Phew! This weekend has been huge, I am thoroughly exhausted. But it’s the good kind of exhausted from having done and seen so much, and having learned so much, and from having a lot of fun. But I will start at the start! A friend at work asked if I could whip up a gluten-free cake for her. She makes and sells the most amazing fondant decorated cakes on request and this time had been asked to make a gluten-free birthday cake, but with less than her usual set aside time to prepare. I agreed even though this would be the first time I would be making a cake to sell. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I made a test cake – as I haven’t really ever tried coloured sponge cakes before. I wanted to get approval on the flavour, texture and height of the sponge before making the final pieces for the actual birthday cake. Well the feedback was a huge help! There’s something to be said for having a whole work team to taste test!
I upped the sweetness of the cake, as per the feedback, and did a little research on how to bring the moisture back into it. I discovered a lot about sponge cakes in the process. Sponge cakes made on nothing but eggs, sugar and a little flour or starch are also known as foam cakes and are often soaked with a simple syrup – a combination of sugar and water, in order to make them moist and to add flavour. I was too nervous to add a lot of syrup, so I created a simple vanilla syrup and gently brushed the cut tops of each cake to add a little moisture and flavour. I plan to test how much syrup to use in more depth in the future as I want this to become my go-to sponge cake. I swapped regular sugar for caster sugar, potato starch for cornflour – as I couldn’t guarantee the potato starch hadn’t been processed in gluten or wheat contaminated plants, and figured out how to bring a nice pink colour to the sponge despite how the cake was made through folding egg whites into the egg and sugar base.
Christina then came over. She had brought a lot of her supplies, and her knowledge, and showed me what we were going to create. An ombre rose cake with a pink theme. I have seen these gorgeous creations before but had never been able to produce one. First things first – we made the icing. I have never been more grateful for having that stand mixer than I was when we whipped up the most enormous batch of buttercream the world has ever seen. We must have used about three and a half sticks of unsalted butter and about a kilogram of icing sugar before we were done! We then started on separating the icing so as to make the three different shades of pink. One bowl’s worth remained white, for the crumb coating, we then added a dash of red and pink colouring to it to get a dark pink colour, made another bowl a slightly paler pink, and for the last bowl made it quite a pale pink – adding more butter and icing sugar to pale it further.
Christina showed me how to test the buttercream was the right texture for piping. We beat the life out of it in the stand mixer, until the sugar had dissolved, and then ran a knife through the mix. If it folded in on itself it was still too wet. She also showed me how to set up the cake, how to pipe the roses, how to fill the gaps between them, and more! Happy FF!
Adapted from Food52’s
Serves: 8-10, Prep: 40-45 mins, not including the syrup, Cook: 35 mins
- 6 eggs, separated
- 150g caster sugar
- 150g cornflour (gluten free), sifted
- A couple of drops of pink gel food colouring or red gel food colouring
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- Preheat the oven to 160C (Fan-forced) and grease and line 23cm springform cake tin. Make sure the base is lined with baking paper to held the cake not stick.
- Beat together the yolks and half the sugar until extremely pale and creamy, about 10 minutes. The longer you beat, the fluffier the cake. When you’re close to being done, you add in a few drops of the gel food colouring to achieve a nice pink colour. I used red food colouring for this, but pink would work better.
- In a separate bowl, beat the whites until fluffy. Add the remaining half of the sugar a little at a time, making sure to give a few seconds between each addition. Then continue beating until stiff peaks form. You know the egg whites are done when you can tip the bowl upside down and the egg whites don’t move or fall out.
- Once again, when you’re close to being done, add in a few drops of food colouring to achieve a strong pink colour. I do this sooner to avoid over-beating the egg whites.
- Gently fold some of the egg whites into the yolk mixture to loosen it, then sift over and fold in some of the cornflour, then some of the whites, etc. Continue alternating this way until you have a fluffy batter and no cornflour is left visible.
- Pour into the cake tin and bake for up to 35 mins or until well risen and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for up to five minutes in the pan.
- This cake can be quite delicate, so I learned the best way to get it out and onto the cooling rack is to tip it while it’s still inside the cake tin so you don’t risk squishing the sides. You cover your hand with a clean tea towel and tip the cake out onto your hand. Remove the strip of baking paper from the base and then gently place the cooling rack on the base of the cake and flip it back over.
- To help the cake not stick to the cooling rack you can put thin strips of baking paper on the cooling rack, or put a clean tea towel on it.
- Set the cake aside to cool.
- Now make the syrup.
- Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, stir through the vanilla bean paste and let cool completely before using.
- Gently remove the very top of the sponge cake, you might only need to remove about a millimeter or so to make it flat. Then take a brush and gently brush the top of the cake with the vanilla syrup. Clean the brush between goes, so that no crumbs get into the syrup. That way you can store the leftovers in a sterile container in the fridge. You can use as much or as little syrup as you like, but it will give flavour and moisture to the cake and help stop it from being quite so dense.
- Set the cake aside.
- If using to make an Ombre rose cake, double this recipe.
Ombre Rose Cake Tutorial
Makes: 1 rose cake, Prep: Can take several hours, Chill: Overnight
- 2 sponge cakes, see recipe above
- up to 800g unsalted butter
- up to 1kg icing sugar
- Gel based food colouring of choice.
- 1 cake board, at least 25cm wide or more.
- At least 3 piping bags
- A 1M piping tip
- An Offset spatula
- A decorating turn table, or lazy susan.
- To create the buttercream, beat the butter until pale and fluffy. Add in the icing sugar and beat until well combined. The sugar should have dissolved, and if you run a knife through the mixture it should hold it’s shape and not fall back in on itself.
- Divide the buttercream into three bowls, but leave a generous amount in the mixing bowl for the crumb coating.
- Spread a little buttercream on the centre of the cake board to hold the base cake in place and place the cake board on your decorating table.
- Place the base sponge cake with the cut, syrup soaked side up onto the cake board. Spread a thin layer of buttercream onto the base cake, and pop the top cake on top – syrup soaked side up or down – it didn’t seem to make a difference for us,
- Now finish the crumb coat. Take the buttercream and spread a thin layer over the top and sides of the cake, making sure all the gaps are filled and smooth. Don’t panic if you can see some bits of the cake, just make sure that the whole surface of the cake is even.
- Now colour your leftover buttercream. Make the first bowl the darkest colour, as this will be the base of the cake. Make the second bowl noticeably lighter, and the third the lightest shade.
- Fit your piping bag with the 1M tip, and fill it with the darkest buttercream.You can pipe some testers on some baking paper if you like, because you can always scrape that icing back into the bag.
- Start on the bottom third of the cakes. Placing even pressure on the piping bag, pipe a small spot of buttercream onto the side of the cake, then while continuing to place that even pressure, draw a spiral from that starting spot in a clockwise direction. Our roses were small, so we only needed to go around the starting spot once or twice. Relax the pressure and pull back to finish the rose.
- Repeat this process all the way around the cake to create the bottom ring of roses. You want the sides of the roses to touch. But don’t worry if small gaps appear above or below where the roses touch, we’ll get to that.
- Now take the second darkest batch of icing, and once again pipe a ring of roses around the cake above the first. You want these roses to touch the bottom ring, and to touch each other.
- Take the lightest batch of icing and repeat the piping step. But this time you’ll be in the top third of the cake, so make sure the tops of these roses touch the top of the edge of the cake.
- On top of the cake, start with the lightest icing. Pipe a ring of roses around the outside. Moving inwards, pipe another ring of roses with the second darkest icing, and again – with the very darkest icing pipe a ring of roses to fill the centre of the cake.
- Now we’re going to fill any gaps where the white peeks through. On the very base ring, use the darkest icing and pipe little spots into any gaps where there is white. Repeat this step, using the appropriate coloured icing, as you move up the cake.
- Once the cake is covered and touched up, pop it into an airtight container or a cake box and store it in the fridge overnight. Allow to come more to room temperature before serving.
- You can also pop each bowl of buttercream into the fridge to keep it stiff before you need to use it, and I recommend doing this if it’s a hot day.
- NOTE: If you don’t like the rose, use an offset spatula to gently scrape it off the cake and start again. This is a much more forgiving technique than you’d think.
- And voila, your rose cake is done!