Perfect for picnic season, this basket weave cake from Love Layer Cakes by Peggy Porschen (Quadrille, £20. Photography by Georgia Glynn Smith) is a truly delectable masterpiece.
This is a deliciously light cake, bursting with berry flavours and an impressive basket weave. The hexagon shape can be a little tricky, but you could also make it as a round cake if you preferred.
Ingredients: for the sponge
- 320g egg yolks
- 900g caster sugar
- 300ml vegetable or sunflower oil
- 660g egg whites
- a pinch of cream of tartar
- a pinch of salt
- tablespoons vanilla extract
- 900g plain flour
- 60g baking powder
- 480g milk
For the vanilla syrup
- 250ml water
- 250g caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
For the meringue buttercream
- 1.1kg caster sugar
- 268ml water
- 540g egg whites
- 1.3kg butter
- vanilla extract, to taste
For the filling
- 1 medium-sized jar raspberry jam
- 1 medium-sized jar blueberry jam
- about 2 punnets each of fresh raspberries, blueberries and blackberries
- about 1 punnet of strawberries
For the decoration
- fresh berries and flowers (make sure they are suitable for direct food contact, i.e. not poisonous or treated with pesticides)
- baking tool kit
- layering tool kit
- two 15cm and two 25cm hexagon cake tins
- one 15cm and one 25cm hexagon cake card
- 4 cake dowels
- piping bag
- round piping nozzle no. 3
- medium basket weave piping nozzle
- open star piping nozzle no. 7
To make the chiffon sponge
Make the sponge one day ahead. Preheat the oven to 175°C/gas mark 4.
Line the cake tins with oil spray and greaseproof paper.
Whisk the egg yolks with a little of the sugar until pale and fluffy. Slowly add the oil and whisk until thick.
Put the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in an electric mixer and, using the whisk attachment, beat at medium-high speed until the mixture forms soft peaks.
With the mixer still running, slowly pour in the remaining sugar and beat until the mixture is glossy and holds stiff peaks. Beat in the vanilla extract.
In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder and gradually add to the egg-yolk mixture, gently folding after each addition. Add the milk and fold in the stiff egg whites.
Transfer the batter to the lined tins and gently spread it towards the edges with a step palette knife. The mixture should be higher around the edges than in the middle, to ensure an even bake and level cake height.
Bake for 25–30 minutes. The sponges are cooked when they spring back to the touch and the sides are coming away from the edges of the tin.
While the sponges are baking, make the sugar syrup using the amounts left and the instructions below, and add vanilla extract to taste.
When the sponges are baked, remove from the oven and leave them to rest for about 10 minutes. Brush the tops of the sponges with vanilla syrup (reserving some for the assembling stage and storing it in the fridge overnight).
Transfer the sponges to a wire rack to cool completely, then wrap them in cling film and rest overnight at room temperature.
To make syrup
Place the water and sugar in a saucepan, stir well and bring to the boil. Allow it to cool down.
When lukewarm, add the flavourings. Store the sugar syrup in the fridge if not using immediately. It will keep for up to 1 month.
To make the meringue buttercream
Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium-high heat and bring to a rapid boil.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip at low speed, using the whisk attachment, until frothy.
When the sugar syrup reaches 121°C, with the mixer running, pour it directly over the meringue in a thin, steady stream. Take care not to pour any of the syrup onto the whisk or the sides of the bowl.
Whip the meringue until cool to the touch; this could take several minutes. With the mixer running, add the butter a couple of tablespoons at a time. Keep beating until the buttercream is completely smooth and spreadable, then fold in any additional flavourings.
Meringue buttercream will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge.
To assemble the cake
Trim the sponges and slice each one in half horizontally, so you have 4 layers for each tier. Soak each sponge layer with vanilla syrup, then spread the fillings on top, using raspberry jam for the first layer, meringue buttercream and fresh berries for the second and blueberry jam for the third.
Mask the top and sides of the cake with the remaining meringue buttercream. Keep the corners as sharp and straight as possible.
Trim the 4 dowels to the same height as the bottom tier and push them into the centre of the cake in a square formation. They should be as far apart as possible, but within the diameter of the tier above.
Spread more buttercream between the dowels and centre the second tier on top. Pipe buttercream into the gap between the tiers, then run your finger along the edge to give it a smooth finish.
Place the cake on a turntable with a 30cm cake disc. Put the remaining meringue buttercream in a piping bag fitted with the round nozzle.
Starting with the top tier, pipe vertical lines down each side of the cake, first in the middle, then on the corners, then at 1cm intervals in between.
Fit the piping bag with the basket weave nozzle and, starting at the bottom, pipe a row of strips over every other line. Repeat on the next row, working in between the strips on the first row.
Once the cake is covered with the basket weave effect, attach the star nozzle to the piping bag and pipe a rope border along the top edge of each tier.
Refrigerate for about 1 hour, then transfer the cake to a serving platter or cake stand using a large step palette knife. Arrange fresh berries and flowers in two clusters on the top and side of the cake.
If stored in the fridge, this cake will last for up to 3 days. Serve at room temperature.