30th Birthday Cake

This summer I turned 30.
We were having a big picnic with friends & family so I wanted to make a cake that was summery and fresh to fit the event. As much as I love chocolate, I didn’t want anything too overly indulgent or rich, or anything that might end up melting into a giant mess! I went back & forth several times over what flavour buttercreams & fillings I wanted, but in the end I decided on this lemon frosted vanilla cake filled with vanilla cream & a strawberry, rhubarb and lavender jam. IMG_20140616_162046
As you can see, I topped it off with some fresh mint & edible flowers from Jean Talon market (from the mushroom stall guy, inside) and a couple of leftover berries. It turned out better than I though it would and fortunately it survived an afternoon in the blazing outdoor sunshine with no problems. As did we, after several glasses of pimms & margarita cocktails…                                                                                                                                                                    IMG_20140616_162138IMG_20140616_161731

Lemon frosted vanilla cake filled with vanilla cream & strawberry, rhubarb & lavender jam

This cake was inspired by this recipe from the super talented cake baker, Sweetapolita and the recipes from the gorgeous Sweet Tooth cookbook by Lily Vanilli

300ml buttermilk
4 eggs + 2 egg yolks
2tsp vanilla extract
400 g sugar
350g cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
5 g bicarbonate of soda
15 g baking powder
225g unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
Vanilla Cream
30 ml cold water
10 ml unflavoured gelatin powder/6 sheets
420 ml 35% whipping cream
30 g icing sugar
5 ml pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Strawberry, Rhubarb & Lavender jam
300g fresh strawberries, cleaned and chopped
2 medium stalks of rhubarb, cleaned and chopped
150 g sugar
20 ml fresh lemon juice
1 tsp dried culinary lavender (or 1/2 tsp lavender essence)
Pinch of salt
Lemon Buttercream Frosting
50ml whole milk
375 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
500 g icing sugar
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
  1. Cake:  Butter, line with parchment and lightly dust with flour, three 8 inch round cake pans. Preheat the oven to 180° C / 350° F.
  2. Mix together 1/3 of the buttermilk, the eggs, yolks and vanilla in a measuring jug. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together the sugar, flour, salt, soda and baking powder. Using a hand mixer slowly add the small chunks of cold butter on a low speed. Keep mixing until it resembles a fine polenta-like crumbly texture.
  4. Add the remaining buttermilk to this dry mix, and mix at a medium speed for a few minutes. Regularly scrape down the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the ingredients.
  5. Reduce to a low speed and gradually add in the egg mixture. Once it is well combined, mix on high for a minute.
  6. Using a scale, divide the cake batter evenly among the 3 prepared tins. Place the tins onto a baking sheet, and bake them, carefully rotating the tins after about 20 minutes to ensure they brown evenly. They should be ready after 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre.
  7. When ready, remove from the oven & let the cakes cool in their pans for 5 minutes. Loosen the sides and carefully turn them out & peel off the liners. Leave to fully cool on wire racks.
  8. Vanilla Cream Filling: In a small bowl, place the cold water and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. If using sheet gelatin, cover the sheets with cold water & leave to soak for 10 minutes.
  9. In a small saucepan, add 1/2 of the cream and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and then stir in the gelatin powder mixture  until the gelatin has dissolved. If using sheet gelatin, just squeeze out any excess water from the and then dissolve into the cream.
  10. Refrigerate for about 8 minutes, stirring it at least two or three times to prevent it from hardening into a panna cotta pudding.
  11. Whilst the mix is cooling, whisk the remaining cream with the icing sugar, vanilla and salt with a hand mixer. Once you have soft peaks, gradually add the gelatin mixture and beat until you have thick firm peaks of cream. Keep well covered and chilled in the fridge until needed.
  12. Jam compote: Set aside half of the strawberries and the lavender essence (if using it). Throw all the remaining ingredients into a saucepan and cook at a medium low heat. Stir frequently until the berries & rhubarb start to break down after about 10 minutes.
  13. Lower the heat and then add the remaining strawberries & essence, mashing them in with a fork.
  14. Fully chill the jam, before using.
  15. Lemon Buttercream Frosting: Cream the butter till pale & soft.
  16. On a low speed, mix in half the icing sugar, the milk & lemon zest. Once combined, add the remaining icing sugar and lemon juice and mix for 5 minutes till light and creamy in texture.
Assembling the cake
You will need a pastry bag
  1. Level & trim any crusty edges from the cake layers with a sharp serrated knife. I normally use a bread knife .
  2. Place your first cake layer, onto a cake stand or plate with at least an inch of space around it. Fill your pastry bag with about a cup of the lemon frosting and pipe a border around the top edge of the cake layer. This is to stop the vanilla cream and jam from oozing out.
  3. Spoon and spread 1/2 of the vanilla cream filling onto the cake, inside the border. Evenly & gently spread several tablespoons of the jam on top of the vanilla cream.
  4. Place the second cake layer on top and repeat the process until you come to your final cake layer. Lightly cover the cake in cling film and put it into the fridge for an hour.
  5. After the cake has chilled, ‘dirty ice’ the cake by applying a thin & even layer of the lemon buttercream to the entire cake, sealing in any crumbs. Chill again for 30 minutes.
  6. Apply the final layer of the buttercream frosting to the cake. To get a smoother surface, I tend to use either a normal blunt knife or rubber knife spatula for this.
  7. Top with fresh edible flowers (non-toxic), strawberries, herbs or the decoration of your choice. Serve at room temperature.

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