Another Sunday, another cake. This one comes about by my urge to practice my piping skills. Did I say skills? Not quite. I have rarely piped icing before. Far too fiddly and I’m far too unskilled for it. But you will never improve if you don’t practice, so let’s start off easy. This cake is decorated with balls of cardamom buttercream and sprinkles of pistachio nuts for a truly middle-eastern flavour.
280g plain flour
170g butter, unsalted and softened.
3 large eggs (room temperature)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp of lemon juice
2 tsp orange extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
650g icing sugar
300g butter, unsalted and softened
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cardamom extract
pink food colouring
Pre-heat the over to 180°C (170°C fan)
Grease 3×8” pans and dust with flour, tapping away the excess to the bottom and sides of each pan is covered with a thin layer of flour.
Put the lemon juice in a measuring jug. Pour in the milk until it reaches the 250ml mark and sitr. Leave until needed. The lemon juice reacts with the milk and almost curdles it – this will create a light and fluffy sponge because of it’s acidity.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt all together into a bowl and set aside. Transfer the lemon zest to the sugar and rub together with your fingertips. This releases the lemony oils into the sugar. In a bowl, beat together the butter and sugar. I usually use a hand mixer or a stand mixer with paddle attachment – either works just as well.
Add the eggs to the mixture – one at a time, and mixing after each one until combined. Once all the eggs are combined and the mixture is nice and smooth, add the lemon, orange and vanilla extract. Balance it how you like – if you want orange to shine through as the dominant flavour, keep it how it is. If lemon, then adjust accordingly.
On a low speed, add in a third of the flour. With the mixer still going, slowly pour in half the milk, followed by the flour, the rest of the milk and the final third of flour. Scrape the bowl to make sure everything is combined.
Distribute the batter evenly into the three pans and bake for approx 30 minutes. Poke a skewer in the centre and if it comes out clean, the cake is done!
While the cakes are cooling, make the buttercream. In a mixer, with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until pale and fluffy. In 200g increments, add the icing sugar, beating on a low speed to avoid an icing sugar cloud! When all of the icing sugar is combined, add 3 tbsp of milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 tsp of cardamom extract and about half a cap of pink food colouring. I wanted a very pale pink, so opted for just a little but adjust to fit your preference. Beat again to loosen.
For the assembly: Once the cakes are completely cool, place a blob of buttercream onto your cake board to prevent the cake from moving while you ice it. On top of the first layer, add a dollop of the buttercream and spread evenly. Sit the second layer on top, pressing down slightly. Make sure the cakes are lining up at the sides. Add another dollop of buttercream onto the top of the second layer and smooth out. Finally, sit the third layer on top, bottom side up to ensure your cake has a completely straight top.
At this point, you want to crumb coat your cake: this locks in all the crumbs to when you spread your finished layer of buttercream, it doesn’t drag up any cake crumbs and ruin the smooth finish. You want spread a thin layer of the buttercream on the sides and the top of the cake – you should still see the edges of the cake through this layer. Sit the cake in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
20 minutes later, remove the cake from the fridge and spread on the remainder of the buttercream. Smooth it out – I recommend a cake scraper for this! You can get them at any cook store or online and they are relatively inexpensive. Once the sides and top were smooth, I transferred the unused buttercream to a piping bag, fit with a ½ inch round nozzle. Delicately pipe the round spots onto the cake – I found it worked best when I applied very little pressure and pushed inwards before pulling away. Work your way around the cake, layer by layer – it will take time. It’s worth noting, also, that I had to stop halfway through as the heat from my hand had begun to loosen the buttercream that was in the piping bag – keep an eye out and prepare to do it in two increments. Stop once you get the to top of the cake. You should have just enough icing.
For the decorating, I simply wizzed up some pistachios in a food processor and sprinkled them in a circle on the top of the cake.