There are a lot of things that I like about being in the pastry field, but being able to create special order desserts for momentous occasions takes the the cake (ha, see what I did there). A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to design and develop this cake for my dear friend’s bridal shower, an event that will stay with her, and me, forever. It is such a privilege for me to be a part of someone’s important celebration and to create something beautiful that they will remember forever. My friend Lauren, who this cake was designed for, tends to gravitate towards lighter, more delicate flavors, and since it is winter, I knew I wanted to use some sort of citrus in this cake.
To make the cake layers, I used a base vanilla cake recipe. I steeped a few chamomile tea bags in the milk and strained it off before adding it to the batter. Then, to make sure that the tea flavor really came through, I brewed an extra cup of chamomile and used it to soak my cake layers after they came out of the oven. The blood orange mousse was made by folding blood orange curd into whipped cream. This curd recipe is super versatile and you can use any citrus that you want in place of the blood oranges.
As the person who scrapes the icing off of the top of the cupcake or eats around cake edges so that I never have a bite with too much frosting, I was sure that I didn’t want to use a traditional American buttercream for this cake. American buttercream is made with powdered sugar and is often cloyingly sweet, not my cup of tea. For this cake, I used a Swiss meringue buttercream, which is much lighter and more balanced than most traditional sugary frostings. It is made by heating sugar and egg whites over a double boiler until the eggs have been heated to a temperature safe for consumption and the sugar has dissolved. You then transfer it to a mixer and whip it to form a medium-stiff meringue. A hefty amount of butter is added, piece by piece, until the buttercream begins to come together. Finally, I tossed in a little mascarpone and vanilla to flavor it. Voila!
This is a delicious (and lovely) cake in which most of the components can be made ahead of time. I hope that it inspires you to make something beautiful and share it with someone you love!
P.S. This beautiful photo was taken by my good friend LJ, who is the most generous friend and photographer. She is always willing to come teach me how to take better photos and she makes my desserts look extra pretty.
Chamomile Cake with Blood Orange Mousse and Mascarpone Swiss Buttercream
Yield: 1 3 layer, 8” cake
for the mascarpone Swiss butter cream:
180 grams egg whites
210 grams granulated sugar
350 grams unsalted butter, very soft at room temperature
4 tablespoons mascarpone, at room temperature
for the blood orange mousse:
4 oz sugar
3 oz blood orange juice
1.5 oz water
Zest of 2 blood oranges
4.5 oz egg yolks
5 oz butter, softened
1 cup heavy cream
for the chamomile cake layers:
4 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups of milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla
4 tea bags of chamomile tea
to make the buttercream:
Place the egg whites and sugar in a heat proof and place over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Heat, whisking frequently, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 160 degrees.
Once it reaches temperature, transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and whip with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until medium-stiff peaks form and the meringue is glossy and smooth and has reached room temperature.
With the mixer running, add the butter, a little at a time, until completely combined. Switch to the paddle attachment and continue to beat until all the butter is incorporated.
Add the mascarpone cream and continue beating until thick and smooth. Set aside until ready to assemble the cake. Place the egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk by hand to combine.
to make the mousse:
Place the sugar, blood orange juice, water, and zest in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
In a separate, heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks. When the liquid is simmering, stream about 1/2 into the eggs, whisking continually to gradually raise the temperature of the eggs. Add the eggs back into the liquid, still whisking, and return to the heat.
Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and begins to thicken. Remove from heat and immediately strain through a mesh strainer. Add butter and whisk to combine.
Cover curd with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
When curd is cold, place heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on low-medium speed until bubbles begin to form, then increase to medium-high speed and whip to soft peaks.
Fold whipped cream into curd and return to the refrigerator until ready to assemble. Use as soon as possible, within 12 hours.
to make the cake:
Heat milk in a medium saucepan until bubbles begin forming around the sides. Add 3 tea bags to the simmering milk, cover with a lid, and remove from heat. Let steep, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove tea bags and strain milk, adding extra to return to its original volume if needed. Let cool until it reaches room temperature. Once milk cools to room temperature, add in lemon juice and stir.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 3 8” cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper rounds.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients and mix until well dispersed, about 30 seconds.
With the mixer on low speed, add the softened butter and 3/4 of the milk mixture. When the mixture has slightly combined, increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the rest of the milk and one egg. Beat for 30 seconds to combine, then add the additional egg and vanilla. Beat for another 30 seconds or until everything is combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once more.
Divide batter evenly into the prepared cake pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched and the sides of the cake begin to pull away from the pan.
Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pan and let cool on a cooling rack until room temperature.
While the cakes are baking, make the chamomile tea for soaking. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and add 1 chamomile tea bag. Let steep for 5-10 minutes.
to assemble the cake:
When cakes are cool, carefully slice the rounded top from each cake, creating 3 flat, equal layers.
Drizzle or brush the tops of each layer with the chamomile tea.
Place one cake layer on a cake board centered on a rotating cake stand. Pipe buttercream in a ring along the outside edge of the cake to create a barrier. Place about 1/3-1/2 cup of the blood orange mousse in the center of the cake and use a small offset spatula to spread the mousse into a smooth, even layer.
Place another layer of cake on top of the mousse and repeat step 3. Place the final cake layer on top.
Use an offset spatula or a knife to cover the outside and top of the cake with buttercream. Smooth the edges with a bench scraper.
Decorate with pretty (non-toxic) flowers and herbs.