I’ve made this cake more often than I can actually remember. It’s been my choice of birthday cake for the last few years (yes, I make my own birthday cake. Is that a bit sad?) and the cream is so nice and cool and it complements the light sponge really well and you will LOVE it. And even if you don’t think you’re great at cake decorating, putting a little ombre look on a layer cake is actually much easier than you might think. So go on, give it a go!
400g Plain Flour
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
4 Eggs (size M)
200g Caster Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Extract or Bean Paste
Green Food Gel
300ml Whipping Cream
1 tsp Vanilla Extract or Bean Paste
1/4 tsp Rosewater
70g Icing Sugar
10 tsp Cream Stiffener (you can use ground gelatine if you can’t get hold of cream stiffener
Pink Food Gel
150g White Chocolate
2 tbsp Vegetable or Coconut Oil
To start with we need to prepare our baking tins. I like to use 2 baking rings, set on 20cm diameter, and bake the sponges on a perforated baking tray as it makes them bake more evenly and I don’t have to grease them. You can use 4 sandwich tins, in which case you might have to adjust the baking time. I use a reusable non stick baking sheet but normal baking paper will do the job. Preheat the oven to 170 degree C.
Roughly chop the pistachios
In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer whip up eggs and Sugar until they’re really fluffy and light in colour. This may take 5-6 minutes. The cakes fluffiness relies on this process so don’t stop mixing until it’s a really thick mixture. Add the Vanilla extract and a good blob of green food gel (optional). While this is mixing, combine flour, salt and baking powder.
Turn the mixer down and slowly add buttermilk and oil. Only mix until fully incorporated. Then sieve in the dry ingredients and very carefully fold them in, along with the pistachios. We want to lose as little of the volume as possible when we do that. I use a whisk but a metal spoon or a very slow setting on the stand mixer will do as well.
Divide the mixture between the 2 baking rings (or 4 sandwich tins) and pull it up on the sides a little bit, it’ll again help the sponges bake more evenly.
Bake the sponges for around 30 minutes. They’re perfect when the top springs back when you lightly push a finger in. Let them cool down completely and then take them out of the baking rings. I use a blunt baking ring knife so my reusable baking mat doesn’t break.
I like to bake my sponges the day before, it’ll make it easier to cut them evenly. This is easiest if you’re using a cake leveller but you can use a bread knife by turning it on a turntable and very carefully cutting it a little bit at a time towards the middle.
To prepare the cream start by whipping the whipping cream, slowly adding 3 teaspoons of the cream stiffener. Don’t go all the way, soft peaks is fine and it doesn’t have to hold it’s shape. Then give the mascarpone a quick mix to break it up and then add the quark, vanilla extract, rosewater, icing sugar and slowly the rest of the cream stiffener. Finally add the whipping cream and mix in until the cream is stiff.
Divide the cream between 3 bowls of 300, 300 and 400 grams. Then add the pink food gel to them. You want to create three different shades of pink, the bowl with 400grams of the cream being the lightest in colour. Mix the colours in thoroughly and then to make the icing easier, put them into three piping bags.
Decorating a layer cake is easiest when using a turn table. Place the first half of one of your sponges on a cake lifter, or you can use the cake stand you’ll be serving the cake on, making sure its in the middle of your turntable. Use the bottom half of one of your cake to make sure the surface on the bottom is flat. Pipe a ring around the outer edge of the cake layer with the darkest colour, then fill the middle in and spread it out with a cranked pallet knife, turning the turntable slowly, until you have an even layer of cream on your sponge. Place one of the top halves of your sponges on top of this layer and then repeat with the second darkest colour. Place the last top half of your sponges on that layer and repeat with the lightest colour. Finish by placing the second bottom half of your sponges on top. This, again, gives us a completely flat surface.
Use your pallet knife to spread any cream that is coming out at the sides around the outside, then squirt a bit more of the lightest coloured cream around the whole of the outside of the cake and spread it out with a pallet knife. This is called the crumb coat and makes sure that any loose crumbs stick to the cake and won’t get into the final cream coat of the cake. When the cake is completely covered in a very thin (don’t use more than necessary) layer of cream put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to cool down.
When the cake is chilled stick it back on your turntable. Pipe a couple of lines of the darkest cream around the bottom of the cake, turning the turntable as you go, then repeat with the second darkest colour and then the light colour. To create the ombre effect use a cake scraper and, while holding it at a 90 degree angle to the cakeboard or cake stand, carefully scrape a small layer of the cream off. The ombre effect is starting to show as the colours mix a little bit in that process. If there are big holes in the cream, fill them in with more correspondingly coloured cream and repeat the process with the cake scraper until the outside is even.
Use the leftover cream to cover the top and smooth it out with a cranked pallet knife, using a larger one will make it easier to create a smooth surface by holding the knife completely level to the cake and turning the turntable at the same time. Use the cake scraper to carefully take off the overhanging cream on the top and then finally using the large cranked pallet knife again pull the cream on top towards the middle of the cake.
If the whole icing process was hard to understand make sure to watch the video, it’ll probably make things a bit clearer.
When the surface of the cake is completely smooth put it back in the fridge to chill for another 30 minutes.
For the drip melt 2/3 of the white chocolate over a bain marie (pot of simmering water with a heatproof bowl over it) and make sure the water doesn’t touch the bowl. When it’s just melted take it off the heat, stir in the remaining chocolate and oil and mix until everything is smooth. If you like the chocolate drip completely smooth add both tablespoons of oil, if, like me, you don’t like the chocolate too greasy and for it to have a bit of a crack, 1 tablespoon will do. You can use a piping bag to create the chocolate drip but a teaspoon works as well to push the melted chocolate over the edge of the cake.
When the cake is cool slowly add the chocolate around the outer edge of the top of the cake, slowly dripping it down the outside. When you’re happy with the look of the drip, put the rest of the chocolate in the middle of the top of the cake and spread it out with a spatula. Now put it back in the fridge to harden the chocolate and