A delicious layer cake packed full of poppy seeds, with the late summer flavors of blackberry basil jam and a lightly sweetened mascarpone cream frosting. Topped with a delicate caramel sauce drip and a dramatic fruit crown of summer's bounty.
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 1hour
Cook Time 24minutes
Total Time 3hours
Servings 12servings (6" cake with 3 layers, torted into 6)
2teaspoonsblackberry liqueur, such as creme de mure (optional)
LATE SUMMER FRUITS FOR DECORATION
Seasonal fruit such as pears, figs, plums, blackberries and blueberries.
Basil leaves and other floral additions as appropriate (make sure they are edible and/or food safe!)
POPPY SEED LAYER CAKE
Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit (177° Celsius, Gas Mark 4)
Grease three 6” cake pans and cut circles of parchment paper to place in the bottom of each pan.
In a 1 quart saucepan, warm the milk and poppy seeds over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, blend the flour, baking powder and salt with a whisk. Set aside.
Into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and granulated sugar. Mix until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, and the lemon zest. Mix until incorporated.
Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and beat until just combined. Add the poppy seed and milk mixture and beat until smooth. Add the remainder of the flour and mix well. Scrape the bowl with a spatula to ensure there is no unmixed flour at the bottom.
Pour the cake batter evenly between the three pans. I use my kitchen scale to ensure that the layers are similar in weight.
Bake for 23-25 minutes, until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with no crumbs.
Cool in pans for 10 minutes and then flip onto a metal cooling rack and remove the parchment paper. Cool completely before torting the layers.
To torte the layers, divide each cake layer into two thinner rounds by slicing carefully in half horizontally with a sharp serrated knife. This will result in 6 cake layers.
BLACKBERRY BASIL JAM
Yield: 1.5 cups (375 mL) blackberry basil jam, enough to use between cake layers with some extra to spare.
Place half of the blackberries in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Press berries thoroughly to extract as much juice as possible. Be thorough and patient with this step - you'll be surprised how much juice you will get if you work at it for a while. Discard the strained blackberry seeds.
Place the strained blackberry liquid into a blender with the basil leaves and lemon juice. Blend until smooth.
Into a 3 quart saucepan place the remainder of the blackberries and the sugar. Using a potato masher or the back of a spoon, mash until the berries release their juices and have become saucy. Add the blended blackberry basil mixture and mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring from time to time to keep the foam down, until mixture has gelled and thickened to a jam-like consistency. Cook time varies depending on your berries, stove temperature, etc. It should take around 20-25 minutes. To test, place a teaspoon of jam into the freezer on a chilled plate - if it remains thick and the juices don't run when tilted, it's ready. Set aside to cool. If making ahead, transfer into lidded mason jars and store in the fridge for up to a month.
MASCARPONE CREAM FROSTING
Yield - 3 cups, enough for a thin application between each of the 6 torted cake layers, as a dam for the blackberry basil jam, and to coat the exterior of the cake in a naked cake style.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the chilled mascarpone, vanilla extract, almond extract and powdered sugar. Beat on medium speed until mixed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute or so, until light and fluffy. Be careful not to mix too much, as mascarpone is sensitive and can turn grainy when overmixed.
Turn the mixer to high and stream in the heavy whipping cream. Beat for another minute or two, until the mixture is thick and fluffy and can stand up on its own. It should have the consistency of stiff shaving cream. If it's at all runny, whip further. Stop once you've achieved a thick consistency (again, overmixing cream mascarpone can cause graininess and a curdled texture.)
Yield - about 2 cups of caramel sauce. I find it's easier to make in this quantity than in smaller batches (it lasts a good long while in the fridge). Feel free to reduce - you'll only need about a quarter this much for the caramel drip.
In a large, heavy shallow saucepan, add the sugar and water. Cook over medium heat, without stirring, until the color of the sugar mixture is a light copper brown. Quickly remove from heat. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the heavy cream into the hot sugar mixture - be careful as it might sizzle and foam at the beginning.
Continue to whisk until the cream is completely incorporated and the sauce is smooth. Add the butter, vanilla and salt. Stir until butter is melted and mixed in. If including, now whisk in the the blackberry liqueur. Set aside to cool.
Extra portions can be placed in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Place the first of the six torted cake layers onto a serving platter, cut side down. Spread a layer of mascarpone frosting onto the entire layer. Using a piping bag with a large round open tip* (I used a Wilton 1A tip), pipe a circle of frosting around the outside border of the cake, closing it completely. This will create a barrier to prevent the jam from leaking out the sides. Using a spoon, fill the center with jam. There will be three total layers of jam, so portion accordingly. You may have some leftover.* Other alternatives include a piping bag with a simple cut opening or a heavy ziploc bag with a corner cut off.
Cover with the 2nd layer of cake, cut side down. Press down gently and check the level with each addition. Add a layer of mascarpone, but do not pipe a dam or add jam. Cover with the 3rd layer of cake, cut side down. Repeat the mascarpone, piped border, and jam. Cover with the 4th layer of cake, cut side down. Add another layer of mascarpone, but do not pipe a dam or add jam. Cover with the 5th layer of cake, cut side down. Repeat the mascarpone, piped border, and jam. Cover with the 6th and final layer of cake, cut side down.
Using an offset spatula and a bench scraper, cover top and sides of cake with the remaining mascarpone frosting. To achieve the naked look, apply a thinner amount and use a bench scraper or cake spatula to expose a bit of the cake underneath. If you have a cake turntable or a lazy suzan you can place the platter on, it will make this process much easier.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes minimum before adding caramel drip. Test the consistency of your caramel drip by doing a practice run on an upside down quart mason jar or similar container. Your caramel should be at room temperature. If too warm, it will run down the sides too quickly and puddle at the bottom of your cake. Chilling the cake will help control the drip.
To add the caramel drip, pour enough caramel onto the cake to cover the top. Using a mini offset spatula, gently push a bit of the caramel over the edge in a sweeping motion, following the curve of the cake. This should create a waterfall effect that will push the caramel over the edge into drips. Add additional caramel where needed to create extra drip. Chill cake for an additional 30 minutes to help caramel set before adding fruit decoration.
For fruit decoration, add the larger fruits first, and then layer in the smaller bits as you go. I chose to form the fruit into a crescent shape. To keep the pear upright, I placed a toothpick halfway into the cake and poked the pear into it. I used a red pear, a green fig cut in two, some purple figs, a few very small Italian plums, blackberries, and blueberries. I also added purple basil and a beautiful purple Japanese maple leaf. Have fun with the decoration!