Friday, February 25, 2011

Neopolitan Layer Cake/Cassata cake/Sumi is Seven!

My little sister, Sumi, is turning out to be a handful. For her seventh birthday, she asked if she could choose her own cake. Thinking it'd be a batch of vanilla cupcakes or similar, I gamely agreed. Serves me right. She chose a cassata style cake, with layers of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry sponge sandwiched with strawberry jam and finished off with peaks of Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Even typing it out tires me.

She wouldn't change her mind. She said please countless times. She promised to help. So I agreed. I'm such a softy (Kidding. Only endomorphishly soft, thanks to the cake batter I consumed).

I also ensured I took a billion photos, so I could remind her in the future. When I needed a favour. You know, like in The Godfather.

OK, I know I'm pushing it. The many, many hours it took to turn out this lopsided cake has obviously fried my brain a little bit. However, it was a labour of love, and Sumi loved it, so it was time well-spent.

This cake has both the devil and the angel in it. The strawberry layer tastes fantastic, the vanilla layer flopped like a terrible movie during the World Cup, and the chocolate was hovering the dangerous line between bittersweet and bitter (if I hadn't use a strong decoction, it'd have been fantastic). The vanilla cake, I tried to halve, but the yield of the batter wasn't enough to make a thin layer of cake. Plus it was crunchy and macaron-like; it added another dimension and sweetness to the cake, though, so don't skip it. Substitute with another sponge cake recipe if you find it too taxing.

Got the sister-in-law to separate the eggs for me!
  All these facts get blown away by the wonderment that is Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I've always been a little wary of it; I can't even separate egg whites and yolk. I don't even like Buttercream; I'm a ganache girl all the way.

But. Try whipping up a batch. It's difficult, what with the long, long duration of beating. It redeems any other disaster you've been responsible for. You can hoodwink people into think you're an awesome baker. And you have an excuse to make ice-cream; you don't want to waste the egg yolks now, do you?

And make sure there's something on TV. It gets boring when you have to wait for each layer to bake. I caught up on Idol.

A 2-hour episode. Fun!

I'll keep my jibber-jabber to a minimum in this post, because the recipe is longer than my notes on the various types of Gastrectomies.

Neopolitan Layer Cake:

For the strawberry Swiss Meringue buttercream:

1½ cups fresh strawberries, chopped.
4 large egg whites, cold.
1¼ cups sugar (granulated white is fine)
1½ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Pulse/Blitz all the strawberries until completely smooth.

Bring water to a boil in a small vessel. Over that, place a heatproof, larger vessel with the egg whites and sugar. Whisk with the fork until it looks like the sugar granules have melted into the egg whites.

Take the bowl off the double-boiler and beat with a hand-mixer on med-high (speed 4) until you have stiff Swiss Alps-style peaks. About 8-10 minutes, minimum, by which time the bowl would have cooled down.

If you have a stand-mixer/KitchenAid, good for you/I hate you! Don't even try this by hand, it's a lost cause.

Divide the butter into 6 portions and keep adding it to the egg mix, one portion at a time, while beating on medium (speed 3).

When the mix looks like this, stop. Add in the strawberry puree, beat until well-combined.

If your swiss meringue frosting looks like this, DO NOT PANIC.

It isn't curdled/split. The mechanics are weird, but it will come together as you keep beating it for 5 minutes more. I almost abandoned this frosting, but I'm glad I persevered.

Wrap the bowl with cling film and refrigerate until needed.

For the Cakes:

Chocolate cake:


¾ cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
6 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar, powdered.
¼ cup vegetable oil.
1 large egg
½ cup black coffee
½ cup thin yogurt
1½ tsp. vanilla extract


Grease and flour a round pan (9"). Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius.

In a bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Keep aside.

In a big bowl, beat the egg, vegetable oil and sugar on medium high for 2 minutes until smooth. Fold in half the dry ingredients. Fold in the coffee, buttermilk and vanilla essence until just smooth. Fold in the remaining dry ingredients until just combined.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, and flip out on a tray.

Strawberry Cake/The Ewart School Cake:


1¼ cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour (maida)
1¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
50 g readymade Strawberry Jelly/Jello mix, uncooked.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
½ cup milk
1½ tsp. vanilla essence
½ cup chopped strawberries.


Make a puree with the chopped strawberries and a couple of tablespoons of sugar.

Grease and flour a 9" round pan. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Keep aside.

In a bigger bowl, beat the sugar, strawberry jelly mix and butter on medium high for 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

I just emptied half the sachet of the Jelly powder into the batter.

All I could think of was my kick-ass school!
 Fold in half the dry ingredients. Fold in the milk and vanilla essence. Add the remaning dry ingredients, until just combined. Mix in the strawberry puree.

Pour the prepared batter and bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes, flip out on a tray.

For the white cake:


2 large egg whites
1¾ cup all-purpose flour (maida)
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup sugar, powdered.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup very cold water
1 tsp. vanilla essence.


Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius. Grease and flour a 9" round pan.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together; set aside.

In another small bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand-mixer until stiff peaks form; keep aside.

In a big bowl, beat the sugar and butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

Fold in half the dry ingredients until just combined.

Beat in water and vanilla essence until just smooth.

Fold in the remaining dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the stiff egg yolks until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool for ten minutes, flip out onto a tray.


Torte or divide the strawberry and chocolate cakes horizontally. This is easy to do when the cakes are completely cool; even easier if they've been refrigerated for a few hours.

Keep the white layer as a single entity.

The following order of layering is perfect if you're into visually appealing cakes.

Spread strawberry jam or a little of the swiss meringue buttercream over each layer and sandwich them all together.

Spread the whole cake with the frosting. Pipe a border or arrange some Maltesers/Strawberry Whoppers over the top.

Recipe Source: Annie's Eats.

That's the cross-section of the cake. The brat massacred it a little bit. Still did a better job at cutting out a wedge than I would have. Happy birthday, baby girl. You can choose your birthday cake next year, too. At French Loaf, maybe?