Sunday was Lisa's birthday. We love Lisa. We all love Pimm's. And boozy desserts. And cake. So it was the obvious choice for Lisa's birthday cake this year to do a Pimm's Cake. Even so, the idea only came to me on Friday evening after work, and I had to scramble to get all my ideas together and experiment with recipes. So I ended up with two layers of ginger sponge cake, with Strawberry & Pimm's jam in the centre, covered with a strawberry, cucumber & Pimm's icing, topped with a mountain of fresh strawberry and cucumber and candied lemon & orange slices. Oh, and some stripey straws. We love stripey straws.
If you've never had Pimm's No. 1, or a Pimm's cup before, you are missing out. It's normally served with lemonade or ginger ale and chopped fresh ingredients like strawberries, lemon, orange, cucumber, apple and mint. It's a total chick drink but I love the stuff and can drink jugs and jugs of it. Once I decided I wanted to make Lisa a Pimm's cake, I knew it had to be piled high with lots of fruit and some cucumber slices, and might be one of the few exceptions where cucumber would make sense in a cake. This also made me determined to add cucumber to the buttercream, and you can probably tell that didn't go exactly to plan. Because I was adding so much liquid and puree to the icing it split very badly and even after mixing up it with heaps more butter and icing sugar it was still grainy and not a very attractive colour. FAIL. Yep, definitely wasn't my best effort ever, and neither were the photos. But it tasted pretty good, which was the important thing.
If I had the chance to do this again I'd definitely change a lot of things. I would have preferred to use a Swiss Meringue Buttercream for this recipe, since the SMB can handle a lot of liquid being added to it without affecting the texture as much. But Lisa isn't a big fan of eating SMB, and what's the point of making something she doesn't like? I would definitely have made some small cubes of Pimm's jelly to put on top with all the fruit, just to make sure the Pimm's flavour was packed into the cake. But you can't expect every single experiment to turn out perfectly on your first attempt, so this is the cake I ended up presenting. And then there was the challenge of transferring it from the stand to a container, and dragging it on a train to the city and walking up to Surry Hills. The cake was definitely not very attractive by the time the birthday girl got to see it, oops.
I was happy with how my sponge cakes turned out, the recipe I used is the same as this ginger sponge recipe, except I made double because I wanted the cake to be gloriously tall, like a giant Pimm's cocktail. So feel free to mess around with a different buttercream recipe or different toppings, but it's a pretty great cake flavour wise, and is perfect for those of you who are in the middle of your Summer months. It's got all that colourful fruit on top, the cake is light with just a hint of ginger (just like a ginger ale), the jam is tart and delicious and the buttercream is sweet without being too rich, and has that hint of refreshing cucumber in it. So happy birthday Lisa, I hope you liked your cake!
- 500g (2 punnets) fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
- 350g (approx 1.5 cups) jam setting sugar
- Juice of 1/2 orange
- Juice of 1/4 lemon
- 4 tbsp Pimm's No. 1
- 1/2 orange, very thinly sliced with a sharp knife or mandolin
- 1 lemon, very thinly sliced with a sharp knife or mandolin
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
Prepare the jam first; place chopped strawberries and sugar in a large heavy-based pot and mash roughly with a masher or a fork to bring out the juice. Stir over low heat until all the sugar has dissolved, then stir in the orange and lemon juice. Turn up the heat. Once the jam reaches a foaming fast boil (this will read 105C on a candy thermometer), keep boiling for about another 10 minutes until the mixture starts to thicken. Remove from the heat. Leave to cool for 30 mins, skim away any scum, then stir in the Pimm's. (As you will not use up all of it in this recipe, you can place the jam in sterilised jam jars, which can be stored for up to a year)
For the candied citrus slices; prepare an ice water bath. Bring a large saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Add citrus slices and remove from the heat, stirring until the slices soften. Drain slices and then place them in the ice water bath. Drain again. Bring 1 & 1/2 cups of water + sugar to boil in a large saucepan or skillet, stirring until the sugar dissolves, add slices to pot, in as much of a single layer as you can. Reduce heat and simmer (don't boil) until rinds turn translucent, about 1 hour. Remove from pan using tongs and transfer to a baking sheet lined with baking paper. I sprinkled an extra layer of sugar over the top of them to ensure there was no chance of them being bitter. Set aside until ready to decorate cake
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Brush two 18cm-diameter cake tins with melted butter (I only have one which is another reason I made one cake after the other), line base with baking paper (I also lined the sides to make it easier to remove), dust sides with flour. Triple-sift flour and ground ginger together and set aside.
Whisk eggs, caster sugar and brown sugar in an electric mixer until thick, pale and tripled in volume (7-8 minutes, longer for a handheld mixer). Transfer to a mixing bowl. Sift over flour in three batches, folding each batch in with a large metal spoon. Fold in melted butter. Ensure there are no lumps of flour still in the mixture.
Pour into tins and gently smooth top with a spatula, bake until light golden and centre springs back when pressed lightly with your fingertip (20-25 minutes). Pull cake gently away from sides of tin with your fingers or carefully loosen with a knife. Turn onto a wire rack, remove baking paper, turn back over, then cool completely. While they are cooling, you can bring the Pimm's and sugar to the boil in a small saucepan and brush over the bottom side of both cakes.
To prepare the buttercream, remove the butter 30 mins before starting. Place butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high until light and fluffy. Gradually add sifted icing sugar and beat until smooth. Add strawberry & Pimm's jam and cucumber puree and beat until combined. (Alternatively you can halve the butter and icing sugar mixture and add the strawberry to one part and cucumber to the other park, then swirl the two icing mixtures over the cake. Top cake with strawberries (I soaked mine overnight in the leftover Pimm's sugar syrup), cucumber slices, and candied lemon and orange slices. Can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for several days.