This is a stunning centerpiece for whichever occasion you might be willing to bake. The cake comprises of 2 génoise sponge layers alternated with 2 meringue discs and sealed with orange-flavoured and praline-dusted buttercream. The sides of the cake are then iced with more buttercream and are covered with coarser praline. It takes a while to make s there is quite a lot involved, but it isn’t as difficult as it might come across as and, once assembled, you will be glad to have spent that extra hour in the kitchen. The recipes comes from the GBBO book, but as it lacked a picture to go with the cake, I had to improvise a little bit on the decoration.
For those of you who don’t know, a génoise sponge is a whisked sponge which involves very little flour and is made by whisking the eggs in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, so that they start to cook and, at the same time, increase in volume at least threefold.
Ingredients (for the sponge)
- 150g plain flour
- 15g cornflour
- good pinch of salt
- 6 large eggs
- 165g caster sugar
- finely grated zest of 1 and a half oranges
- 75g unsalted butter
Ingredients (for the meringues)
- 100g ground almonds, sifted
- 70g icing sugar, sifted
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 70g caster sugar
Ingredients (for the praline)
- 175g caster sugar
- 175g whole (unblanched) almonds
Ingredients (for the butter icing)
- 450g unsalted butter, very soft
- 450g icing sugar, sifted
- finely grated zest of 1 and a half oranges
- 3 tbsp orange juice
- First of all, let’s start with the sponge. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Sift the flour, cornflour and salt onto a sheet of baking parchment and set aside. In a pan, melt the butter, then transfer to a bowl to cool down and set aside. Grease and line a 23cm cake tin (I used a springform one) and set aside.
- In a heatproof bowl, break the eggs and whisk with an electric mixer until just frothy. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (ensuring the bowl doesn’t touch the water) and whisk in the sugar and the orange zest. Keep on whisking on high speed until the mixture is very thick, pale and mousse-like and leaves a ribbon-like trail when the beaters are lifted from the bowl.
- Remove the bowl from the pan and whisk again for a good 5 minutes until the mixture has cooled down to room temperature.
- Add half of the flour mixture to the egg one and dribble over the surface half of the butter mixture. Using a spatula or a big metal spoon, slowly and carefully fold these in until you can’t see any flour streaks anymore. Repeat to add the rest of the flour mixture and butter, then gently and carefully fold those in too.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes. Check whether the sponge is cooked by testing it with a skewer inserted in the middle. Once baked, remove from the oven and loosen it from the sides using a spatula or round-bladed knife, then set over a wire rack to cool down. Leave in the tin for about 5 minutes, then unmould and leave to cool down on the wire rack.
- Now, let’s move on to the praline. Set a pan over a low heat and tumble in both the sugar and the almonds. Grease well a baking tray and set aside.
- Stir occasionally and allow plenty of time for the sugar to start dissolving. Once the sugar has more or less completely melted and has turned into a brownish caramel, turn up the heat and let it come to a bubble, mixing constantly.
- When you see the mixture turning a dark brown colour, tip it onto the oiled baking sheet and flatten it out, then leave to cool to room temperature. In the meantime, I made the meringue layers, but I will put the whole procedure here for your convenience.
- Once the praline slab has cooled down to room temperature and is very hard to the touch, remove from the tin and break into smallish shards with a knife or a kitchen hammer. Transfer to a food processor and blend until you get a coarse powder. Sieve the mixture into a bowl so as to separate the praline powder from the rest of the coarser mixture. The powder will be used in the buttercream, so set that aside. Keep the coarser praline to ice the sides of the cake.
- Next step, the meringue layers. Using the cake tin base, draw a circle on two pieces of baking parchment, then turn the paper over so that the drawing is visible through the parchment and use to line two baking sheets. Mix the sifted ground almonds and icing sugar in a bowl and set aside.
- Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks will form. Slowly but steadily add the caster sugar and keep on whisking on high speed until stiff peaks form. Once the egg whites are fully whisked, use a large spatula to fold in the icing sugar and ground almonds mixture and ensure to mix that in with a gentle but steady movement, so as to knock out as little air as possible. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
- Divide the meringue mixture between the two baking trays and try to fill the circles drawn on the baking parchment, smoothing the sides and the top to make it into a disc.
- Bake for 1 and a half hours until crisp on the outside and dry. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack until stone cold.
- Last, the butter icing. Beat the butter with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy, then slowly mix the sifted icing sugar in before increasing the speed and adding the orange juice and praline powder. Beat again until creamy and fluffy.
- Last step, assembling the cake.
- Slice the sponge layer in half horizontally. Trim the meringue discs (if needed) to be the same size as the sponge layers.
- Sit one of the meringues on the cake stand/serving plate you are using and glue it with a dollop of butter icing, then cover with a layer of butter icing. Lay one of the sponges on top and cover that with a layer of icing, then top with a meringue disc and the last sponge layer, sticking them together with the butter icing.
- Use the rest of the butter icing to cover the sides and make the cake smooth, but keep some of the icing aside as you will need it to pipe on the top of the cake. Grab the coarser praline and, using your hands, stick handfuls of it to the fresh buttercream, so as to cover the sides evenly.
- Transfer the rest of the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe a ring on top of the cake to cover any imperfections created when icing the sides, then use some to stick some of the praline in the middle and, if you want to, pipe a small star right in the middle of the top sponge layer and decorate with orange slices.