I have been sitting on this blog post for ages trying to decide whether to publish it or not. You see this cake and I have a history. A bad history. I set out to make it on a Sunday morning intending to photograph it later that day. But it took FOREVER to make - not because the cake is so time consuming, but because frosting a cake with a toddler hanging off your leg (literally) is so not a good idea. Anyway, long story short, by the time the cake was ready there was no light to speak of and the photoshoot was postponed till the following day. And when the time came to photograph it my mojo was completely off. The cake was as pretty as can be, but I could not get a handle on how to photograph it. And that just turned me against it. Don't let this colour your view of the cake - it really isn't that bad!
100g blanched almonds | 1 cup
100g caster sugar | 1/2 cup
Squeeze of lemon
1 tsp water
For the cake
300g plain flour | 2 1/4 cups
300g caster sugar | 1 1/3 cups
100g praline, processed to a fine powder | scant 3/4 cup
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
200g unsalted butter, cubed | 7 oz
4 medium eggs
200ml buttermilk | 3/4 cup + 1 heaped tbsp
1/4 tsp almond extract
Pink paste food colouring (I used Sugarflair paste food colour)
75 fresh raspberries | about 1/2 cup (optional)
Swiss meringue buttercream
5 egg whites
200g caster sugar | 1 cup
200g butter, cut into small pieces | 7 oz
A few drops vanilla extract
To make the praline: Lightly grease a baking tray with almond or other flavourless oil. To make the praline, put the sugar, water and squeeze of lemon in a heavy pot. Swirl the pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the sugar melts and turns a light golden colour. Add the almonds and stir until they are completely covered. Pour into the tray and leave to set. Break into pieces and process about half of the praline to a fine powder.
To make the cakes: Preheat the oven to 180 C | 350 F. Spray 4x15cm/6inch (or 3x20cm/8inch) cake tins with cake release spray. Put all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with a fork, make sure there are no lumps. Add the cubed butter and mix on low speed using the paddle attachment until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the eggs and mix on medium to combine. Add the buttermilk and almond extract and mix on high for 2-3 minutes. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and mix again. The batter will be quite thick.
Divide the batter into 4 bowls of about 180g each (there's some leftover batter - you could make a 5 layer cake or a few cupcakes!). Tint 3 of the bowls with the pink food colour. Add a small amount in first bowl to get a pale pink and adjust the amount of food colour to get 2 more shades of pink.
Bake for 20 minutes until cakes are coming away from edges of the tins and spring back if touched. Cool completely.
To make the buttercream, put the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Boil some water in a pot, reduce heat to a simmer, then add the mixing bowl on top making sure the bottom does not touch the water. Lightly whisk the egg whites for about 7 minutes - make sure the sugar dissolves completely. Attach the mixing bowl to the mixer and whisk on high speed for about 10 minutes till you have a thick meringue. When the bowl has cooled completely start adding the butter one small cube at a time while whisking on medium. Once all the butter is incorporated, add the vanilla extract and whisk on high for a few minutes until the buttercream comes together to form smooth stiff peaks.
Keep your coloured layers in order - white to darkest pink - to create the ombre effect. Layer the cakes with the buttercream (I also added a few halved raspberries in each layer) and cover entire layered cake with a thin coating of buttercream. Chill for an hour and then frost entire cake with remaining buttercream. Linking a great frosting tutorial at Whisk Kid. Decorate with fresh raspberries (and the remaining praline if you wish).
Note: this vanilla sponge cake is most suitable for turning into an ombre or rainbow cake as it takes the colouring best. It also is a very fluffy, tasty cake in it's own right.