There are things you should know about my friend Purd. We were friends in 1st grade, in Mrs. Purse’s class. We watched The Little Mermaid together in class (and I laughed out loud with the rest of the class when Scuttle twisted the fork in his hair and it poofed out, even though every time I watched it at home, by myself, that part never made me laugh. it’s funny how we do things like that, isn’t it?) and afterward we sang the songs from the movie together in the side yard next to the classroom. Purd left for California in 2nd grade, and in 3rd grade, clearly still beaten up about the disappearance of my friend, I wrote a touching multiplication poem about her (which we discovered together years later, in high school, and almost peed our pants reading). Three times ten is thirty. There used to be a girl named Christen Purdie.
So, we go way back. When Purd came back in 6th grade, her hair was short and she wore California-cool clothes, and we became friends again, slowly, bonding over such age-appropriate things as Sailor Moon and being bitter about how stupid boys are (we still bond over that). And we’ve been friends since. So when our vacation time (well. my whole life is a vacation at this very moment, friends) on Long Island overlapped, and Purd needed help creating a cake for a family party, you have to know I was happy to volunteer my services. Plus it meant we could hang out for about 5 hours straight. It was a complicated cake.
You can see the final product there. Impressive, right? Well, of course we took a bunch of shortcuts that I don’t recommend you taking if you decide to embark on this crazy ass adventure in baking. And to be honest, we’d do some things differently taste-wise. Helping me out on this massive expedition was Purd’s boyfriend, Wes. Here are his hands, cutting mangoes:
Actually, Kristen didn’t really do much at all, except take all the pictures and add the wrong amount of gelatin to the mousse and serve as Art Director when it came time to decorate. But she supervised as Wes and I fumbled our way through what ended up being a very promising but not-quite-the-ticket cake. Here we are, mid-fumble:
It’s not that the cake wasn’t lovely. I assure you it was. But there was something lacking. Some sort of zinging taste that it needed. We thought the lime-flavored icing would do it, and we thought the mango mousse would be more powerful, but we were wrong on both accounts. Next time we might 1) buy mango puree from the store instead of making it from fresh mangoes (we think it would have more of a concentrated mango flavor); 2) perhaps cut the cake recipe in half, making 2 cakes and then cutting those in half for a more slender 4-layer cake (the cake was delicious but a tad overwhelming); and 3) squeeze some lime juice or something into the frosting (as it was there was only the zest, which is beautifully fragrant and subtle and wonderful, but mama was looking for some f’ing ZING, you know?). Also, I smushed one of the cakes with my unwieldy oven mitt. Check it:
AND, because we rushed the cooling process, and because we didn’t have a cake mold (seriously, who has such things?), the cake was a bit on the wonky side. It just looked like one side was a bit droopy, like the cake had a stroke or something. Anyway, Kristen took a ton of pictures, and I’m going to let them do the talking from here on out.
So if you have time to kill and people to impress, I challenge you to this cake. Also, I think you should think about taking elements of this cake and creating different combinations. The lime frosting, for example, I think would be kick-ass with a strawberry chiffon cake. The actual yellow cake from this recipe is pretty perfect for just about any tiered cake endeavor, and I can imagine a nice lemon curd and buttercream frosting going fantastically well with this. And the mango mousse I could’ve eaten plain (and indeed I did…lay off, I needed to taste it to make sure it was the right consistency, 80 separate times). So volunteer to make a birthday cake for one of your friends and experiment. Or don’t, god, you’re so boring, why are we even friends?
Mango Mousse Cake with Lime-Hinted Frosting
adapted from, and with much thanks to, Confessions of a Tart, who thanks Helen of Tartelette
Assembly: Set the first layer of the cake inside a mold. Brush the layer with one-third of the lime/rum syrup (or the mango/rum syrup if you are us). Spread half the mango mousse on top of the cake layer. Lay the second cake layer on top of the mango mousse. Gently press on the top to distribute the mousse evenly. Brush it with another third of the lime/rum syrup. Spread the rest of the mango mousse on top. Place the final layer on top and press lightly. Brush the top with the last third of the syrup. Wrap tightly with plastic and refrigerate for two hours or overnight. Unwrap the cake and either unmold (if using a cake mold) or carefully turn it over onto a round cake board. Prepare the whipped cream frosting and frost the cake. Decorate and allow to set for at least 3 hours.
Vanilla Buttermilk Cake (Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes)
3 3/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1/3 cup buttermilk
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
Combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and 1 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix on low speed briefly to blend; then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and the remaining 1/3 cup buttermilk until well blended. Pour one-third of the egg mixture into the cake batter at a time, folding it in completely after each addition. There will be 9 cups of batter.
Bake for 26 to 28 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn the layers out onto wire racks by placing a rack on top of a pan, inverting it, and lifting off the pan. Peel off the paper liners and let cool completely. When the layers have cooled, place a cardboard cake board on top of a layer, invert again, and lift off the rack. To make the layers easier to handle, wrap them on their boards completely in plastic, so they don’t dry out, and refrigerate them.
Mango mousse (Tartelette)
3 teaspoons powdered gelatin, 3 tablespoon water
8 oz mango puree (I made my own from 2 large mangoes, but next time, I think I will buy it for more concentrated mango flavor)
4 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream, cold
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it soften while you prepare the fruit. In a medium saucepan, bring the mango puree and sugar to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add the softened gelatin. Stir until the gelatin is completely melted. Transfer the fruit puree to a large bowl and let it cool to room temperature.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream on medium speed until soft peaks form. Fold about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the fruit puree to lighten it up (do not worry about losing air at this point). Carefully fold in the rest of the whipped cream. Use within one hour.
Rum/lime simple syrup
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons rum
1 tablespoon lime juice (we replaced this with about 1/2 cup of mango puree and let it simmer down)
In a small saucepan set over medium high heat, bring all the ingredients to a simmer until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Let cool to room temperature.
Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting (Tartelette)
2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp powdered gelatin dissolved in 3 Tb. cold water
grated zest of one lime
Rub the lime zest into the sugar to release the oils. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream with the sugar/lime zest until soft peaks. In the meantime, dissolve the gelatin in the microwave for 10 seconds. Or set the cup where the gelatin was in a large saucepan filled with a couple of inches of water, bringing the water to a simmer and waiting for the gelatin to melt. Slowly pour the gelatin in one steady stream over the whipped cream and continue to whip until firm. If you add your gelatin a little cooled and before the whipped cream is still at soft peaks stage, it should not clump on you. Decorate your cake with the whipped cream and return the cake to the refrigerator to chill until you are ready to serve it, at least 3 hours.