Lemon. Passion fruit. Vanilla. Butter, sugar, flour, eggs. You know that it’s going to be a good time. This Rose Quartz cake is my way of dedicating today, Leap Day, to beauty. That sounds a little dramatic. But I think it’s important to dedicate this extra day to something like art, or music, or beautiful cakes, or Pantone’s colours of the year. I want to take this day and force people to enjoy themselves in a totally frivolous, non-serious, life-loving way – because a spare day doesn’t come along that often. It’s one day every four years, to put our calendars back in balance. Wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone could use this day to put their heads back in balance a little bit too?
I’ve just been reminding myself more and more lately of all the beautiful, simple, complex, wonder of the world. The moon for the past few days has been absolutely stunning, coming out really early and beaming brightly against the pastel-smudged sunset sky. I ate a grapefruit for the first time the other day; it was amazing. And isn’t that a small wonder in and of itself? How did I manage to get to 25 years old and never eat a grapefruit? I had nothing against them. I love food. I’ve eaten a witchety grub, but not a grapefruit. It just never came up! It was awesome to be able to taste something I’d never had before.
Cake decorating is kind of like my watercolour art. It’s what I do when I feel like busting out my creative impulses, taking a look at my ‘great design’ pinterest board and making something that just pleases me. These bright pink smudges, and crazy rose-quartz coloured white chocolate bark make me happy. The whole 80’s pastels thing is in vogue at the moment and I absolutely love it, in case you haven’t noticed. I love how with layer cakes, you get to be doubly creative, in both the decoration and the flavours.
This cake is a classic white cake, made with egg whites and milk, making for a dense-crumbed, yet light and buttery cake. The layers are scented with vanilla bean and then soaked with pure passionfruit juice. The buttercream is sharp with lemon and fragrant with more vanilla, and then striated with torn raspberries throughout the filling. The white chocolate bark is fun and tall and covered in sprinkles and glitter and salty pretzels. All in all, this is a frivolous, completely extraneous unnecessary cake. But if you can’t eat unnecessary cake on Leap Day, when can you?
- 225g (8oz) butter, soft
- 2 cups (400g) caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- zest of 1 lemon
- 5 egg whites
- 3 cups (450g) plain flour
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1½ cups (375ml) milk
- 200g (7oz) white chocolate
- food colouring of your choice (pastes, gels or powders work best)
- sprinkles, pretzels, edible glitter, etc
- 400g (14oz) butter, soft
- 800g (28oz) icing sugar (powdered sugar)
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 punnet (125g) fresh raspberries
- 4 passion fruit, pulp strained through a sieve to get the juice
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Grease and line 4x18cm (7inch) cake tins (or use two and wash them between uses).
- Beat the butter, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest on a highe speed until very pale in colour. Continuing to beat, add the egg whites, a little at a time, until completely incorporated.
- Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt, and alternate adding this dry mixture and the milk, to the creamed butter and egg whites, beginning and ending with the flour.
- Divide the mixture evenly between the tins, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden and springing back when touched. Remove from the tins and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the bark, line a baking sheet (which fits in your fridge) with baking paper. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl in 30 second bursts in the microwave, and then divide between three bowls. Dye one of the bowls quartz with blue food colour, and another pale rose pink.
- Pour all three bowls of chocolate, randomly, onto the baking sheet, and then smooth out into a large rectangle, swirling the colours together. Sprinkle over pretzels, sprinkles, edible glitter, or whatever you like. Place in the fridge to set.
- To make the butter cream, beat the butter until light and creamy. Add half the sugar and beat again until creamy and light. Finally, add the remaining sugar, vanilla and zest and beat until pale and thick. Finally, beat in the lemon juice, to achieve a thick, but spreadable consistency. If needed, add more lemon juice or some milk.
- Remove ¼ cup of the buttercream and dye pink with food colouring. Place one layer of cake onto a serving plate, and soak with ¼ of the passionfruit juice. Top with enough buttercream to make a 1cm/ ½ inch layer, and spread to the edges. Tear over ¼ of the raspberries and press them in. Repeat with the next two layers, and then finally top with a naked layer of cake. Spread a thin layer of frosting all over the cake, to lock in the crumbs, and place in the fridge to set for at least an hour.
- Finally, coat the entire cake with the remaining frosting, getting it as smooth as you can. Go over and dab tiny swipes of the pink frosting around the edges and top of the cake. Break the bark into large shards and stab them into the top of the cake. Add a few raspberries and serve.