Baby A turned 18 months recently and while we know that it isn’t technically a birthday, it is an important milestone for babies and parents, plus we like any excuse to make and eat cake! This one has 4 parts – A basic three tier ombre sponge base , raspberry buttercream, white chocolate ganache drip and meringue kisses to top it off.
Making a cake like this was pretty laborious , but so rewarding and we learn so much every time we make a new type of cake- we thought we’d share the recipe and some tips from our trials. Start early (a day or two ahead even ) when you want to make a meringue kisses cake. The kisses can be made a few days in advance and stored in an airtight container.You can make the sponges a day or two ahead and the buttercream at least a day ahead , that way you space out the work – then just assemble the night before on the big day itself. You could make a simple syrup (this one’s from cakesbakesandcookies.com) to drench the sponge in to keep it from drying out as well.
The meringue kisses are a bit of work and meringues are technically a little difficult (we’re still learning!), but we used this recipe from Bakerella (it’s a ‘Meringue girls’ recipe) which seems to have turned out quite decently, just follow the instructions carefully. Use gel colour if possible instead of liquid to colour the kisses – liquid might alter the consistency of the meringues. We’re planning to try the Italian meringue method soon and will post the outcome.
You’ll find lots of different chocolate ganache recipes for dripping on cakes- some use more cream , more chocolate etc. We wanted something easy to drip but still rich enough in taste , so 2 parts chocolate to 1 part cream seemed to have worked best. We probably could have done a little better with our dripping technique but it’s not too bad for the first time! If you are unsure about how ‘drippy’ you want the ganache to be, just keep a little extra chocolate and cream on hand so you can adjust the consistency, which is fairly easy to do with ganache.
We find that 41/2 -5 cups of buttercream is generally safe amount for a three tier cake. You may have some leftover, but it’s always better to have more than less when it comes to frosting to account for any errors. We flavoured our buttercream with raspberry jam, to give it a nice sweet sour taste and a lovely rosy colour. It also made the buttercream quite sweet on top of the icing sugar , but the proportion of icing sugar to butter is important to give the frosting the stiffness needed to frost so don’t cut down on the icing sugar unless you are confident your frosting will maintain it’s texture with less icing sugar. We also like to chill the bowl that we use to make the buttercream – just to keep the process as cool as possible.
We’ve learnt that it’s also important to work with feel when it comes to buttercream- add the sugar, milk, jam or any other flavouring slowly- keep whipping and observe the consistency as you go along. Once you reach the desired consistency, stop. If you find later on that it’s not right, you can still add more of what you need and whip again. But you can’t go back once you’ve added too much.
We picked up this tip at a course at culinary school to prevent icing sugar/cream/milk/eggs etc. from flying and splattering all over the place when whipping – if you are using a hand mixer to whip up the buttercream, cover the bowl you are using with clingwrap leaving just a bit of space to insert the hand mixer. Seems pretty simple, but it’s just one of those things we don’t think of doing!
If you have difficulty frosting the traditional way -with an offset spatula, try using a piping bag to pipe on the frosting first, then even out with your bench scraper or icing smoother. With this method, you can skip the crumb coating part too, which we personally find to be a real pain to do! Check out this video to see how it’s done for an ombre cake. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect-messy , naked cakes all the rage now!
Makes one 3 -tier cake
100g melted chocolate for dipping the kisses (optional)
Coloured rice / balls/starts etc for decorating the kisses (optional)
Sponge Cake (Recipe from 80 Cakes around the world)
340g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
340g caster sugar
340g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
A few drops of gel food colour of your choice
2 cups unsalted butter , softened at room temperature
4-5 cups icing sugar, finely sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons milk
2-3 tablespoons raspberry jam
White chocolate ganache drip
200g white chocolate
100g heavy cream
2 piping bags with nozzles of different shapes and a coupler ( 1 bag for piping the kisses and another for the piping the buttercream). The coupler will allow you to use the same piping bag for the kisses and just change the nozzle if you want different designs
Three 18 cm sandwich or sponge tins
Offset Spatula & Bench Scraper for frosting
Silicone mat for the meringue kisses after dipping in chocolate
Start with the meringue kisses , a few days ahead if possible. Once you have the kisses made as per the linked recipe, dip the bases in the cooled melted chocolate and rotate slightly to get the excess chocolate to drip off. Then you can either dip them in the coloured rice directly or lightly sprinkle the bases with the coloured rice. The set them down on the silicone mat to let the chocolate harden. Store them in an airtight container and in the fridge if you live in a hot or humid environment.
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Grease and line the tins with parchment paper. Then grease again and flour , dusting off any excess.
Sift flour and baking powder together and keep aside
Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixer , starting with medium speed and then moving to high, until light and fluffy.Add the eggs, bit by bit, beating well. Fold in the flour and baking powder with a large metal spoon.
Now the colouring part; add one or two drops of colour into the batter and gently fold in until uniform. Then spoon out a third of the batter into one of the prepared cake tins – set aside. Add another drop or two into the remaining batter and fold again. Then spoon out half of the newly coloured batter into another prepared tin. Do this a third time to get the final sponge. Needless to say, you can add more drops of colour to each batter or do different colours if you like too. Just be careful with the amount you are spooning out into each tin – make them as equal as possible so you get even cakes at the end.
Level the surfaces of the cake with a spatula and bake for 20-30 minutes until the edges have shrunk away from the sides of the tins and the tops spring back slightly when pressed. Let them cool in the tins , then turn out onto wired racks to cool completely.
Beat the butter on medium speed in a electric mixer or use a hand whisk until creamy.
Add the first 3 cups of sugar gradually, beating on a slower speed. Then beat on medium for another minute or two.
Add the milk and vanilla extract slowly on low speed again and combine well. Now’s the time to check the consistency. If you want it firmer, gradually add the remaining sugar , beating on low speed. Stop when you achieve the desired consistency.
Then beat in the raspberry jam. Whip everything together until creamy.
Pop the buttercream in the fridge if you don’t plan to frost immediately. Just take it out ahead of time and stir it before using.
White chocolate ganache drip
Make before using and allow to cool before dripping
Warm the cream in a small pan. Remove it from the heat and stir in the chocolate until completely melted. Set aside to cool.
Assembling the cake
Place a cake base on the turntable and drop a bit of jam in the centre to stick the sponge on.
Place the first sponge layer on top. Then using the offset spatula, place a big dollop of frosting in the centre of the sponge and smooth out with the spatula. Try to make the layer of buttercream as even as possible. It’s ok if some spills out onto the sides as we will be frosting the outside as well. When frosting, just remember that the spatula should stay on top of the frosting and not touch the cake. This will help to prevent cake crumbs getting mixed in with the buttercream. Just repeat ‘don’t touch the cake’ as you frost- so you don’t forget!
Repeat with the other layers.When you have all the layers in place, use the piping bag method to frost the outside of the cake and even out with the bench scraper.
When your cake is completely frosted, you will need to put it in the freezer for 15 minutes, keeping it on the turntable if possible, to cool before dripping the ganache (I’d like to try this without freezing next time, because I find that freezing tends to dry the sponges out a little).
When the cake is cold, take it out of the freezer. Using a spoon, drip the ganache, a little at a time all along the edges of the top of cake. Go slow so you can control the drip. Then using the spoon again, fill the centre of top of the cake too, so it’s completely covered. Check out this video to see how it’s done.
Top with the meringue kisses and pop back in the freezer to allow the chocolate to set.
Don’t forget to bring the cake to room temperature before eating.
We’d love to hear your experiences with meringue kisses cakes too, so please share your advice with us!
x Anu & Suba