Last week my mum's friend, Alice, celebrated her 40th birthday. She had a lovely party at a nearby village pub, especially as we could spill out into the sunshine to catch the last rays on the village green to the beat of her bongo-drumming friends with a pint of cider. It was really rather idyllic.
A few weeks ago I heard that she wasn't going to have a cake, so I jumped at the opportunity and offered my services. I wanted to branch out from my normal chocolate birthday cake and make a summery, light version. In the end I created this, a mish-mash of various recipes and luck - but it came out beautifully. I tried a new buttermilk sponge recipe, which I ended up not overly happy with as it ended up a bit heavy, but that's easily rectified by reverting to my trustworthy old recipe, which I've put below. The recipe seemed to overcomplicate everything yet not improve upon a simple recipe.
I bought myself some beautiful new square cake tins, in 6" and 9", when I was in London and I couldn't wait to try them out. They're amazing - though I think I overfilled them and so the mix didn't rise evenly - or maybe I'll just blame it on the recipe! Still, the square is great - it's really fun to work with a new shape.
I played with the white chocolate ganache mixture I used for mum's birthday cake, upping the white chocolate in the ratio to thicken it. I was intending to use that as the icing, but it ended up so yellow from the lovely white chocolate and I didn't have enough, so I decided to improvise a buttercream. I didn't really have a recipe, as the two books I have with me don't really have one, and I didn't have internet access. Luckily it came out nicely, though I still stand by my feeling that buttercream is too sweet. I think it might be rather weird to have chucked in lime juice, vanilla and the ganache, but it felt right at the time and seemed to work! As a result of it all being rather hurried and adding icing sugar etc till I felt it was right/tasted good, I don't think the recipe below is exactly what I used - you would have to go on your own instincts there.
I froze the cake layers for a few hours while I made the icings, which made them much easier to deal with. When it came to assembling it, I smeared a little ganache onto the middle of the cake board to help secure it, then placed strips of baking parchment around the edges to keep it free from icing. I used a big serrated knife to cut the frozen layers in half, then proceeded to sandwich it all together.
For the fillings between layers I first spread a thick layer of the white chocolate ganache, then arranged the strawberry slices and blueberries on top, before spreading a layer of whipped cream on top. Between the two halves I just used the ganache, and then used the ganache again to fill in the gaps and give a first crumb coat - see below. I then properly crumb coated and topped the whole thing with the buttercream and more fruit.
Summer Fruit and White Chocolate Layer Cake
For the cakes (6"/9"):
110g/275g caster sugar
1/2.5 heaped tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 170C. Line/grease and flour tins. Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then add eggs one at a time with a tablespoonful of flour, beating well between each addition. Fold in the rest of the flour and baking powder until combined. If needed, add a little hot water. Pour into the tin and spread out evenly. Bake for about 25-30 mins, though the 9" may need longer, or until they are golden and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for five minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
For the ganache:
300g (best quality) white chocolate
150ml double cream
150ml creme fraiche
Heat the cream and creme fraiche in a saucepan until nearly boiling. Meanwhile break the chocolate into a bowl. Take the cream mix off the heat and pour onto the chocolate. Make sure all the chocolate is submerged then leave for a few minutes before stirring until thickened and smooth. Leave to thicken in the fridge.
For the buttercream:
250g unsalted butter
500g icing sugar
2 tbsp white chocolate ganache, above
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp lime juice
Beat butter in mixer until paler, then add the icing sugar and beat until fluffy. Add in the ganache and beat well, followed by the lime juice and vanilla. Leave to set slightly in the fridge before using.