I very rarely bake any thing that is both totally delicious and totally gorgeous. And that’s not false modesty. Occasionally I make some particularly pretty biscuits which taste … fine. More often I make a great tasting loaf or cake or pudding which gets no more dressing up than a dollop of yogurt when I eat a slice.
But recently I’ve been harboring ideas of grandeur, drawing out ideas, saving pictures of cakes I like the style of, trying the same cake in a few different shapes and styles. This cake started about 8 months ago, as a a Lorraine Pascale inspired genoese cake. I loved the idea of using a syrup to brush the sponge, but wasn’t so keen on the genoese. I think a cocktail cake needs more density to carry off a good kick of lime. I then made a gluten free version in a loaf tin, which I just soaked in the syrup like a lemon drizzle cake. It was good but still not right! Lily Vanilli’s instagram feed and cookbook have turned me on to decorating with natural things like fruit, flowers and herbs and I’ve always loved the drama of an ombre cake, but never had the balls to attempt it.
Finally the last piece fell into place: it was my friend Keith’s birthday, and I wanted to make him a really, really good cake.
All that playing around and thinking really made the difference. The finale cake was 5 layers of lime sponge, with a mojito syrup brushed over them, covered in lime buttercream and topped with homemade crystallised mint leaves and candied lime slices, home grown nasturtium flowers, lime zest and some tiny silver balls. Boozy, decadent and delicious!
My main learning from all of this is that I need to plan better and let ides mature before I dive in head first. My battered and batter-stained notebook has currently got a few more ideas sketched out, and I’ll start working on the next big showstopper.
I do have one small admission – originally the buttercream was supposed to be a Swiss meringue style. The first time I tried making it the whole process went brilliantly, and I got cocky. This time after two hours of trying every fix I could find online, I finally resigned the sloppy mess to the bin and brought out an ol’ faithful buttercream recipe. Maybe I need to make just one more version…
An equal weight of caster sugar, self-raising flour, and butter at room temperature
Zest of 3 limes
Juice of 2 limes (approx 160ml) you might need a few more limes depending how juicy they are
160ml dark rum
Small bunch fresh mint leaves
Frosting (enough to fully frost this 5 tier cake with some left over)
1kg icing sugar
320g butter, at room temp
33ml lime juice
Green and blue food gel colourings
Big pinch of salt
Frosted mint leaves
Candied lime slices
1 lime, thinly slices
Sugar syrup to cover (2 parts sugar to 1 part water)
Make the frosted mint leaves
- Whisk up the egg white until frothy.
- Paint a thin layer on a leaf and coat lightly with sugar. Leave to dry overnight. Repeat until you have enough mint leaves.
Make the cakes
- First thing to do is preheat the oven to 170C (this is for my very hot fan oven, so you might need to go slightly higher if you know you have a normal oven).
- Now I only have three cake tins the same size, so I baked in two batches. Or if you have 5 tins and a huge oven, knock yourself out and do it all at once! You could bake bigger cakes and split them if that’s easier.
- Weigh your eggs and make a note of the weight. Now weigh out an equal amount of butter, sugar and SR flour.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until creamy and light. Add the eggs one at a time, (with a little of the flour if your eggs are still cold to stop it splitting). Then mix in the rest of the flour and lime zest.
- Split the cake between your tins. Remember to reserve some mix if you’re cooking in batches.
- Cook for about 20-25 mins, until a toothpick comes out clean. Then do your second batch. Leave the cakes to cool completely.
Make the syrup
- While the cakes are in the oven, make the syrup. Put all the ingredients except for the mint in a small pan, heat up and stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Once it’s done, leave to cool down with the mint leaves in.
Make the frosting
- Put the icing sugar, salt and butter in a stand mixer and mix on low until the butter is mixed in and there are no large lumps. Then add the milk and mix til combined. Then add lime juice and beat on high for about 10mins until light and fluffy.
- Take out about 1/3 of the white frosting and reserve.
- Now you need to make 4 bowls of frosting increasing in greeness. Add a drop or two of green gel food colouring and beat until combined to a very light green. Take out a few heaped tablespoons and put in a bowl. Add a few more drops and beat to a darker green, take out a few tablespoons again and put in a separate bowl. Repeat. For the last colour, add a drop of blue to get a good dark colour.
- Using a bread knife, level off your 5 cake levels. (Then eat the off its to check it tastes good. And as a little treat to you.) with a pastry brush, brush syrup over each side of each cake.0
- Start stacking and filling the cake with the white buttercream. Only puta thin layer of frosting in between (it’s pretty sweet), and try and get it as level as you can. Once all 5 cakes are stacked, do a crumb coat. There are some excellent tutorials of how to do this, and mine will not be as good! Chill down in the fridge until the frosting has set.
- Use this Ombre tutorial to do the ombré frosting effect. Make sure you’re organised! Get it all meaasured out before you start or you’ll be covered in frosting on the te floor before you know it.
- Decorate to your heart’s content