I think this may be one of the prettiest cakes i have ever made...it is certainly a good deal more attractive than my last post! It is the perfect cake for spring, delicately flavoured with fragrant elderflower and sweet strawberries. I love elderflower, I remember when I was little helping my parents pick elderflowers to make wine; we had an elderflower tree in our garden and the scent was glorious; unfortunately now, living in inner Birmingham, elderflower trees are rather more difficult to find, and despite much searching while out dog walking I haven't come across any.
The elderflower flavour in the cakes comes from elderflower cordial; I used some in the cake batter and then drizzled extra over the cakes when they came out of the oven, this not only gives them a beautiful flavour but also helps to keep the cakes wonderfully moist. The strength of elderflower cordial varies by brand, so check the bottle and make sure that it says to dilute it one part cordial to ten parts water or it wont be strong enough to give much flavour. I used Bottle Green brand, Belvoir is also good, but Blossom Cottage isn't...
I used ground almonds in the cakes which gives them a lovely texture and provides moisture; the delicate almond flavour also pairs perfectly with the elderflower drizzle and strawberry buttercream. One issue with making buttercream that is naturally flavoured with strawberry is that strawberries contain a lot of moisture, which can cause the buttercream to split. To help resolve this potential problem I roasted the strawberries to reduce the liquid and intensify the flavour; the addition of a little balsamic vinegar helps to heighten the flavour. I added the roasted strawberry puree to swiss meringue buttercream, which is wonderfully smooth and fluffy. I also made a roasted strawberry, white chocolate and elderflower ganache to pour over the top of the cake, I seriously could have drunk it, it was that good...I used a little pink gel food colouring in the ganache to intensify the colour a bit, but opted to leave the buttercream naturally pink.
I decorated the top of the cake with sliced strawberries, but found that some moisture seeped out of them and made the ganache go a little gloopy, so I recommend either decorating it with whole, unsliced strawberries, or dipping the cut side in chocolate and allowing it to set before decorating, to create a barrier to stop the moisture from seeping out. My fiance declared this cake "in the top three I've ever made", which, considering I've made a lot of cake, ranks it very highly! It certainly didn't last long at the barbeque I took it to over the weekend...
Strawberry, Elderflower & Almond Layer Cake
- 225 g (2 sticks) butter
- 225 g (1 cup + 2tbsp) caster (superfine) sugar
- 125 g (1 cup + 1tbsp) self-raising flour
- 175 g (1 + ½ cups) ground almonds
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp almond extract
- 3 tbsp elderflower cordial
- 6 tbsp elderflower cordial for drizzling
- 500 g (18 oz) strawberries
- 1 ½ tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Roasted Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 4 large egg whites
- 225 g (1 cup + 2tbsp) caster sugar
- 300 g (1 + ¼ cups) butter, softened but not warm
- 120 ml (½ cup) roasted strawberry puree
Strawberry White Chocolate Elderflower Ganache
- 65 g (2 + ⅓ oz) sieved roasted strawberry puree
- 75 g (2 + ¾ oz) white chocolate, chopped
- 2 tsp elderflower cordial
- pink gel food colouring optional
- extra strawberries for decorating
To make the cakes
- Heat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3. Grease three 15cm/6in round tins and line the bases with greaseproof paper.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, in a separate bowl mix together the flour, ground almonds and baking powder.
- Whisk the eggs into the butter mixture one at a time, adding a little of the flour mixture after each one. Fold in the remaining dry ingredients then mix in the vanilla and almond extracts and the 3 tbsp of elderflower cordial.
- Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes until risen and golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- When the cakes are baked, poke holes all over the surface with a toothpick and drizzle 2 tbsp of elderflower cordial over each one. Leave the cakes to cool in the tins.
To Make The Roasted Strawberries
- Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Hull the strawberries and slice them into halves (or quarters if they are large). Spread the strawberries out in a single layer in a roasting tin, sprinkle over the sugar and balsamic vinegar.
- Roast for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries have collapsed and shriveled and the juices have reduced to a thick syrup.
- Tip the strawberries and syrup into a blender and blitz to a smooth paste. Set aside until cold.
To Make The Roasted Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Place the egg whites and sugar in a spotlessly clean heatproof bowl (the bowl of your stand mixer if you have one) and place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, make sure that the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water.
- Gently whisk the eggs (with a hand whisk, not an electric one) until the sugar has dissolved, if you rub the mixture between your fingers it should feel smooth with no hint of graininess. It should measure 60C/140F on a thermometer.
- Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk with an electric mixer/stand mixer on high until the egg whites have formed a stiff, glossy meringue and the mixture is completely cold, the base of the bowl should feel cool to the touch, this will take about 10 minutes.
- Turn the mixer down to low and gradually add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition. The mixture may curdle or begin to look soupy, just keep on whisking and it will come back together.
- Once all of the butter has been incorporated and the buttercream is smooth and silky, measure out 120ml (½cup) of the cooled roasted strawberry puree. Mix it into the buttercream gradually, a spoonful at a time. The mixture shouldn't split, but if it does don't worry! Just place a couple of heaped tablespoons of the buttercream in a small bowl and microwave it until it has melted, then drizzle it back into the rest of the buttercream slowly while whisking on a high speed, after a couple of minutes of whisking it will come back together.
- Turn the cooled cakes out of their tins and place one layer on a cake stand or serving platter. Spread just over a quarter of the buttercream over the cake and top with another layer, pressing down on it gently; spread over just over another quarter of the buttercream and top with the final cake layer. Place the cake upside down so that you get a flat top; spread most of the remaining remaining buttercream on the top of the cake, spreading it flat, then use the rest of the buttercream to fill in any gaps around the edges and to coat the whole cake in a crumb coat.
- Place the cake in the fridge for about 30 minutes then use a palette knife dipped in hot water to smooth out the icing.
- Return the cake to the fridge while you make the ganache.
- Scrape the remaining roasted strawberry puree through a sieve to remove the pips and measure out 65g worth, place it in a small saucepan and bring it up to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate, stir until smooth then add the elderflower cordial. Mix in a little pink gel food colouring if desired. Set aside until it has cooled but is still pourable.
- Pour the ganache into the centre of the cake and use a palette knife to tease it towards the edges so that it drips over; return the cake to the fridge for 30 minutes until the ganache has firmed a little (it doesn't set hard like regular ganache).
- Let the cake come up to room temperature and decorate the top of the cake with extra strawberries just before serving. If you use sliced strawberries to decorate, the moisture will seep out into the ganache and make it go a little melty - I suggest using whole ones, or if you want to decorate it as I did with strawberries standing on their ends, then I recommend dipping the sliced ends into melted chocolate and allowing it to set before decorating the cake, this will provide a barrier to stop the moisture from seeping out.
2. You can bake the cakes and make the roasted strawberry puree the day before you want to decorate and serve the cake.