pipe a dam around the perimeter of the cake layer (this will keep our Orange-Vanilla Whipped Cream Filling in place). Place about 1 cup of the cream filling on top of the cake layer, inside of the dam. Gently spread the filling using a small offset spatula.
  14. Repeat until you come to your final cake layer, which you will place face-down. If you find the cake too soft and unstable, put in refrigerator for a few moments to firm it up, then resume. Use your clean offset spatula to carefully smooth the frosting so it's flat against the cake.
  15. Cover the entire cake gently with plastic wrap (I like Press n' Seal), and then, once covered, use your hands to carefully ensure the cake is lined up straight and flattening any lumps or bumps of frosting. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  16. Once cake is stable and chilled, apply an even layer of frosting to the entire cake, to seal in crumbs. Chill again until frosting is firm, about 30 minutes.
  17. Place cake plate/board with cake onto a turntable, if possible. Be sure your remaining frosting is smooth and fluffy, working it with a rubber spatula for a few moments. You can even warm in microwave for a few seconds to soften it up.
  18. Divide frosting into 4 separate small bowls. Tint 3 of them: 1 orange, 1 bright pink, 1 bright coral (pink + orange). Leave the remaining frosting un-tinted. Place cake on a turntable, if possible.
  19. Using a small offset spatula, spread the orange frosting on the top of the cake, letting it extend about 1/2" over the edge. Using a straight medium spatula, spread a thick layer of bright pink frosting along the bottom third of the entire cake, followed by the un-tinted frosting on the middle of the cake, and the coral on the upper third of the cake. Clean your medium straight spatula and then smooth the sides of cake, slowly turning the cake turntable while holding the spatula steady. Use your small offset spatula to smooth top of cake. Top with sanding sugar and sugar blossom, if desired.
  20. Keep cake refrigerated for up to 2 days, but serve at room temperature.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Here’s my video tutorial on this frosting technique. 
  • For this sherbet colour scheme, I used the following gel colours: Electric Pink for the bright pink, Electric Yellow Red Red for the orange, and combined the two colours for the coral. Just a note that you’ll want to get your pink super bright, as it will fade a bit after applying to the cake. The reason I use “electric” colours when tinting frosting with an ivory tone (so pretty much anything with butter), is because I feel that the electric colours cut through the yellow better than regular colours. You just have to be careful that you don’t end up with neon frosting (however, that might not be a bad thing in some cases!).
  • For all of my cake decorating, I use a cake turntable–it’s definitely a must-have. I have a homemade version, but have recently started using the Ateco Revolving Cake Stand, and I love it.
  • I always use a Small Offset Spatula and Medium Straight Spatula when frosting a cake.
  • For the blossoms, I used 5-Petal Flower Cutter set, and simply cut them from thinly-rolled Gum Paste , shaping them by letting them dry in a egg carton (or you can always buy flower formers, but I have a designated egg carton for this kind of thing). Once dry I brushed on a little pink petal dust into the centre, and attached sugar pearls in the centre using a tiny dab of Clear Piping Gel.

Good luck & enjoy!



Related posts:

Strawberry & Lavender Buttermilk Cake

lavcake-1

Happy May to you!

Before I chat about this springy cake, I want to say thank you so much for all of your enthusiasm and kind words about my Sweetapolita cookbook news. Between twitter, facebook and blog comments, I felt some serious baking-book-love and support! I’m so excited to share more of those details along the way. A book filled with all new, inspired cakes and confections–it’s kind of, sort of, totally and utterly my dream come true.

So, it’s been a busy few weeks around here (and quiet on the blog–sorry!). I’ve started working on the book, of course, and I also managed to sneak in a much-needed trip to San Francisco, where I was thrilled to connect with my friend, Shauna (and her gorgeous newborn baby boy), for an afternoon of sweets and girl-talk. After two and a half years of blogging, this was actually my first-ever virtual friend meet-up, but I knew it would be as though I’d known her forever. And it was. She’s just as funny, warm and all-around-awesome as I expected. (And she has amazing taste in bakeries.) We spent most of our time in a cozy window seat at the lovely new (and highly celebrated) b.patisserie, talking blogs, babies and books over the most incredible kouign amann, fancy vanilla cake, cremeux, and sugar brioche tart. (And yes, that is 4:2 dessert to girl ratio–we don’t mess around.) We topped off the visit with a trip to Miette, where I bought an array of the most delightful sweets for, you know, later.

After an amazing (and fattening) journey to SF, I returned home just in time to get working on the festivities and cake for our little cakelet Reese’s 6th birthday. Now, millions of people might say that a dozen 4-6 year old princesses in one tiny room armed with paintbrushes and fueled with cake might be pure, unthinkable craziness . . . and they’d be exactly right. But we made it. Nah, it wasn’t so scary and besides, what’s a little chaos, when your child has “the best birthday ever?”

So now that we’re back to “normal,” I was able to bake a sweet and simple cake that was completely inspired by the joy that is spring. It’s actually more of a summer cake, but where there is spring . . .

Lavender & Strawberry Buttermilk Cake via Sweetapolita

The cake is a super-moist vanilla buttermilk cake, filled with a light-as-air vanilla whipped cream filling and fresh strawberry & lavender compote, and frosted in a creamy, sweet lavender frosting (the same frosting I made for these). I did something I rarely do, which is top the cake with fresh flowers, but it felt right. (I’m no florist, so I kept it simple, but if you’ve got some florist wizardry in your blood, the possibilities are endless for topping a cake with fresh flowers.)

Lavender & Strawberry Buttermilk Cake via Sweetapolita

The cake itself is a very slight adaptation of this cake, but I made a few changes to the mixing technique after reading more about using cold butter in my preferred two-stage mixing method on baking911. Gradually adding cold (they have to be cold) pieces of butter to the dry ingredient mixture and letting it mix long enough to become a cornmeal consistency before adding the wet ingredients, seems to create an even lighter, fluffier cake. Loved this cake.

I went with a whipped cream filling because, aside from being one of my favourites, it’s ideal when your frosting on the cake is very sweet, as with this lavender frosting. And who doesn’t love whipped cream and strawberries? So essentially this cake is sort of a frosted version of lavender & strawberry shortcake. Infusing lavender into the strawberries and frosting gives it a strangely addictive and unexpected flavour, and if you’re not sure about lavender in your baked goods, just know I wouldn’t steer you wrong. If you know you don’t like the subtle taste that lavender brings to a dessert, you could simply omit it completely from both the compote and frosting. (Oh, but it’s so good.)

Either way, it’s sweet, fluffy, creamy, fruity burst of summer.

Strawberry-Lavender Buttermilk Cake

Yield: One 3-layer, 8-inch round cake

Serving Size: 10-12

3 layers of moist, fluffy buttermilk cake filled with vanilla whipped cream & strawberry-lavender compote, and frosted with creamy, whipped lavender frosting.

Ingredients

    For the Buttermilk Cake:
  • 4 whole eggs, room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cups (297 ml) buttermilk, shaken
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract OR Princess Bakery Emulsion
  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour, sifted
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon (17 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small even pieces
  • For the Strawberry-Lavender Compote:
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Vanilla Whipped Cream Filling:
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) cold water
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) unflavoured gelatin (such as Knox brand)
  • 1-3/4 cups (420 ml) whipping cream (35-37% fat), cold, divided
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) icing/confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Whipped Lavender Frosting:
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender
  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons (375 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 4 cups (500 g) icing/confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Few drops purple gel colour
  • You will also need:
  • Medium or Large Pastry Bag fitted with plain round tip (a resealable Ziploc bag will do in a pinch)
  • Small Offset Spatula

Instructions

    For the Buttermilk Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment round, butter the rounds and dust with flour.
  2. In a large measuring cup with a spout, lightly whisk the eggs, yolks, 1/4 cup of the buttermilk and the vanilla. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer set to low speed, add the cold butter one piece at a time, about 10 seconds apart. Continue mixing on low speed until all of the butter has been blended and there are no clumps. Mixture should have a fine crumbly, cornmeal-like texture.
  4. Add the remaining 1 cup buttermilk to these dry ingredients, and mix on medium speed for 4 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the egg mixture; once the mixture has been added, increase speed to medium and beat for 1 minute, but no more. Gently fold batter once or twice (but no more) to ensure the egg mixture has all been incorporated.
  5. Divide batter evenly among the 3 prepared pans (use a kitchen scale to ensure 3 even layers). Place two of the cake pans on a baking sheet and bake until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs but no batter, about 28 minutes. Repeat with the final layer. Let the layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then loosen sides with thin metal spatula or knife, and carefully turn out onto wire racks, peel of the paper liners, and let cool completely.
  6. For the Strawberry-Lavender Compote:
  7. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup of the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, lavender and salt until the berries start to break down, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
  8. Lower the heat and simmer until compote coats a spoon, about 15-20 minutes.
  9. Remove from heat and let cool down slightly. Using an immersion blender (carefully) and pulse a few times, or use a handheld masher. Stir in remaining fresh strawberries. Keep covered and chilled for up to 3 days. (Be sure it has completely chilled before using to fill cake.)
  10. For the Vanilla Whipped Cream Filling:
  11. In a small stainless steel bowl, place the cold water and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring 1/3 cup of the cream just to a simmer, then stir into the gelatin mixture until the gelatin has dissolved. Refrigerate, stirring frequently, until cool but not set, about 8 minutes. (Be careful to keep your eye on it, or you'll end up with Panna Cotta!)
  12. In a chilled stainless steel mixer bowl with a chilled whisk attachment, beat the remaining whipping cream, icing/confectioners' sugar, vanillla and salt until it thickens just slightly and soft peaks begin to form, about 1 minute. Very gradually add the gelatin mixture and continue beating until medium-firm peaks form (should be thick enough to spread). Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.
  13. For the Whipped Lavender Frosting:
  14. Add the lavender blossoms to 1/4 cup (59 ml) whole milk, cover, and refrigerate overnight (or at least several hours). Strain into clean bowl/glass.
  15. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  16. Add sifted icing sugar, vanilla, salt and lavender milk, and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy and fluffy. Tint with a few drops of purple gel colour.
  17. Assembly of the Strawberry-Lavender Buttermilk Cake:
  18. Trim any dark edges or crust from cake layers with a very sharp serrated knife. Place your first cake layer, face-up, onto a cake stand, plate or 8-inch round foil cake board. Fill your pastry bag with about 1-1/2 cups of the Whipped Vanilla Frosting and pipe a dam around the perimeter of the cake layer (this will keep our compote and Vanilla Whipped Cream Filling in place). Spread about 1 cup of the cream filling on top of the cake layer and spoon a few tablespoons of the compote and berries inside of the dam. Gently spread the filling using a small offset spatula.
  19. Repeat until you come to your final cake layer, which you will place face-down. If you find the cake too soft and unstable, put in refrigerator for a few moments to firm it up, then resume. If you see any spots where the compote is peeking through or starting to ooze out (ahh!), use your piping bag to squeeze more frosting over it, between the layers. Use your clean offset spatula to carefully smooth the frosting so it's flat against the cake.
  20. Cover the entire cake gently with plastic wrap (I like Press n' Seal), and then, once covered, use your hands to carefully ensure the cake is lined up straight and flattening any lumps or bumps of frosting. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  21. Once cake is stable and chilled, apply an even layer of lavender frosting to the entire cake, to seal in crumbs. Chill again until frosting is firm, about 30 minutes.
  22. Place cake plate/board with cake onto a turntable, if possible. Be sure your remaining frosting is smooth and fluffy, working it with a rubber spatula for a few moments. You can even warm in microwave for a few seconds to soften it up. Apply a final layer of frosting to the cake. Top with fresh non-toxic flowers, strawberries, or decoration of your choice.
  23. Keep cake refrigerated for up to 2 days, but serve at room temperature. Remove flowers before eating.

Notes

[buttermilk cake recipe adapted from the book Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes]

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • I used this Princess Bakery Flavor for the buttermilk cake, which is an amazing emulsion that gives the cake a vanilla-almond sort of flavour and doesn’t lose taste when baked. You can simply use vanilla if you can’t find this.
  • You can buy Culinary French Lavender online or or in gourmet food shops.
  • I use this MAC Knife for all of my cake layering and trimming. It’s super sharp and makes clean cake layers, ideal for building not-so-crumby layer cakes.
  • To achieve the lavender shade on this cake, I used 3:1 ratio Electric Purple and Violet. It will darken once it’s on the cake, so be careful to not over-tint.
  • For added richness, you can fold in 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese to the vanilla whipped cream filling (as the very last step).
  • You can bake the cake layers the day before needed, keeping them wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and at room temperature.
  • You can make the compote the day before needed, and keep it covered and refrigerated.
  • You’ll want to keep this cake in the fridge between servings for up to 2 days, but it’s best served at room temperature and day 1.
Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Lemon Meringue Delight Cake

Lemon Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

Have you ever noticed that the best thing to pair with lemon seems to be . . . lemon? Every time I make a lemon cake or cupcake, aside from my occasional frolic with lavender and lemon or blueberry and lemon, all I want to do is add more lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon extract, lemon filling, lemon topping, lemon curd, lemon frosting and lemon buttercream. Lemon!

Lemon Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

During some of my recent baking in preparation for my sister-in-law’s baby shower, I did some lemon cupcakes filled with lemon curd and topped with lemon frosting, and I realized that I haven’t made a completely lemony layer cake in a long time. It was definitely time. And wait! Before you scroll down and read the recipe, just know that there are a few components in this cake that do take some time, but don’t let that scare you away — most of this cake can be made up to a few weeks ahead of time, so the actual assembly of the cake really is pretty quick and simple.

So what is a Lemon Meringue Delight Cake? It’s three layers of moist, lemony sponge cake filled with homemade lemon curd, lemon curd Swiss meringue buttercream and baked meringue discs, and frosted in more lemon curd Swiss meringue buttercream, topped with more lemon curd, swirls of buttercream, baked meringue swirls and lemon drop candy. In other words, a lotta lemony loveliness.

Lemon Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

A lemon party of sorts.

Lemon Meringue Milkshake via Sweetapolita

Remember these Lemon Meringue Milkshake & Mini Swirl Meringues? I make those little swirl meringues often, and I thought they’d make perfect little lemon cake decorations, so I just made them a bit bigger and a tad more swirly for this cake. In this particular recipe I did the meringues with a Swiss meringue method (heating the sugar and egg whites over a pot of simmering water until they reach 140-160°F and then whipping them in the mixer), but you can also do them with a traditional French meringue method (whisking the room temperature/warm egg whites in the mixer until they become foamy, then adding the sugar gradually, beating until stiff peaks form). I found, though, that the Swiss version seems to bake very glossy and the French meringue bakes a little more matte. The ones I used on the cake ended up being the French version, but I made some last night using the Swiss method and they were so nice and glossy. (They seem to taste the same either way.)

Baked meringues have my heart because, aside from their addictive sweet, light and crispy-ness, you can make a big batch and keep them airtight for weeks, making them ideal for topping cakes or cupcakes. And, of course, for random snacking. I thought it would be fun to make a few larger discs and put them right on top of the lemon curd filling in the cake, so when you’re taking lemony cake bites you hit little bursts of lemon meringue surprises along the way.

Lemon Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

Lemon Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

Lemon Meringue Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

Lemon = Happy.

Again, I know the recipe looks a little daunting because of all of the components, but if you do a bit ahead of time, it really is a joy to make. Keep remaining lemon curd in an airtight container in the freezer for a zippy addition to pancakes, muffins, scones and more  – you’ll thank me! ♥

Lemon Meringue Delight Cake

Yield: One 3-layer, 8-inch round cake

Serving Size: 8-10

Three layers of moist lemon sponge cake filled with lemon curd and crisp baked meringue cookies and topped with lemon curd buttercream, more lemon curd and baked meringue swirls.

Ingredients

    For the Baked Meringue Swirls/Discs:
  • 3 egg whites (90 g)
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • A drop soft gel paste color, yellow
  • You will also need:
  • A large pastry bag
  • Decorating tip #1A
  • A small paintbrush
  • For the Lemon Curd:
  • 4 lemons (or 6 Meyer lemons), preferably organic
  • 2 whole eggs plus 4 egg yolks (set whites aside for buttercream)
  • 1 cup sugar (200 g)
  • 4 tablespoons (60 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small even cubes
  • For the Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 7 egg whites (210 g)
  • 1-1/2 cups (300 g) sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups (454 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) lemon curd
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Few drops of soft gel paste colour, yellow (I used electric yellow)
  • For the Lemon Cake:
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups (270 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon (4 g) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon(4 g) salt
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.75 ml) lemon extract
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) plain yogurt, at room temperature
  • baked meringue swirls, for decorating
  • lemon drop candy, for decorating

Instructions

    For the Baked Meringue Swirls/Discs:
  1. Preheat oven to 200°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer and the whisk attachment with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease.
  2. Add egg whites and sugar to the mixer bowl and fit onto the top of a medium saucepan filled with about 1-inch of simmering (not boiling) water. (Be sure the bottom of your bowl is not touching the water.) Whisk constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 140°F, or if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  3. Dry the underside of the mixer bowl and transfer to your stand mixer. Whip using the whisk attachment until the meringue is thick and glossy and has reached the stiff peak stage.
  4. While the meringue is whipping in the mixer, fit your decorating bag with a plain round pastry tip. Fold over a cuff at the top of the pastry bag and paint 3, equally-spaced, thin lines of yellow gel colour using your fine paint brush (you can use any paint brush, but it should only be one you designate for food) from the pastry tip up toward the cuff.
  5. Fill the bag with your meringue (no more than 2/3 full) and pipe 1-1/2-inch swirls onto one of the lined baking sheets, spacing them about 1-inch apart. (These will be used to decorate top of cake). On the second baking sheet, pipe the remaining meringue into flat discs, about 2-inches in diameter, spacing them about 1" apart. (These will be used on top of the filling inside the assembled cake.)
  6. Bake for 60 minutes, rotating the trays after 30 minutes. Lower the oven to 175°F and bake until dry, about 40 minutes more. Keep in an airtight container until needed.
  7. For the Lemon Curd:
  8. Wash lemons really well (with a bristled brush under cold water) and using a zester, remove all of the coloured portion of the peel from the fruit (not the white pith–it’s bitter!) into a bowl or onto a piece of wax paper. Rotate fruit as necessary to get as much of the zest off. Repeat until you have 2 teaspoons (30 ml) of the zest, and set aside.
  9. Slice the lemons in half crosswise (I find room temperature citrus is best for juicing) using a sharp knife, and extract as much of the juice as you can using a citrus reamer, or I use a small, manual citrus juicer. (Just be sure to catch all of the juice in a bowl and to completely strain the seeds before using.) Repeat the juicing until you have 2/3 cup (160 ml) of the strained juice.
  10. Get your double boiler ready by filling a saucepan with 1″ of water, then placing a metal bowl on top of the saucepan. You will need to ensure the bowl fits snugly into the top of the saucepan and that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water (important, or your eggs will cook). You can now remove the bowl and continue with making the curd.
  11. Whisk the juice, whole eggs, egg yolks and sugar in the bowl until smooth. Add the butter cubes to the bowl, but don’t stir.
  12. Heat the water in the saucepan over low heat until it simmers (not boils) and place the bowl atop the rim. Stirring gently, but constantly, using heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, cook until the curd has thickened and all of the butter has melted and is incorporated, about 10 minutes (this can vary). To test if the curd is thick enough, remove the spatula or spoon from the curd and check that it’s coated.
  13. Strain the curd over a bowl using a fine-mesh sieve and then stir in the zest. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly against the curd (to prevent a skin from forming) and chill for at least 3 hours (I like to chill it overnight). It also thickens up a bit more while chilling. Keep refrigerated.
  14. For the Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  15. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites, sugar and salt, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  16. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so). *Don't begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, and not warm.
  17. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated. Increase mixer speed to medium and whip until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). *If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together. Add lemon curd and vanilla, continuing to beat on medium speed until well combined. Add yellow soft gel paste colour until desired shade of yellow is achieved.
  18. For the Lemon Cake:
  19. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease, line with parchment and flour three round 8-inch pans. I use Parchment Paper Circles for ease. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and 1 cup (200 g) of the sugar on medium high speed until very pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  20. Lower mixer speed to medium low and add the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition. Add lemon juice, vanilla, lemon extract and lemon zest and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. With mixer running, add dry ingredients. Add yogurt, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is well incorporated.
  21. In another grease-free bowl, (or if you're lucky enough to have another mixer bowl) whip egg whites and remaining cup of sugar until they reach stiff peak stage. Fold meringue into batter until just combined, and divide batter evenly among the three prepared pans. Use a digital kitchen scale to weigh pans to ensure even layers, if possible (425 g of batter for each layer).
  22. Bake first two layers 2" apart in center of oven on top of a baking sheet until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center, about 25 minutes. Be careful to not over-bake -- check cake at 20 minutes, but not before, and once you feel it’s almost ready, set the timer for 2 minute intervals. Repeat with final cake layer. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. Gently turn cakes back up, so the tops are up and cool completely.
  23. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. Best enjoyed day 1 or 2.
  24. Assembly of the Lemon Delight Layer Cake:
  25. Trim any doming or top crust and side crust from cake layers using a very sharp serrated knife (I use the Mac Bread Knife for all of my cake trimming, splitting, etc.).
  26. Use a cake turntable for filling, frosting and decorating, if a possible. Place a small dollop of frosting in the center of a cake plate or 8″ round thin foil-covered cake board, and place the bottom cake layer on top, trimmed side up (face up).
  27. Pipe a dam (a rim around the top perimeter of the cake layer) of lemon curd buttercream around the cake layer using a large round Pastry Tip fitted inside a Decorating Bag. Then pipe another smaller circle of buttercream a few inches toward the center. Spoon lemon curd into the open spaces and spread evenly with a small offset palette knife, taking care to keep the curd within the dam (otherwise it will ooze out of the sides of the cake). Gently place cover the filling with a layer of the flat baked meringue discs, breaking them into smaller pieces if necessary to cover most of the layer.
  28. Repeat with second cake layer and more buttercream, lemon curd and meringue discs. Place final cake layer, trimmed side down. Look straight down from above cake and be sure the layers are all lined up, shifting gently if necessary. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  29. Remove from fridge and put a generous scoop of buttercream on top, spreading evenly with a small offset palette knife and working your way down the sides until you have a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake (crumb-coat). Chill until set, another 30 minutes.
  30. Remove from refrigerator and covering the cake in another layer of buttercream, but this time using a thicker layer of buttercream and creating a smooth finish.
  31. For the top of the cake, using your decorating bag fitted with the large round tip , 2/3 full with buttercream, pipe 8 small swirls, evenly spaced. Top each swirl with a baked meringue swirls, and fill the spaces in between with lemon drop candy. Gently spoon a layer of lemon curd on top of the cake, using a toothpick to pull the curd to the inside edges of the candy and swirls.
  32. Store finished cake covered in refrigerator (due to the lemon curd filling), but serve at room temperature (you can remove from refrigerator several hours ahead of serving).

Notes

*You can make the baked meringues up to a few weeks in advance, keeping them in an airtight container at room temperature.

**You can make the lemon curd up to a month ahead, keeping it in an airtight container in freezer.

***You can make the Swiss meringue buttercream up to a month ahead, storing it in an airtight container in freezer, bringing to room temperature on counter the night before needed.

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Because Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Lemon Curd both take a little longer to make than some other fillings/frosting, I recommend making both ahead of time, if possible. They freeze well, and the buttercream can be simply brought to room temperature the night before you need it. The curd can basically be used straight from the freezer. If you go ahead and make all of the components in one day, there’s a good chance you will be cursing my name at random throughout the day. But even if you do go this route, it will still be worth it.
  • You can make the baked meringues up to two weeks before you need the cake, just keep them in an airtight container at room temperature.
  • You can bake the cake layers the day before you need to assemble the cake and keep them at room temperature wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.
  • I use my the MAC Carving Knife for all of my cake trimming and slicing — it’s amazing.
  • For the Swirl Meringues and the Lemon Swiss Buttercream I used Americolor Electric Yellow Soft Gel Paste to achieve that particular shade of happy.
  • For the lemon drop decorations I used Claeys Lemon Sanded Candy Drops.
  • You can watch me frost a cake with smooth edges here.

Good luck & enjoy!


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