I know, I know. I said I was going to write about carrot cake and crackling chocolate crackles. But then I realised it was my choir friend’s birthday, and because I am on holiday, I actually had time to make a cake! And I had this beautiful recipe for a turkish delight layer cake, with rose-flavoured cake in pink and white layers with rose flavoured cream in the middle, very simple, very lovely.
But then I thought, that’s going to be rather sweet, isn’t it? So I decided to make the pink cake rose, like the recipe suggested, but make the second cake pistachio. Which also makes it green, definitely a bonus. And then I thought – wait, whipped cream, in a four layer cake that has to travel for half an hour on public transport or, best case scenario, in a car. Hmm. Probably not a structurally sound idea…
So I decided to make a white chocolate and rose water mousse on a crème anglaise base instead. Because that is a totally rational thing to do.
After all, rational is what gets you the best cake result, don’t you think?
And this is an excellent cake result. It’s almost, but not quite, too sweet, with layers of rose and pistachio and mousse. The white chocolate is subtle, and somewhere along the way the mousse acquired a hint of cardamom. I have no idea how this happened, because I didn’t actually use any cardamom. I can only assume that the mousse knew that cardamom was required, and thus it created some through kitchen magic.
(Incidentally, I did an absolutely shocking job on the sponge cakes, mostly because I was too lazy to follow the recipe properly, but the nice thing about a layer cake like this is that nobody can tell because it’s all covered in happy happy rose and white chocolate mousse. Which is another win-win situation, really. So don’t be intimidated by this recipe. But maybe do try following it a little bit.)
Hooray for kitchen magic!
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For the cake
280 g butter
280 g caster sugar
280 g self-raising flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tablespoons buttermilk
75 g pistachios, coarsely ground
2 tsp rosewater
pink food colouring, but not as much as I used.
For the mousse
15 g gelatine powder
50 g hot water
645 g thickened cream (about 35% fat)
40 g caster sugar
135 g egg yolks (from about 11 eggs, I’m very sorry to say. Make some macarons with the egg white. Or a ginormous pavlova.)
190 g white chocolate, chopped or use buds
1 tbsp rose syrup
1 tbsp rose water (this really is to taste – start with a couple of teaspoons and then keep going)
Other sundry necessities
Quite a lot of rose jam, or raspberry jam in a pinch
Icing sugar for dusting
A handful of pink and yellow turkish delight, cut into small pieces
Now what will you do with it?
Preheat your oven to 180°C fan forced, and grease and line two 21 or 22cm round tins.
Start by softening the butter in the microwave, and then creaming it. Please do this properly. I didn’t and my cakes were a bit flat. Add the eggs, one by one (or two by two, like Noah’s ark), beating well until everything is smooth. Fold in the flour, baking powder and buttermilk, until you have a nice batter.
Divide the batter in half – it should weigh about 1150g at this point, so you could weigh 675g into one bowl if that helps. Fold the pistachios through one half of the batter and the rosewater and pink food colouring through the other half.
Scrape the batter into two tins, and bake for around 25 minutes, or until the cakes pass the skewer test. Cool completely. I mean it.
Use a serrated knife to split each cake horizontally in two. If you are feeling fancy, trim the edges so that the green and pink middles will show. Spread three cake halves with rose jam, leaving the last one plain – this will be the top of the cake, so make it your prettiest one!
Put the gelatin into a glass or ceramic bowl and pour over the hot water. The water should not be boiling – if it’s over about 80°, this will affect the setting properties of the gelatine. Whisk the water and gelatine together until smooth, and leave to stand.
Whip the cream into soft peaks – it should just hold its shape.
Measure out your ingredients – trust me on this, you really want to do this before you start. So put the milk and sugar into a smallish saucepan, the egg yolks into a smallish – medium bowl that will also hold most of the milk later, and the white chocolate and rose water into a big bowl that will hold everything. Put a sieve over the bowl with the white chocolate in it. Have a thermometer, a whisk and a spatula ready, and a plate to put them on.
Bring the milk and the sugar slowly to the boil. Whisk the egg yolks while you slowly pour the milk into them – this is to prevent them from scrambling, so it’s quite important! When the egg yolks and the milk are combined, clip the thermometer to the saucepan and pour the egg mixture back in. Stir constantly with the spatula- I mean it, this mixture wants to stick! – over low heat until the thermometer reaches 80-82°C. You want the mixture to get to 82, because it pasteurises at that level, but you don’t want it to get hotter, or you will have scrambled eggs again. So I find that taking the saucepan off the heat just after it hits 80 is a good plan.
Pour the custard through the sieve onto the chocolate, using the spatula to get as much through the sieve as you can. Yes, you probably do have some scrambled eggs in there. That’s why you used the sieve! The custard should melt the chocolate, but if it doesn’t, take to it with a stick blender, and that’ll learn it.
If your gelatine has gone solid, give it ten seconds in the microwave to get it liquid again, and pour it into the white chocolate mixture. Stir well.
Let the mixture cool to room temperature, which is to say, around 25°C, and it should feel cool to the touch. Stir it frequently while you let it do this. Once the mixture is cool, fold in the whipped cream in two batches (you may need to whisk the cream a little if it has relaxed). Really, really do wait until the mixture is cool, or all the air will come out of the cream.
Either transfer the mousse to a piping bag and pipe a thick layer over the three jam topped cakes, or spoon the mousse over the top and smooth it flat. The mousse should start setting pretty quickly, between the gelatine, the chocolate and the cream.
Put all three mousse-topped cakes in the fridge to let the mousse develop some strength of character.
Shortly before serving, assemble the cake. You want alternating layers of pink and green cake, with the plain cake at the top. Do the maths, and start with the appropriate layer accordingly.
Sift icing sugar over the top of the cake, and scatter chopped turkish delight over the whole lot.
OK, this cake is full of eggs and dairy and gluten and isn’t even vegetarian, what with all the gelatin, though I suspect Jel-it-In powder might work here. I think you could make the cake with a gluten-free flour mix – it really is somewhere between a pound cake and a Victoria spongs, and it’s pretty hard to ruin these, though I gave it my best shot. You aren’t going to be able to do this without the eggs, and I can’t think of a good substitute for whipped cream that wouldn’t significantly impact the flavour. Sorry. I’ll do those vegan crackly chocolate crackles next.
In terms of flavour, this would be lovely with orange flower water instead of rosewater and maybe with an apricot mousse filling. A touch of actual cardamom (as opposed to the imaginary kind I managed to put into the recipe) would also be nice.