This certainly isn’t an understated cake: two tiers, each stacked with three layers of cake sandwiched with a mascarpone cream filling and jam, adorned with handfuls of glistening berries and fresh fruit. It’s best served soon after making, though if you need to prepare the components in advance, you can refrigerate the filling and add that at the last minute. If you need to store the cake at room temperature for any longer than a few hours, though, I’d recommend using a sturdier buttercream, instead.
It’s best to bake these sponges in thin layers rather than one cake, to keep them as moist as possible (and to avoid risking cutting it wonkily into layers later). Just how you do this depends on how many tins of each size you have – if you got a plentiful stock of tins and a spacious oven, you might be able to bake all three layers of each size cake at once’ if you have just one 20cm and one 15cm tin, it’s best to make both batches of batter and bake each a third at a time, re-greasing and lining the tins between each layer.
Because of the stacked weight of the layers of this cake, you’ll need to support the upper tier (the three 15cm layers) on a ‘platform’ on top of the larger cake underneath. Prepare these elements in advance: trim a round cake board to around 14cm in diameter and have a few sturdy plastic straws to hand (these will function as a sort of scaffolding).
I made this cake for Great Plains to celebrate their 25th birthday. You can see the photos on their website.
For the cake batter:
400g unsalted butter, softened
400g caster sugar
5 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 large eggs
Zest of 4 lemons
480g plain flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
For the syrup:
Juice of 4 lemons
200g caster sugar
300ml double cream
125g caster sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
300g jam, blackcurrant or seedless raspberry
Roughly 400g berries and fruit, such as blackcurrants, raspberries, sliced figs and strawberries
1 Grease your tins (a round 20cm spring-form tin for the larger cake, and 15cm for the smaller) and line their bases with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4.
2 Prepare the cake batter in a suitably large bowl: cream the butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes, until much lighter and fluffier. Stir in the vanilla extract, milk and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, stir the flour, baking powder and salt together, then add to the wet ingredients. Fold together until you have a smooth batter.
3 Measure the cake batter into 6 separate, smaller bowls (this will help you to achieve even layers): you’ll need three batches of roughly 370g each, and three of 220g each. Each of these will become one of the cake’s layers. Spoon one of the larger portions of batter into the larger tin, and a smaller portion into the 15cm tin. If you have multiple tins of either size, you can of course fill them as well as this point and bake them together.
4 Bake the large sponge for around 15 minutes, and the small one for 10-15 minutes. They’re ready when a knife inserted into the centre emerges with no more than a couple of crumbs stuck to it.
5 While the cake layers bake, prepare the syrup: heat the lemon juice and sugar over a medium heat until the mixture simmers, then leave to cook for a further minute or so, until syrupy. As the cakes emerge from the oven, drizzle a little of the syrup over each one. Leave the cooked, syrup-drizzled cake layers to cool on wire racks.
6 Whisk the double cream with the icing sugar until thick and smooth – it should be just about able to hold soft peaks. Beat the mascarpone in a large bowl until smooth, then fold a third of the cream into it to slacken the mixture. Fold in the remaining cream along with the vanilla extract.
7 Spread one of the large cake layers with a thick layer of the mascarpone cream. Spread another layer with jam and sandwich the two, bringing the cream and jam together. Spread the upper layer with cream and the final large layer with jam and sandwich. Repeat, separately, with the smaller layers, leaving you with 2 three-layer cakes.
8 Impale the larger cake stack with 4 straws, right through from top to base. Trim the tops of the straws to bring them exactly level with the top surface of the cake. Place the prepared cake board (see the introduction for instructions) on top of these straws. You can secured the cake board with a few drops of royal or water icing if you need to transport the cake. This construction will bear the load of the top, smaller cake, and prevent the cake underneath from slumping.
9 With the cake board in place, carefully transfer the smaller cake to on top of it. Carefully centre it, then decorate all around the base, middle and top of the assembled cake with the berries and fruit. Enjoy soon after making.