As a southern Californian, I don’t know that I can talk about the arrival of spring with a straight face. While it’s not true that we “don’t have seasons,” as so many transplants are fond of complaining (usually spoken while wearing flip-flops in January and waving around an iced coffee), our seasonal changes are not so much a shift as a gradual slide. We drift from slightly cooler weather to slightly warmer weather, barely noticing as the thermometer nudges ever upward. Spring can get nasty later on—please do smugly remind me of this post in May when I’m sweating in 90-degree heat and pricing out weekend flights to Seattle—but now, in March, it is gentle and soft and lovely.
Despite this, I don’t know that I’m ready for spring this year. Last April I gave birth to my son, which means that this April he’ll be turning one year old. Every cliché is true—I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. Although there are aspects of babyhood I won’t miss, I’m still not ready to think of him as a toddler—or even worse, a little boy!—so I need everything to sloooow down. Just a little. Let me breathe, and enjoy him as a baby awhile longer, and let these sunny-cool days of spring stretch on. In exchange, I will offer cake.
I originally thought of this raspberry and rose-flavored cake for Valentine’s Day, and I still think it fits the romance theme perfectly. But I like it even better as a cake for welcoming spring. The flowers in my neighborhood are just starting to bloom, the air is thick with pollen, and everything is beginning. What better way to embrace the opening of a season than with a light cake layered with bright raspberries and soft, rose-scented whipped cream?
The outside of the cake is decorated with dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of sugared rose petals. The process of sugaring them is a little time-consuming, but not at all difficult. I did it while watching Arrested Development reruns and I was actually a little sad when the process was over…so, you know, you can make your own fun while preparing the rose petals. Even though the petals are intended to be decorative instead of edible, you should try to track down organic roses if possible. This way, if someone does get curious and decide to munch on them, you don’t have to worry about pesticides or other harmful chemicals.
Since the rose petal decorations are a bit involved, I wanted to keep the rest of the recipe as simple as possible. This means using whipped cream instead of frosting, tossing in fresh raspberries without any additional preparation, and using a zero-effort, quick and easy cake recipe.
This cake is my new favorite discovery. It’s adapted from a random recipe I found on Cheftalk, and it’s genius. Most cake recipes follow a precise set of steps—cream butter and sugar, add eggs, sift drys, then add them alternately with the milk into the batter. It’s not rocket science, but it does take more effort than just throwing everything into a mixer. You know what doesn’t take more effort? This recipe, which can be loosely summed as “throw everything in a mixer.”
Short of using a cake mix, it’s the fastest and easiest cake I’ve ever made, and it turns out wonderfully, too. It’s soft and flavorful, and stays moist for several days. Even if you don’t make the full raspberry-rose cake, you should give the cake recipe a try.
If spring has to come, and if time has to fly, I’m glad to have the chance to celebrate it with this cake.
Recipe notes: This recipe makes a 7-inch cake, which is not a typical size. Because the flower petals add so much volume, I wanted to make the cake more petite. (Plus, 7 inches is just more manageable for my small family.) You can make a 9-inch cake by multiplying all quantities by 1.5. (So, for instance, you would multiple the 1.5 cups of flour in the cake by 1.5 to yield 2.25 cups of flour.)
Also, I know I said I kept things simple, but I couldn’t resist making a little tweak to the whipped cream by adding a bit of gelatin. This stabilizes it and helps it to keep its shape for a longer time and in warmer temperatures. If you aren’t worried about long-term stability you can skip this step, or if you want a cake that can withstand hours at room temperature, or serious transportation, consider replacing it with rose-flavored buttercream instead.
yield: one 7-inch cake
Yellow cake recipe adapted from Cheftalk
For the yellow cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 3/4 oz (5 1/2 tbsp) butter, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
For the rose whipped cream:
2 tsp powdered unflavored gelatin
2 tbsp + 2 tsp cold water
2 1/4 cups cold heavy cream
4-6 tsp rose water
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-2 drops pink food coloring
1 pint fresh raspberries, washed and patted dry
For the candied rose petals:
7 large roses, bloomed but not wilted
1 egg white, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
To make the yellow cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two 7-inch cake pans with parchment paper and spray the pans with nonstick cooking spray.
Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix them on low speed until well-combined. Add the milk, oil, butter, and vanilla to the mixing bowl and once it’s incorporated, raise the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes.
Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl, then add the 2 eggs and beat for 2 minutes more on medium-high speed. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl once more.
Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed. Let cake cool on rack completely.
To make the rose whipped cream:
In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered gelatin and the cold water, and let it stand until the gelatin absorbs the water. Once absorbed, microwave the bowl for 10-15 seconds, until the gelatin melts. For this recipe, it should be melted but barely warm—certainly not hot. Let it cool if it is too warm.
Microwave 1/4 cup of cream for 10-15 seconds, until it is room temperature. Whisk the room temperature cream into the gelatin and set aside for a moment.
In the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the remaining 2 cups of cold cream and the sugar. Whip the cream with the sugar until it starts to thicken. Pour in the cream and gelatin mixture, and continue to beat until the cream is stiff. Be careful not to overwhip the cream and cause it to separate.
Add 4 teaspoons of rose water and a drop or two of pink food coloring, if desired, and mix everything together. Taste the whipped cream and add another teaspoon or two of rose water if the flavor isn’t strong enough. Use immediately.
To make the candied rose petals:
Carefully pull the petals off of the roses and discard any that are damaged or tiny. Whisk the egg white until it’s foamy. Place the sugar in a shallow pie tin.
Use a small, clean, food-safe paint brush to paint a petal with egg white. Hold it over the sugar in the pie tin and sprinkle a layer of sugar on the petal. Tap off any excess, then place it on a wire rack to dry. I found it was easiest to paint 4-5 petals at a time and then sugar them, instead of doing them each individually. After all of the petals have been sugared, let them rest for at least 2-3 hours until they’re dry. (The drying time will vary depending on humidity.) They can be done several days in advance and kept at room temperature.
To assemble the cake:
Carefully slice each cake in half so that you have four rounds. Place one round on a cake cardboard or plate, and top it with about a cup of rose whipped cream. Use an offset spatula or knife to spread the cream evenly on the cake round. Top the cream with a third of the fresh raspberries, keeping them away from the edges of the cake.
Press a second cake round on top, and repeat layering the cream and raspberries. After all the cake layers are added, spread the remaining cream over the top and sides of the cake. The cream will be covered by rose petals, so it doesn’t have to look pretty, but try not to have any bare patches, since the petals will need something to adhere to. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to firm up the cream.
To decorate the cake, press a layer of petals along the bottom edge of the cake, angling them downward slightly and making sure that the edges touch. Press the top of the petal firmly into the whipped cream so it adheres. Add a second layer above the first, overlapping it slightly. Repeat, working your way up the cake until you reach the top. For the top of the cake, start with a ring of petals along the outside edge and work inward. Cluster a few petals together at the center, so that the cake looks like an open flower from above.
Refrigerate the cake until you’re ready to eat it. Remove the petals before eating. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
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