Pomegranate and Lime Chiffon Cake

This cake is one of the wonderful creations of Gesine Bullock-Prado, who comes up with hidden design and spectacular cakes in her Bake It Like You Mean It. Originally called ‘Love is patient puzzle cake’, this is no exception. The idea for the cake is to have alternating layers of pomegranate and lime chiffon cakes, sandwiched together with buttercream (the real thing, not butter cream). Then, when your cake would almost be completed, you use a knife to carve out a wedge/cone from the cake and cover the ‘mess’ you have made with another layer. Lastly, you put back the layer you have removed and cover the cake with more buttercream. The result is very pleasant and surprising: it looks like one of the layers naughtily escaped the cake and came back at a later moment.

If you have never made buttercream before, don’t worry. The instructions below are very easy to follow and contain some advice on what to do if it curdles. I understand the idea og tackling a meringue + butter can be daunting, but the result is so much better than the traditional British butter cream and exponentially less gritty. Also, I cut down on the butter in the original because, honestly, 1kg of butter is just wrong. Lastly, I decided to go for a clean finish and not have the outside of the cake covered in crumbs, which I think makes it for a more elegant cake. A simple scattering of pomegranate seeds on top provides for an attractive decoration. The cake is a big one but it needs to be because, frankly, it’d delicious.

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Ingredients (for the pomegranate chiffon cake)

  • 8 eggs, separated
  • 160ml vegetable oil
  • 200ml pomegranate juice
  • red/orange food colouring (optional)
  • 420g plain flour, sifted
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Ingredients (for the lime chiffon cake)

  • 8 eggs, separated
  • 160ml vegetable oil
  • 100ml lime juice
  • 100ml water
  • 420g plain flour, sifted
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Ingredients (for the buttercream)

  • 600g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 15 egg whites
  • a pinch of salt
  • 500g butter, at room temperature

Method

  1. Start by making the pomegranate chiffon cake. Grease and line the bottom of 2 x 25cm round cake tins with baking parchment – do NOT grease the sides because the cake will need to have something to cling on while rising. Pre-heat the oven to 170C.
  2. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg yolks and oil, then whisk until combined. Slowly add the pomegranate juice and food colouring, is using, then whisk until combined.
  3. In a bowl, sift together the flour, 100g of the sugar, the baking powder and salt, then slowly add the dry mixture to the yolk mixture and whisk on low speed until fully combined.
  4. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy, then whisk on high speed and slowly add the remaining sugar (200g) until stiff, white peaks form. Make sure not to overwhip the egg whites or you won’t be able to fold them in. If you want, you can also whip the egg whites first then set them aside so you don’t need to wash the beaters/whisk attachment to prepare the egg yolks mixture. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture in two additions until fully combined.
  5. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cake springs back when you touch it and completely cooked in the middle. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before unmoulding it, then set aside and wash the cake pans.
  6. To make the lime chiffon cake, repeat steps 1-5 but add the lime juice and water to the egg yolks rather than the pomegranate juice.
  7. Now, on to the buttercream. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the caster sugar, 240ml of water and the lemon juice. Stir until the sugar is completely saturated so that it looks like wet sand. Place over a medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon/rubber spatula until the sugar has completely dissolved. Stop stirring, increase the heat to high and attach a sugar/candy thermometer to the pan. Heat the mixture to 112C.
  8. In the meantime, in the clean bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a clean whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and salt and whisk on high speed until foamy. When the sugar syrup has come to temperature, decrease the speed to medium and slowly pour the hot syrup down the side of the bowl. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high and whisk until stiff peaks form and the bowl is cool to the touch. Please use a very big bowl because 15 egg whites make a lot of meringue (I used the 6L one from Kitchen Aid and it was still slightly small).
  9. The meringue needs to be cold or at least at room temperature before you add the butter, otherwise the latter will melt and you will end up with a sweet mess. Therefore, ensure the bowl is definitely cool to the touch before moving on to the next step. Slowly add bits of butter to the meringue, about 2 tbsp at a time. Keep on whisking on medium speed to incorporate it in the meringue, then occasionally switch to high speed for a few seconds to mix it in better. If your mixture starts to curdle, stop the machine/whisk immediately and put the bowl in the fridge for a good 30 minutes. This will harden the butter. After 30 minutes, remove the bowl from the fridge and whisk on high speed to a smooth and fluffy consistency.
  10. To assemble the cake, we need 3 layers of pomegranate and 3 layers of lime chiffon cake. As it stands, you will have two cakes of each kind. Therefore, once the cakes have completely cooled, use a ruler and mark the cake every 12mm from the bottom up. Use a serrated knife to gently slice the cake – please ensure you are cutting horizontally, otherwise the layers will be wonky. You can also resort to marking the cake with toothpicks and placing the blade onto them to act as a guide. Cut each cake into 3 layers, so that you should end up with a whopping 12 layers in total.
  11. You might notice that not all layers are perfect: some might be more frail and broken than others, but that is perfectly fine. Remember, we only need 3 of each to assemble the cake! To start, place a pomegranate layer on a cake board/plate and spread a thin layer of buttercream on top, about 3mm thick. Top with a lime layer, then repeat the buttercream on top. Repeat this process with another pomegranate layer, followed by a lime layer, then another pomegranate on top and make sure to alternate them with buttercream. You have now created a 5-layer cake, which needs to set in order to carry on with the assembling. Place in the fridge for at least 1 hour to harden.
  12. Remove the cake from the fridge and use a 23cm round plate/disc to mark the top of the cake – you are only making a small indentation around the edge of the guide plate/disc. Remove the circle guide, then place your knife at a 45 degree angle and cut into the layers along the outline you made earlier. You want to take a cone-shaped chunk from the middle of the cake, so keep the knife steady and rotate the cake to obtain and even cone. Lift the cake cone out of the cake and set it aside. You now have a cake with a big cone-shaped crater in front of you.
  13. Coat the inside of the crater with a layer of buttercream, then take the last lime layer and use it to line the inside of the crater. You might need to gently press it down so that it adheres to the inside of the cake. Don’t worry if it cracks, it’s normal – after all, you are forcing cake into an uncomfortable position. Once the layer has adhered to the crater, cover the smaller crater resulting with more buttercream and finally place the cone-shaped cake wedge you cut out before back into the crater. You might need to press it down gently, but do not overdo it or you will break the cake in half. Apply a very thin layer of buttercream all around the cake and on top, then transfer the cake to the fridge to harden for another hour.
  14. Now, onto the final step! Use the remaining buttercream to coat the outside of the cake as evenly as possible and create a smooth, finished layer. Top with some pomegranate seeds (optional) and serve. Enjoy!

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