Whimsical Spring Cake: Luscious Lemon Layer Cake with Passion Fruit Buttercream

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My first Daring Bakers challenge is coincidentally, similar to the first layer cake I ever posted on my blog. Since I was already familiar with the techniques for making the cake and buttercream, I puzzled over how I would re-create this challenge. I ultimately decided to make a cake that celebrated Spring and Easter: a luscious lemon layer cake with passion fruit buttercream and apricot jam. The top is decorated with a spun sugar nest and chocolate mini-eggs dusted with iridescent luster dusts.

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I’ve been enamored with passion fruit for a while. This tart, intensively flavored tropical fruit found in South America, Southeast Asia and Australia is not the most accessible or economical fruit. I found purees available on Amazon and L’epicerie, and also found the actual fruit available at my local Garden of Eden store for $2 for one piece. Consequently, I was delighted when my husband came home one day with passion fruit pulp he found in the freezer section of our local supermarket, at about $2 for the Goya brand. I haven’t actually tried many passion fruit purees or pulps for comparison, but I think the Goya brand flavored the buttercream just fine. As an added bonus, the passion fruit pulp tinted the buttercream a lovely and natural yellow color, the very color I had envisioned for my cake, which also hints to the lemon flavored cake within.

At the risk of belaboring my passion for passion fruit, waxing philosophical over cake, and perhaps drawing too many connections, the thought occurred to me after the fact that this fruit was appropriate for Easter for another reason. While researching how “passion fruit” got its name, I discovered that it was attributed to early European explorers who thought the flower of the passion fruit resembled the crown of thorns in the passion of Christ.

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Pictured above is the spun sugar nest I made. I actually received a second degree burn in the process – but fortunately, I am quite experienced at treating burns thanks to my glassblowing experience. I made this nest as I was treating my burn, so I suppose it came out sufficiently well under the circumstances. I piped buttercream vines and flowers, which I then painted over with edible luster dust dissolved in alcohol.

I thought I would earn some brownie points with my parents by bringing the cake to their church for Easter. I was concerned that the passion fruit/apricot/lemon combination would be too tart, but the cake was a huge hit and people responded very positively to the flavors. The Korean congregation felt the need to sing, as if celebrating a birthday, and somehow this cake got lost in translation as they sang in broken English:

Happy Easter to you
Happy Easter to you
Happy Easter, Jesus Christ
Happy Easter to you!

Without further ado, here is the recipe (the original is from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours, but I am posting a version with the adjustments I made):

For the Cake
2¼ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream (this is 1.5x Doree’s buttercream recipe, to accommodate the extra needed for decorating)
1½ cup sugar
6 large egg whites
4½ sticks (18 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup passion fruit pulp (start with less and add to taste)

For Filling
apricot jam

Optional Decorations
spun sugar nest
chocolate mini eggs, such as Cadbury’s or make your own truffle eggs
luster dust

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.

Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2 minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean.

Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again. On medium speed, gradually beat in the passion fruit pulp, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Spread with preserves. Cover the jam evenly with buttercream. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer. Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and frost the sides and top with buttercream. [Tip: I like to do a "crumb coat" before the final frosting, which seals the crumbs and prevents it from mixing into the frosting. Frost the entire cake with a very thin layer of buttercream and refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Then proceed to frost the cake with the rest of the buttercream.] Decorate as you wish.

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Serving
The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold.

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First Daring Baker’s challenge completed! Thanks to Morven for hosting this month’s event, and to Lis and Ivonne for founding the group. To see what fellow daring bakers have created for this month’s theme, click on the logo below.

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37 Responses to “Whimsical Spring Cake: Luscious Lemon Layer Cake with Passion Fruit Buttercream”

  1. Chris Says:

    Wow! First challenge? This cake is stunning! And with the stand? Just lovely.

  2. Judy Says:

    Wow-that cake is incredible. I’m guessing this isn’t your first time-LOL!

  3. Ben Says:

    Congratulations on your first Daring Bakers challenge. Your cake is stunning! It is so pretty that I’d feel bad eating it.Hehehe.

    Cheers!

  4. Ann Says:

    Beautiful cake! Welcome to Daring Bakers!

  5. HoneyB Says:

    What a beautiful cake! I hope one day to be as great a decorator!

  6. sara Says:

    Wow, your decorations are so beautiful! Very impressive…looks delicious!

  7. Jerry Says:

    Wow! First challenge and such a beautiful cake! Hope no one hesitated to eat it!

  8. merav Says:

    Your cake is stunning! Amazingly decorated and your flavour pairings sound delightful. Congrats on your first challenge!

  9. gail Says:

    Wow – I am so impressed! What a beautiful cake. I love your decorations, and the flavors used in your cake sound delicious. Way to go with your first DB challenge!

  10. Karen Says:

    Seriously, your decorating skills are so impressive! I love to see the transition from cake to crumb to final frosting. Well done!

  11. Namratha Says:

    Wow, that’s a very well decorated cake…awesome!

  12. Lori Says:

    wow, you are very artistic! thanks for the tip about passion fruit. I love it as well. had it down in Tennessee a long time ago and have not had it since. i will be checking out my Goya section!

  13. JennyBakes Says:

    Welcome to the Daring Bakers, you are doing beautiful work and I look forward to read next month’s post!

  14. ramona Says:

    When you did the crumb coat and then the final frosting is than how you made the Butter cream so smooth looking? You cake is so pretty!

  15. prettytastycakes Says:

    Thanks to all for the nice comments and welcomes! Ramona – the crumb coat does help get the cake really smooth. But I’d say the most useful thing is my cake turntable.

  16. mummyji Says:

    Amazing! Love your beautiful creation…
    I love passion fruit too, and it’s not too readily found here in tropical singapore… wonder why?
    and I love the cake stand as well! Where did you get that?

  17. linda Says:

    That’s a real beauty! You have excellent icing skills!

  18. Rosa Says:

    Your cake looks stunning! Wow, it looks ever so perfect! A breathtaking creation!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  19. Rosa Says:

    Wonderful!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  20. kj Says:

    Wow, a stunning cake. You are very talented. And a story with everything. I hope your burns are healing okay. You are so calm. If that was me I would have written a whole post boo hooing about it.

  21. Katie B. Says:

    Wow!! I think I would be so moved as to sing, too! What a gorgeous cake!!!

  22. Tarah Says:

    This was your first challenge? You did beautifully! I feel like I’m look threw a bakery shops window when looking at you cake! It’s beautiful!

  23. Zoe Francois Says:

    Gorgeous cake! Thank you for sharing and inspiring!

    Zoe

  24. kate Says:

    wow! that is one of the most gorgeous cakes i’ve seen in cruising around the DB blogroll. crazy good!

    i have never had good luck with a crumb coat. what happens is after i refrigerate it, then i try to frost and the frosting just slips and slides all over the place. it won’t spread because the cake is cold. any tips?? i’m all ears.

    kate

    http://www.thecleanplateclub.net
    kate AT thecleanplateclub DOT NET

  25. michelle @ TNS Says:

    this was my first daring bakers challenge too!…and my cake, sadly, looking nothing like this one. i hang my head in shame before you!

    goya fruit purees are the best. i used the mango for the mango-lime curd i used in my cake – yum!

  26. Lesley Says:

    Ok now you HAVE to be a pro, because that is drop dead gorgeous. SO elegant. I love decoration like that, not a lot of fuss but so different and lovely.

  27. prettytastycakes Says:

    mummyji, I got the cake stand online at roomservicehome.com

    kj, Thanks for your concern about the burn. It’s healing up nicely now. :)

    kate, I’ve haven’t experienced slippery frosting after doing a crumb coat. Are you doing a very thin crumb coat? You should even see the cake underneath. And while the cake is cold, is the frosting at room temperature? I noticed when I make mocha buttercream there seems to be a difference from the crumb coat and the rest of the frosting. I wonder if the flavor is a factor?

    Lesley, I’m flattered, but I don’t do this for a living. Maybe one day…

  28. Amy Says:

    That is quite possibly the most gorgeous cake ever!! Burns for the sake of sugar, all part of being a DB right? :) Welcome and congrats on your first challenge!

  29. Jennifer Says:

    Holy Cow! Your first challenge! Way to go! You are already a pro! Welcome to the group! I love the wooden cake stand too! What a nice touch! :)

  30. Erika Says:

    Your cake is gorgeous, did you make the nest? And what a perfect cake stand for it!

  31. June Says:

    Beautiful cake. I love the nest and eggs. Welcome to the Daring Bakers, I’m looking forward to seeing your future challenges!

  32. Ivonne Says:

    Welcome to the Daring Bakers and congratulations on your first challenge. What an inspiring and beautiful cake!

  33. Aoife Says:

    What a beautiful cake! And just in time for spring. Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

  34. Gretchen Noelle Says:

    Gorgeous, gorgeous cake! Love the passionfruit buttercream. I thought about making a passionfruit curd to fill this with but chicken out in the end. I look forward to reading through more of your gorgeous creations! Great job on your first Daring Bakers challenge!! Welcome!

  35. Anzj Says:

    You are apparently really good at decorating a cake. I can’t believe how neatly you’ve stacked those layers. Very pretty!!

  36. hong Says:

    Charming and yummy. Just an artist with cakes.

  37. Minko Says:

    Wow so stunningly simple in design. I love it