It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I apologise for that – I, somewhat naively, thought I would have loads of time for both baking and blogging over the summer break but I could not have been more wrong! I have been busy with a capital B over here at BBH, and only part of that has involved baking! Work has taken up a substantial amount of my time along with a constant feeling of exhaustion… I’m really hoping that it will pass and it’s not just how a grown up feels all the time. Can’t be dealing with that. Anyway, this is a lovely cake. It was for my lovely grandma’s 70th birthday party and I was both honoured and humbled to be trusted with such a task.
Two tiers of vanilla cake gave me a blank canvas to work with here, I focused on flavours over everything in this cake because I actually find flavours more fascinating and memorable than appearance of cakes. I received fantastic feedback for both aspects of this cake, but the flavours and the way they all married in the mouth really stood out for everyone. The bottom tier was flavoured with coconut, lemon and pistachio and the top tier with rose, raspberry, lime and pistachio. The cake wasn’t necessarily planned – it all kind of just happened. I like to think of it as an organised mess. You know, like my life.
Okay, jokes aside. If you would like to make this cake, or just use it as inspiration then carry on reading. I’ll try and include some hints and tips I picked up along the way about stacking cakes, freezing cakes and planning ahead.
So I quite obviously jumped on the ‘naked cake’ trend with this one. Overall, I was happy with the appearance – I had no preconceived idea of what it might look like so the finished product was pleasantly surprising. I had no intention of making it scrupulously neat with clean, sharp edges – I wanted it to fall in to the rustic category and honestly, it was easy peasy. The INSIDE of this cake looked better than the outside and I am a-okay with that. It did cross my mind that a party in the middle of August during a rare bout of British sunshine might fall prey to dry edges so I tried to minimise that risk as much as possible – and that’s actually where the idea for the coconut and rose flavours was conceived. I made a simple syrup and flavoured half with coconut extract and half with rose extract, and I brushed this over each layer before I filled it. The buttercream had to be super sturdy, not unlike cement, in order to keep the tiers in place and keep the cake stable so I actually didn’t flavour it at all. I used lemon curd for the bottom tier and chopped pistachios up finely to add texture to the cake. For the top, the fresh raspberries added a tang that was mellowed out by the fragrant rose flavour and the lime cut through it all. The pistachios again, were added for texture and gave a somewhat middle-eastern vibe to the flavour profile.
For ease, I baked these cakes on a Tuesday and froze them the same day. I took them out of the freezer early Saturday morning but if you need the cake to be ready for the morning, I would suggest taking the cakes out the night before so they can defrost and the syrup can sink in.
This cake will feed about 60 people
For the bottom tier:
Double the quantity of vanilla cake, found here
For the filling:
100g caster sugar
Coconut extract (I used Waitrose)
1 jar lemon curd
handful of pistachios, roughly chopped
desiccated coconut, for sprinkling
For the top tier:
One quantity of vanilla cake, found here
For the filling:
Rose extract (I used Nielsen Massey)
100g fresh raspberries
zest of one lime
handful of pistachios, roughly chopped
For the white buttercream used in both cakes:
250g butter, room temperature
500g icing sugar, sifted
VERY fresh flowers
floral tape (from the florist)
gold leaf (optional)
1) Heat the oven to 160 degrees, FAN. Make the bottom tier first and line a 9” round cake tin with baking parchment, spraying the sides with cake release spray.
2) Follow the instructions for the vanilla cake and be sure to double the recipe. Weigh the cake batter and divide by three to give even layers.
3) Bake each cake for around 25-30 minutes or until the centre is baked through and a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Continue until you have three, even layers. Wrap each layer in cling film tightly and place in the freezer.
4) For the top tier, make a single batch of vanilla cake and use a 7” round cake tin. (Don’t forget to weigh the batter again!) Bake each cake for about 20-25 minutes, or until baked through. Once you have three layers, cling and freeze these too. You can, of course, skip the freezing if you have a lot of time, but I really suggest it as it relieves a lot of the stress on the day.
5) For the assembly, you need to make sure the cakes are perfectly even. Mine were pretty even so I didn’t have to do much trimming but I wanted to make sure they were completely flat so I took a large serrated bread knife and trimmed the tops down.
6) For the frosting, just beat the butter in a mixer at high speed for 5-6 minutes until REALLY pale and fluffy. It won’t be yellow anymore. Add the sifted icing sugar, a few scoops at a time until the frosting is stiff and holds its shape but is still soft with no crust. (You might want to put a damp tea towel around the bowl of the mixer to stop icing sugar going everywhere).
7) For the simple syrup, heat the water and caster sugar in a small saucepan, stirring over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.
8) If you are using a cake board, put a tablespoon or so of frosting on it and smooth it out before you put your first cake down to hold it in place. Take half of the simple syrup and add a few drops of coconut extract. Add more as you like it but remember the flavour will be diluted when you add it to the cake so don’t be afraid of it. Arrange your first cake layer face down and brush the top with syrup. Cover it all with a light layer of buttercream ensuring the surface is smooth. Pipe the lemon curd on to the frosting in a swirl and add the chopped pistachios and desiccated coconut. Place the second layer on, face down and repeat. Once you have finished, brush the final layer with coconut syrup and get started on the top tier.
9) I decorated the top tier separately and put the two together afterwards. You can use a 6” cake board for this tier but I actually made my own, with thick cardboard and foil, reinforced with wooden bbq skewers. I also used the wooden bbq skewers to dowel the cake and protect the bottom tier from collapsing under the weight of the top tier. It sounds confusing right now, but trust me – it’s pretty sturdy if you complete all these steps!
10) For the top tier, do the exact same but instead of adding coconut extract to the simple syrup, add rose. Complete all the same steps and when filling, break the raspberries apart slightly, add some lime zest and sprinkle the pistachios on top before adding the next layer.
11) Once you have inserted the wooden skewers in to the bottom tier, in a circular formation, cut them down to size and place the second tier on top. I added some more buttercream to the exposed edge to help stick the decorations down. For that ‘naked cake’ finish, add some more buttercream to a piping bag with a small round nozzle. Pipe around the edges of the cake – it helps if you have a rotating turntable. Smooth the piped line out with a palette knife and don’t worry if the icing smears the side of the cake – it’s supposed to!
12) Cut the stems of your chosen flowers right down and cover with floral tape. Ensure no stem is showing as it may contaminate the cake. Place the flowers wherever you would like and add the fresh fruit in and around them. Give it all a dusting of icing sugar and place on a cake stand or cake plate. Keep it in the fridge as long as you can, as this will help to keep the flowers fresh.