Mango Passion fruit Italian Cream Cake with Kiwi Buttercream. A tropical version of the Italian Cream Cake from Irvin Lin‘s Cookbook, “Marbled, Swirled and Layered“. It is gorgeous, delicious and well worth the effort. Everything in Irvin’s book looks incredible. It was hard to choose what to make first.
Irvin is celebrating the 1st anniversary of his gorgeous baking book : Marbled, Swirled and Layered, and to celebrate I made this cake of his in his book’s honor. Irvin sent me a copy a few months ago and when I was flipping through it I landed on the recipe for Meyer Lemon Italian Cream Cake with Lemon Custard and Strawberry Buttercream. I was intrigued and even moreso when I saw his alternative recipe to it with using mango, passion fruit and kiwi. That had my name all over it. Fancy layer cake with tropical flavors? Yes please. Irvin’s blog, Eat The Love, is one of my favorite baking blogs. His recipes are incredible, fabulous photos and he is an amazing writer. He also has the funniest April Fool’s recipe on his blog – How to Boil Water. He has a fabulous sense of humor.
When I first told Irvin that this was the cake I was going to make he warned me that it was pretty labor intensive and I could choose something else if I wanted. I was up for the challenge and I chose it since this cake was one of the few recipes in the book that doesn’t have a photo. I wanted to show the world his gorgeous recipe. As best as I could make it look that is. Complicated layer cakes don’t scare me plus I changed a few steps to make it less daunting of a task. This is a great cake to make over a few days if you don’t have many cake pans or time to make all in one day. The custard layers take a while to chill and set, Irvin recommends up to 24 hours to chill it, which is what I did. I spread the cake making out over three days. Cakes first, custard layers next, buttercream and assembly on the last day.
Day 1 bake the cakes and freeze them. My trick to keeping cakes moist is to wrap in cling film when still somewhat warm after baking and placing in a resealable bag then freezing. Freeze on a flat surface such as a baking tray or cardboard cake circle. This keeps a nice flat bottom for layering the cakes later.
Day two make the custard. I made parchment circles for the bottoms of the pans as stated in the instructions. I wish I had it on the sides as well as the bottoms to lift the custard out of the pans a little easier. It took a bit of gentle coaxing to get the custard out of the pans once chilled. I used a small thin metal spatula as well as a wide, thin floppy one. I didn’t want the custard to crack at all.
Day three make the buttercream and assemble the cake. Since I was making the kiwi version of the buttercream for this cake I had a little bit of trouble with the kiwi syrup and my first batch didn’t come out quite right. I also have a candy thermometer that isn’t working correctly and between the two issues I had to scrap my first batch of buttercream. I decided to go with Swiss meringue since I time that instead of using a thermometer ( although I highly recommend using a candy thermometer for either Italian or Swiss meringue buttercreams) and it came together quicker than making Italian again. I was starting to run out of daylight and wanted to get the cake decorated and photographed. I also didn’t trust my wonky candy thermometer enough to have a go at a second batch of Italian meringue buttercream. I also added in a thin layer of the buttercream with the custard layers. Irvin doesn’t have this step in his book, I did it because my layers fell a little in the middle when baking so I used the buttercream to fill them in so the custard layers would sit evenly on the cakes.
MEYER LEMON ITALIAN CREAM CAKE WITH LEMON CUSTARD AND STRAWBERRY BUTTERCREAM
Makes one 9 inch three layer cake
For the Cake
- 2 small Meyer lemons (each about the size of a large egg)
- 1 1⁄4 cups heavy cream
- 8 large eggs, separated
- 1⁄4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3 cups (600 g) granulated sugar, divided
- 3⁄4 cup (170 g or 1 1⁄2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3⁄4 cup (130 g) vegetable shortening
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 cups (360 g) cake flour
For the Custard
- LEMON CUSTARD
- 2 1⁄4 cups heavy cream
- Zest of 4 lemons
- 6 large eggs
- 3 large egg yolks (reserve the whites for the buttercream)
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 5 tablespoons cornstarch
For the Buttercream
- STRAWBERRY ITALIAN MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
- 6 large egg whites
- 1⁄4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1⁄8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar, divided
- 4 cups (1 pound or 455 g) fresh strawberries
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 1⁄2 cups (570 g or 5 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 cups (1 pound or 455 g) fresh strawberries
- TO ASSEMBLE: 4 cups (1 pound or 455 g) fresh strawberries
MAKE THE CAKE BATTER:
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Coat three 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and then line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper.
Zest the Meyer lemons into a bowl and set aside. Juice the Meyer lemons and add the liquid to the cream in the measuring cup or in a bowl. Stir and set aside to thicken. Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer still on, slowly sprinkle in 3⁄4 cup (150 g) of the sugar and continue to whip until the whites become glossy. Turn the mixer off, scoop the whites out into a large bowl, and set aside.
Place the butter, shortening, the remaining 21⁄4 cups (450 g) sugar, the vanilla, baking soda, salt, and the reserved zest in the mixer bowl (no need to clean it) and switch to the paddle attachment. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, waiting for each yolk to incorporate before adding the next. Occasionally stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. The batter should look thick and rich.
Add one-third of the flour and mix on medium-low speed until incorporated. Add half the thickened cream and beat to incorporate. Repeat, alternating between the flour and the cream, ending with the flour. Remove the bowl from the mixer and scoop about 1 cup of the whipped egg whites into the cake batter. Gently fold it in by hand with a large spatula to lighten the batter. Once the initial egg whites are incorporated, scoop out more egg whites and repeat until all the egg whites are folded in.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans (about 665 g each) and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Check the cakes after 20 minutes and rotate them if they are baking unevenly. Let cool in the pans until just warm to the touch, 15 to 20 minutes, and then unmold onto wire racks to cool completely. The cake layers will rise impressively while baking and then deflate a bit as they cool.
MAKE THE LEMON CUSTARD:
Lower the oven temperature to 300°F. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and then line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper. Bring the cream to a boil in a medium pot. While the cream is heating, place the lemon zest, eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch in a large bowl set on a damp towel (to keep it from shifting). Stir together. Once the cream is boiling, pour it over the mixture in the bowl while constantly stirring the custard with a whisk. Divide the custard between the prepared pans (about 700 g each). Bake until the center just barely moves and the edges of the custard have started to brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Immediately run a thin knife around the custard edge to help release it from the pan. Let the custard cool to room temperature in the pans, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
MAKE THE STRAWBERRY ITALIAN MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM:
Place the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in a clean bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Slowly sprinkle in 1⁄2 cup (100 g) of the sugar and continue to whip until the egg whites look glossy. Turn off the mixer.
Cut the green tops off the strawberries, discarding the tops, and coarsely chop the strawberries into 1⁄2-inch chunks. Place the chopped strawberries (and any accumulated juice) in a medium pot along with the remaining 11⁄2 cups (300 g) sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook over high heat until the strawberries have released their juice, the sugar has dissolved, and the liquid is bubbling furiously and bright red, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour the strawberry sugar syrup through a fine-mesh strainer into another medium pot, catching all the solids. Place the strawberry solids in a food processor or blender and process into a smooth puree.
Heat the strawberry syrup over medium-high heat until it reaches 225°F (the early thread stage). Once it reaches that point, remove from the heat and turn the stand mixer with the whipped egg whites in it back on to high speed. Drizzle the strawberry sugar syrup carefully into the bowl, making sure it doesn’t hit the whisk attachment or it will send the scalding hot syrup all over the place. Continue to drizzle the syrup until it is fully incorporated, then add the vinegar. Continue to beat for 8 minutes, or until the outside of the bowl is cool to the touch. Switch to the paddle attachment and reduce the mixer speed to medium-high. With the mixer running, add the butter 2 or 3 tablespoons at a time, beating until incorporated before each addition. If the frosting looks really loose and thin, the egg whites are probably still too warm. Try placing the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes to cool it down, then continue. Once all the butter is incorporated, reduce the speed to low and add the strawberry puree. Mix until just incorporated.
ASSEMBLE THE CAKE:
Place one cake layer on a cake stand or serving platter and peel off the parchment paper if you haven’t already. Unmold the custard onto the cake; you may need to coax it out with a butter knife. Peel off the parchment paper. Repeat this process with the second cake layer, the second custard layer, and then the final cake layer on top. Frost the cake with the strawberry buttercream. Place whole strawberries on top of the cake around the edge for decoration. Cut the green tops off the remaining strawberries and thinly slice them. Press the strawberry slices all the way around the bottom of the cake. Serve immediately.
Alternative Cake Flavor:
MANGO ITALIAN CREAM CAKE WITH PASSION FRUIT CUSTARD AND KIWI BUTTERCREAM:
Omit the Meyer lemon zest and juice and instead use 1⁄2 cup (100 g) pureed mango (puree mango in a food processor or blender). Reduce the cream to 1 cup. For the custard, omit the lemon zest and replace the lemon juice with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 g) passion fruit puree (often found frozen in Latin or specialty grocery stores or online; make sure to thaw first). For the buttercream, use 4 fresh ripe kiwis (about 3⁄4 pound or 340 g) in place of the strawberries and replace the balsamic vinegar with fresh lime juice. Assemble and decorate with half-moon slices of kiwi at the bottom of the cake.
I made a Swiss Meringue Buttercream instead of the Italian Meringue buttercream. I added in puree of 2 ( peeled) kiwis into the buttercream once it was done mixing.
One of the things I love most about this mango passion fruit Italian cream cake is as decadent as it is, it really isn’t overly sweet. The flavors really work well together. Keep the cake chilled and slice when chilled. A cold cake slices much easier. Bring the slices to cool room temperature before serving since the frosting is more buttery than sugary and tastes way better at room temp. You can freeze slices wrapped in cling film and in resealable freezer bags for up to 3 months. Just set out and bring to room temp before eating. It is excellent with a cup of coffee or tea. Thank you Irvin for sending me a copy of your gorgeous book and congrats on your book’s one year anniversary. Readers can pick up a copy of Marbled, Swirled and Layered from Amazon.