From Sunaina’s Kitchen
This past weekend was my birthday, and as is my usual tradition, I made my own birthday cake. Actually, I enjoy it. This year was particularly fun because I sort of designed it myself. I didn’t invent the entire recipe, but assembled it from other recipes that I found. I still haven’t named the cake yet–maybe you all could help me??
The cake is chocolate and passionfruit. It’s based on a cake from the recipe book The Cake Bible, which involved a chocolate genoise (don’t worry, I’ll explain this below) covered in strawberry whipped cream. I had made this cake several years earlier, and I remembered it when I was trying to decide which cake to make for my birthday. As some of you know, I’m in Hawai’i right now doing research for my dissertation. However, I wanted something tropical to fit the place I’m in, and which would hopefully be locally grown. I decided to replace the strawberry with passionfruit because it also goes well with chocolate.
One would think that it would be easy to find fresh passionfruits, which are also known as lilikoi, in Hawai’i. Here, there is a vast quantity of passion-orange juice, passion-orange-guava juice, passionfruit flavored desserts and on and on. But let me tell you. NO ONE SELLS IT. NO ONE. I guess it must be available at farmer’s markets, and apparently it grows wild everywhere on the Big Island. BUT NOT ON O’AHU (which is the island where I am). I went looking for them at perhaps six different grocery stores. I finally found frozen passionfruit concentrate at the last store and I have no idea where it was from, so my attempt to buy local didn’t even work out. Oh well. For this recipe, you can use either passionfruit concentrate or, if you’re lucky, fresh passionfruit juice/pulp.
The cake is chocolate genoise, and genoise cake is a type of sponge cake. This means that it is leavened with beaten eggs only, as opposed to being leavened with baking powder or soda. Genoise is different from a regular sponge cake (like the mimosa cake I made two weeks ago) because it includes melted butter. This makes the cake moister and more flavorful. This particular genoise recipe is really yummy because you brown the butter, which brings the flavor to a whole new level. Like other types of sponge cake, I soaked it in syrup. I made it with Grand Marnier, but you couldn’t taste it in the finished product, so I’ve just put a recipe for plain sugar syrup here. The filling is where the passionfruit comes in, and it consists of a thin layer of passionfruit curd and a layer of whipped cream. The whipped cream is a little different too–it’s sweetened with honey instead of sugar, which gives it almost fruity perfume. The curd is really tart, so eating the curd with the cake felt like an explosion of flavor. Since the cake is so light, I didn’t want to weigh it down with a heavy frosting with lots of butter and instead frosted with the same whipped cream as the filling.
This is another cake that’s kind of difficult and requires some experience. I would also recommend making it one day ahead of time to let the syrup soak into the cake evenly.
Sunaina’s Birthday Cake
Passionfruit Curd (based on Sweet-Tart Passionfruit Curd by Lisa from the blog Garlic & Zest)
- 1/4 cup passionfruit concentrate or 1/4 cup juice and pulp from 3-4 passionfruit
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter, cold
Chocolate Genoise Cake (based on Génoise au Chocolat by Rose Levy Beranbaum from The Cake Bible)
- 4 tbsp/2 oz/57 grams unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup/1 oz/23 grams Dutch-processed cocoa (Don’t use natural cocoa. The chocolate flavor will be compromised. I like the Droste’s brand.)
- 1/4 cup/2 oz/60 grams boiling water
- 1 tsp/4 grams vanilla extract
- 5 large eggs
- 1/2 cup/3.5 oz/100 grams granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup + 2.5 tbsp/2.5 oz/75 grams all-purpose flour, room temperature
Simple Syrup (based on syrup for Génoise au Chocolat by Rose Levy Beranbaum from The Cake Bible)
- 1/4 cup + 1.5 tsp/2 oz/56 grams granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup/4 oz/118 grams water
Honey Whipped Cream (by Diana from the blog Dreamery Events)
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 3 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Make the passionfruit curd: In a small saucepan, combine the passionfruit concentrate or juice, egg yolks, and sugar. Stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens. It should coat the back of a spoon or leave a clear trail when you scrape the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat. Add salt and butter, adding in the butter in three pieces, stirring after each addition.
Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and pass the curd through the sieve, pressing and stirring the mixture in the sieve. This is to make sure no bits of scrambled egg get into the finished produce. Press a piece of plastic wrap to the top of the curd to prevent a skin from forming and place in the refrigerator until cold.
Make the cake: Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl. Line the sieve with cheesecloth that you have folded several times. In a small saucepan or pan, melt the butter. Continue cooking until the solids have turned dark brown (almost black but not quite). Immediately, pour the browned butter through the sieve/cheesecloth. Make sure the browned butter stays warm.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with parchment, and then grease and flour the rest of the pan and parchment.
Whisk the cocoa and boiling water together. I did this in the liquid measuring cup I used to measure the water. Whisk in the vanilla. Leave the whisk in the measuring cup or bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
In a large mixing bowl or metal bowl of a stand mixer over a saucepan of simmering water, heat the eggs and sugar until they reach 110 degrees F. Stir constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking–you just want to heat them up. Remove the bowl from the pan and beat the egg mixture with a whisk attachment until tripled in volume. This will take approximately 5 minutes with a stand mixer and 10-15 minutes with a hand mixer. The mixture will look done after only a couple of minutes, but you need to beat it for the full duration or the cake won’t rise.
Spoon approximately 1/2 cup of the egg mixture into the cocoa mixture. Whisk until smooth. Sift the flour over the remaining egg mixture and fold until the flour has disappeared. The best way to do this is with a whisk–it’s faster and more thorough than with a spatula. Make a folding motion by scraping the bottom of the bowl and then above the mixture. Instead of bringing the whisk directly back into the mixture, as you would with a spatula, shake the mixture out of the whisk.
Fold in the cocoa mixture until almost completely combined. Fold in the browned butter until just combined.
Pour immediately into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. There is no need to use a cake tester–the cake is done when it starts to shrink from the sides of the pan. Avoid opening the oven door unnecessarily, and if you do open the oven door, carefully close it to prevent the cake from falling.
Run a knife around the sides of the cake to release it from the pan and immediately transfer to a wire rack, right-side up. Let cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the sugar syrup: Measure the water in a liquid measuring cup and add the sugar. Stir to combine. Microwave until it it boils.
Just before you are ready to assemble the cake, make the whipped cream: In a large bowl, beat the cream, honey, and vanilla together until stiff peaks form. Try to take it as close as possible to butter (that is what happens when you overbeat cream) without going over the the edge.
Assemble the cake: Scrape the top and bottom crusts off of the cake. Split the cake in half lengthwise. Place a small dollop of whipped cream on the surface where you will serve the cake. Place the bottom layer of cake on top. Pour half of the syrup onto the cake layer evenly. Spread a very thin layer of passionfruit curd on top of the cake, making sure to reserve several tablespoons for the decoration. Spread 1/4 of the whipped cream mixture on top of the curd. On top of this, place the top cake layer. Pour the remaining syrup evenly onto this layer. Frost the cake with the remaining whipped cream.
Add a tiny bit of water, a tiny bit at a time, to the reserved curd. It should be thin enough to pour. Drizzle the remaining curd on top of the cake in your desired design.
I used both of the these consistencies to decorate my cake.