Happiest and sweetest Easter wishes Everyone! What would Easter be without something pretty to eat. I’ve always loved the spirit of Easter for its cheery and colourful charm. Since I was a little girl, the magic of this season captivated me. There’s a fairytale quality to Easter, bunnies come to life and eggs turn to chocolate and gardens become a place to hunt for chocolate treasure. It’s absolutely magnificent! I remember when we were growing up, humble marshmallow Easter Eggs were best things around at this time of year and back then it was such a joy if you had one. Once upon a time when I was about 8 years old, I was given a strip of 4 marshmallow eggs, I vividly recall not wanting to eat the eggs because I refused to ruin the wrappers. To a child it was mesmerising and I still remember it to this day – white Easter bunnies playing around in the green grass among colourfully decorated eggs and little toadstools with windows and doors that kept me up at night, wondering. I love recreating those feelings, even now as a grown up, when Easter comes around I want to be enchanted all over again and what better way to do it than through cake.
In my previous post I wrote about the genoise sponge and emphasised how lovely it is to stack. Well this is it, in this layered cake I’ve used two flavours, vanilla and raspberry. Two cakes cut in half to make four alternate layers of pink and cream, perfect for my butterfly and easter egg garden theme, reminiscent of Spring. Each layer of cake, brushed with raspberry syrup is glorified with a luxurious layer of raspberry swiss meringue buttercream.
I love this buttercream! It’s light, it’s airy and spreads like a dream. It’s so much more than the American buttercream which is basically confectioners sugar and butter whipped together. In the past I’ve found American buttercream terribly sweet and too dense, it’s also not the easiest frosting to make considering all that’s involved is the mixing of two ingredients. Contrary to popular belief achieving the correct consistency for spreading and piping is pretty complex. I remember years ago, my friend and I were making cup cakes for a Mothers Day get-together she was attending, and I had the brave idea to use American buttercream. Between adding sugar upon sugar and then taking it to the fridge to maintain the correct consistency, we barely had enough time to decorate the cup cakes before she had to leave. With the Swiss meringue buttercream, it’s easy going. Once it’s done, it’s done. No need to go back and add extra sugar or butter to get it right. In my recipe it comes out perfect the first time. The whipped egg whites and sugar create a soft marshmallowy texture so that when the butter is added the mixture turns into sort of like a creamy marshmallow, which makes piping an absolute pleasure. Even though it’s not sickly sweet, for this cake I went ahead and added raspberry pureè to it which creates a fresh flavour and balances out that sweeteness from the meringue. When it comes to icing a cake, you do want a large amount of buttercream and this another reason why Swiss meringue is my favourites because it takes less than twenty minutes to make a large amount and unlike Italian meringue buttercream, there’s no need for a sugar thermometer.
Naked cakes is what’s fashionable these days and I must say I quite approve of them. It’s my kind of cake satisfaction. There’s this rustic charm about naked cakes that helps you get away with imperfections. The frosting is meant to look laid back and lazy almost, with layers of the cake showing through for a vintage flair. I love that! And I love it even more because it means less icing on the cake. Often icing can be overbearing on a cake when there’s too much of it. I like just the right balance between cake and buttercream. When it comes to fresh cream and pastry creams pile it on, I insist. But with buttercream being so full of butter and sugar I much prefer small doses which makes a naked cake just perfect.
Decorate with fondant or chocolate, fresh flowers or fruit, naked cakes can’t help but look charming no matter what you choose to style it with. So don’t be afraid. Dare to be adventurous and make someone madly happy with your very own and unique naked cake creation. Now that I’ve said my mouthful, time to sample the cake. Enjoy the rest of your Easter Sunday. Till next time.
Before embarking on this adventure remember, this cake is home-made and should look as such. Do not despair if it doesn’t resemble something out of a grand bakery. The flaws add to it’s charm. The decorating of the cake is always going to be imperfect but that is the whole point of making a self-designed cake, otherwise we would go out and buy one from a professional cake designer. The two most important things to do in my opinion when making a celebration cake is to remember that it is for a celebration after all, so have fun making it and secondly the taste. The taste is far more important than the aesthetic so don’t mind the flaws.
*Note: For this recipe you will need to bake two cakes in 2x18cm cake tins then cut in half to make four layers. The recipe for this can be found in my previous post – The Genoise Sponge. Also note that once the cake batter is divided, fold in a drop of red food colouring and a teaspoon of raspberry extract into one half before baking. I advise to bake the cakes at least a day in advance so that they can be frozen overnight. Frozen, the layers are easier to cut and creates less crumb which is ideal when frosting, however freezing is optional. There are many decorations on this cake, but I feel that decorations are a personal choice and you should get as creative and imaginative as you wish. I will demonstrate how to get started by using a plunger cutter which are very easy use and if you get different patterns you can use the same method to do a variety of decorations of your choice, it’s really up to you. The buttercream in this recipe has been flavoured with raspberries. For this you have two options. You can either use 500g of fresh or frozen raspberries that will need to be cooked and sieved or you could use a good quality raspberry preserve. A good quality preserve should have a minimum of 60% raspberries and no added sugar, which is what I opted for in this recipe. If using fresh or frozen, cook raspberries till soft, and thickened before passing through a fine mesh sieve. This should yield about 200g. Enough to flavour the buttercream. Remember that if the berries are very sharp as frozen berries often are, a bit of sugar can be added during the cooking process.
The Making of this Cake Requires
- 2x18cm genoise sponge cakes
- 500g raspberry swiss meringue buttercream
- 50ml raspberry simple syrup
- candy coated easter eggs (pastel colours) for decoration/decorations of choice
For The Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 110g egg whites (room temperature)
- 200g castor sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 270g unsalted softened butter cut into four equal pieces
- 200g raspberry preserve
- Whisk egg whites with castor sugar over a bain marie for five minutes or until the sugar has fully dissolved. Touch the mixture between two fingers to check that it does not feel grainy from the sugar. If it does, keep whisking till smooth.
- Move the mixture to a stand mixer and gradually whisk from low speed to medium speed to cool the whites until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla.
- When the bottom the bowl feels cools completely it’s a sign that the butter can be added. Whisking to stiff peak stage and cooling of the bowl usually takes 10-12 minutes.
- While the machine is running add the first portion of butter and whisk it in. Look closely to ensure that there are no lumps in the mixture before adding the next portion. Add another portion of the butter and continue this way until all the butter has been gradually incorporated.
- Once all the butter has been incorporated continue whisking for another 2-3 minutes or until the buttercream feels smooth, velvety and stiff.
- Add in the raspberry preserve and whisk until incorporated.
For the Raspberry Syrup
- 50g castor sugar
- 50ml water
- 1 tbsp raspberry liqueur
- In a small saucepan combine water and sugar and heat on low heat until sugar dissolves and the mixture reduces to form a slightly thick consistency, approx 10 minutes.
- Mix in the alcohol.
For the Fondant Butterflies
For the fondant butterflies you will need the following:
- small butterfly plunger cutter
- silicone mat
- A4 card paper
- fondant rolling pin
- white pearl shimmer
- food colour (pink)
- Icing sugar
- small artist brush
- 20g sugar paste/fondant
- Work the fondant in your hands until it loses it’s rigidity and becomes pliable.
- Add the food colour in tiny amounts while working the fondant until the desired colour is reached.
- Dust the mat with icing sugar lightly.
- Place the ball of fondant on the silicone mat and roll out to about 3mm thick. Keep it thin because if the butterfly is too heavy it may droop and not stay in place when decorating. Keep moving the fondant around to ensure it’s not sticking to the mat.
- Cut out the butterflies using the cutter by pushing the cutter in but before pulling it up again, press the plunger well into the fondant to produce good markings on the butterfly. Continue until all the fondant is used.
- Create a butterfly former by folding the card paper in half to create a line. Open it out and fold it half way to the mid section line from the longer side. Do the same with the other side. It should be able to stand on upright with ridges for the butterflies to fit into.
- Place the butterflies into the former so that the wings can dry creating a flying motion.
- Leave to dry overnight.
- Use the brush to dust on the pearl shimmer.
Note: For the assembly you will need an offset spatula, a cake card or board, ice-cream scoop, bench scraper and a pastry brush. The ice-cream scoop can be replaced with a tablespoon but I prefer the scoop to ensure that the butter-cream layers are of equal amounts. Keep a separate bowl available to clean out the spatula from time to time. This ensures that no crumb mixes into the bowl of fresh buttercream.
- Start by placing a cake board on a damp kitchen towel which will prevent the cake board from slipping. Smear some buttercream onto the card which will prevent the cake from slipping. Place the vanilla cake on the board and prepare to cut.
- Use a long sharp knife with a serated blade cut the cake in half by finding the midway point of the height. Gradually cut along the outside of the cake to mark where it will be cut. Once it’s marked, hold the cake steady from the top without pressing too hard on the cake and cut the cake using a very light hand. Use very subtle cutting motions so that the cake produces less crumbs. Don’t press into the cake with the knife instead slice gently all the while rotating the cake using the free hand. Keep going around till the knife meets the starting point where the first cut was made. At this point the knife will naturally slip deeper into the cake until it gets all the way through. Once it goes all the way through, the first layer should come away easily. Use a spatula to lift it off without breaking it.
- Repeat this step for the raspberry flavoured cake. This time place the cake on cutting board and prepare to cut. Once cut, set the two layers aside.
- Prepare to fill the layers by starting with the vanilla layer already on the cake board. Brush it with syrup, enough to moisten the cake.
- Place 3 scoops of buttercream in the centre of the first layer and smooth out using the spatula. Don’t despair if the buttercream goes beyond the edges of the cake as this excess will be used to cover the sides of the cake.
- Repeat this step with the next (pink) layer of cake and continue to the top.
- The topmost layer should the flattest layer with a neat table-top finish. Invert this layer so that the flattest part forms the top layer of cake. Scoop on the buttercream and spread until even.
- Spread butter-cream onto the sides and smooth out to form what’s known as the crumb coat. Crumb coats are to protect the outermost layer of frosting from crumbs. However this cake will not be frosted further than the crumb coat stage in order to create the naked effect so ensure that the spatula is cleaned out before it goes back into the bowl of buttercream.
- Before the sides are frosted, go down to eye level and check that the cake is perfectly straight and that the layers are not skew. Adjust if needed.
- Frost the sides with the spatula and fill in the edges where the layers meet, to join the layers. Take the bench scraper, hold it at a 20 degree angle at the side of the cake and run it around the cake to smooth off the sides.
- Position decorations to your preference using buttercream to attach the decorations.
*Below are some step by step pictures for a few more decorating ideas.