Spring has sprung!
Yesterday was a beautiful day; all blue skies and crisp, cold air. It was one of those Saturday mornings where being up early and forgoing your lie in to see the sunshine pouring through the kitchen windows was absolutely necessary. It put me in a lovely happy mood, ready to celebrate Zoey’s birthday with an afternoon at the spa with the girls. But first, a morning of baking her birthday cake!
This is a perfect spring cake: light sponge with the occasional little crunch of poppyseed. The sharp lemon buttercream cuts through the smooth and silky blueberry curd, which is just such a great flavour combination. You can switch it up if you’d like though: try it with raspberry or blackberry curd, or if you’re in a really citrus-y mood, do double lemon! If you have some curd left over, its delicious dribbled over greek yoghurt and granola.
To ensure my layers of sponge are flat, I’ve started ripping up a tea towel to the width around the edge of my cake tin, soaking it in cold water and safety pinning it around the tin. This ensures a completely flat bake and means you don’t need to waste any cake by cutting off the top before you decorate.
You will need:
3x 8″ round cake tins, greased
A small paintbrush
For the sponge:
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups caster sugar
Juice & zest of 1 lemon
2 1/3 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup whole milk with 1 tsp lemon juice mixed in and left to stand for 5mins)
4 tbsp poppyseeds
For the blueberry curd:
1 cup frozen blueberries (no need to let them thaw)
1 tbsp water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
3 eggs, lightly beaten
For the buttercream:
250g icing sugar
20ml whole milk
80g unsalted butter
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
For the crystallised flowers and decoration:
A small paintbrush
Edible flowers: I used primroses (I used this guide to make sure they were definitely edible: http://www.thompson-morgan.com/edible-flowers)
1 egg white
2 tbsp caster sugar
150g fresh blueberries
Zest of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.
Combine the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar together for about three minutes. Add the lemon zest and juice, beating until well incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to butter mixture, making sure everything is combined before each addition. Pour into the prepared tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.
To make the blueberry curd, place the blueberries and water in a saucepan and cook until very soft, which should be about 10 minutes.
Pour into and press through a sieve, and put the liquid back into a saucepan off the heat. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and cook on a medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for about 6 minutes, until the mixture has thickened. As it cools it thickens, and if you can leave this in the fridge overnight it really helps with the consistency.
To make the buttercream, beat the icing sugar and butter on a low speed until it’s a sandy like consistency. Add the milk and lemon zest and juice and beat on a high speed until fluffy. The longer you beat this for the lighter it should become, I’d say about 8 minutes.
To make the crystallised flowers, you need to cut as much of the long green stalks off as possible. Gently submerge the flowers in a bowl of cold water to wash them, then pat dry with a paper towel and leave to dry for about 15 minutes.
Lay out a sheet of baking powder, and put your caster sugar and egg whites in two small separate bowls. Very gently brush the flower petals with the egg white, using the paintbrush to make sure it’s totally covered, and blotting any excess off the petals with some kitchen roll. Sprinkle the caster sugar over the petals and lay on the sheet of baking paper to dry for about an hour.
To assemble the cake, place your base layer onto your serving plate. Dollop two heaped tablespoons of buttercream on top and spread over the base using a mini palette knife. Take three tablespoons of the blueberry curd and spoon on top of the buttercream – add more if you need to, make sure it reaches the edges. Again, use a mini palette knife to ensure the surface is covered. Repeat with the second layer. With the third layer, add the same amount of buttercream, but only a small circle of blueberry curd, and pile your fresh blueberries on top of this. Sprinkle over your lemon zest, and then top with the crystallised flowers. Beautiful!