“If we had no winter, spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” – Anne Bradstreet
Nature’s seasons are a gentle reminder that nothing remains the same, no less the turbulent seasons in our lives. For the most part, winter arrives as an unwelcome guest that settles in and lingers for just a little too long. As the wintertime draws to an end, the essential process of pruning begins, which leaves us exposed and somewhat vulnerable. Ironically though, this stripping away increases our soulfulness, growing our character and capacity to love.
Then, when the sadness of winter is finally in retreat, a softly perfumed jasmine breeze reminds us that spring is on its way, carrying with it the promise of renewed life and abundant fruitfulness. This is my favourite season!
September 2014 is particularly special as it marks the launch of my proudly South African food blog. As with all special occasions in our household, we celebrate with cake. This light as air raspberry vanilla cake is studded with fresh raspberries, creating little pockets of tartness, the perfect foil to a rich buttercream frosting. The cake itself has a light crumb and the all-essential rich butter flavour. If you’re not keen on adding the fruit, it’s equally good to serve ‘Victoria sponge style’ with a generous layer of strawberry preserve and freshly whipped cream.
The quantities are for a 15cm cake, which is an ideal size for an elegant tea table. To make a larger family sized cake, double up the ingredients and divide equally into 3 x 20cm cake tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes. If you’re making the smaller version, there should be more than enough buttercream. Freeze any left over in a tightly sealed container for up to 3 weeks. Defrost to room temperature and whisk thoroughly before using.
Raspberry vanilla cake with buttercream frosting
125g butter, at room temperature
125g castor sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
175g all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
A pinch of salt
125g fresh raspberries
Preheat the oven to 180º C. Grease 2 x 15cm baking tins and line with parchment paper. Cream together the butter, castor sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In two additions, add the flour and buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour. With the mixer on a low speed, whisk until just combined. Do not over mix as this develops the gluten resulting in a tough crumb.
Divide the batter evenly into the prepared tins and press the raspberries firmly into the batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly golden and a test skewer comes out clean. Allow the cake to rest for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Crème fraîche buttercream frosting
250g butter, softened
3 heaped tablespoons crème fraîche
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
400g confectioners’ sugar
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
A drop of food colouring of your choice
Place the butter, crème fraîche and vanilla in a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment. Whisk until creamy and pale in colour. Sift in the confectioners’ sugar and salt. Beat together until well combined. Add the lemon juice and food colouring, giving it a thorough final whisk to ensure the colour is evenly incorporated.
2 tablespoons low sugar raspberry preserve
Fresh raspberries or unsprayed rose blooms
To assemble, place the first sponge layer onto a cake stand. Spread lightly with raspberry preserve and mascarpone. Top with your second sponge layer and press down gently. Starting from the base, using a small palette knife, cover the sides and top of the cake with a thin layer of the buttercream. This forms the crumb coat. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Now cover with a second and slightly more generous layer of buttercream using a warmed palette knife for a smoother finish.
Decorate with fresh raspberries or soft blooms.
BK Handy Tip: Wrap the cooled, un-iced cakes in cling film and refrigerate for an hour to firm up. This makes it more manageable and easier to ice.