Vanilla, raspberry and pistachio cake

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So today I have been baking my entry for a competition. I know that it won’t win because it isn’t unusual enough but I am pleased with my entry none the less. It will be judged on appearance and not on taste but I have high hopes for it in the taste stakes.

The cake in question is a vanilla sponge with a hidden fresh raspberry centre covered in vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream with crushed pistachios and fresh roses on top. These are not for eating but purely for decoration along with the gold sparklers. But how did I make this masterpiece? Well read on for the instructions. I have attempted step-by-step instructions so here’s hoping that they make sense.

Ingredients

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For the sponge:

5 large eggs

10 oz self-raising flour

10 oz caster sugar

10 oz unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp milk

For the middle:

350g fresh raspberries

For the Swiss meringue buttercream:

5 large egg whites

250g caster sugar

340g unsalted butter, cool but not fridge fresh in cubes

1 tbsp vanilla bean paste

For the decorations:

300g pistachios, shelled and crushed

Edible gold lustre spray

Mini indoor sparklers

Fresh flowers of your choice

To make the sponge:

Preheat the oven to 180 and ensure that you have a rack ready in the middle of the oven.

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Grease and line two 20cm cake tins. To make my cake I used to Silverwood Victoria Surprise cake tins from Lakeland to create a hidden layer in the middle but you can use any 20cm cake tins that you have but I recommend ones with a loose bottom to make it easy to remove the baked cakes.

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Start by creaming the softened butter and sugar together with an electric hand whisk until smooth and light in colour.

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Then sift in the self-raising flour and combine with the butter and sugar mixture. The mixture will become quite stiff but don’t worry, once you add the liquid ingredients it will loosen up.

Lightly beat the eggs, milk and vanilla together and add to the batter mix a third at a time, beating well to combine after each addition. The result should be a loose cake batter. Make sure that there are no lumps of flour left at the bottom of the bowl but also take care not to overwork the batter.

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Divide the batter between the two cake tins, smooth and place in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes. You will know that you cakes are ready when they are lightly browned, springy to the touch, is coming away from the sides of the cake tin ever so slightly and a skewers comes out clean when pushed gently into the middle of the cake. You will also be able to smell the cake.

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When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

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To make the Swiss meringue buttercream

While the sponge is cooling you can start to make your buttercream.

Take the bowl from an electric mixer such as a Kitchenaid (if you don’t have such a thing then you will need to use a large glass bowl), and put the egg whites and sugar in it. Place over a pan of simmering water and whisk gently but constantly until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot. This will take between 10 and 15 minutes so patience is needed!

Once all of the sugar has dissolved (to check if this has happened, take a spoon and rub it around the side of the bowl, if the sugar has all dissolved then you will not be able to see or feel any grains of sugar when you do this), remove the bowl from the heat and using the whisk attachment on the mixer, whip the meringue until it is thick and glossy and the bottom of the bowl has returned to room temperature. Again, this will take between 10 and 15 minutes so it is much easier if you have a Kitchenaid or equivalent. If you don’t then you will need an electric hand whisk and possibly a friend so that you can do this as a tag team.

Once you have reached this stage, put the paddle attachment onto mixer and start to add the butter one cube at a time, making sure that each cube is incorporated before adding the next. Continue to mix until you have silky smooth texture.

Add 1 tbsp of vanilla bean paste and beat on a low speed until well combined. You are then ready to use your buttercream.

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Assemble your cake

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Once completely cool, decide which sponge will be the base of your cake and place on a flat surface, cake board or plate. Put 3/4s of the fresh raspberries on top of the sponge and press down, lightly crushing, with a fork. Blitz the remaining raspberries up in a food processor and pour on top. Then add the second sponge.

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Take your buttercream and a palette knife and completely cover the sponge, top and sides, with the buttercream. I started by doing the top of the cake and then sides before running the palette knife around to achieve a smooth finish but this is a personal preference.

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Once you are happy with the finish of your buttercream, spray the sides of the cake with edible gold lustre spray about two thirds of the way up and then cover with the crushed pistachios. The idea is that the pistachios are densely packed at the bottom of the cake but get more dispersed as you work your way up so that you can still see some of the gold spray.

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Arrange fresh flowers (I really wanted to use peonies but was unable to procure any) and indoor sparklers on the top and hey-presto, your cake is ready and should be as pretty as a picture.

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