With Christmas around the corner we are inundated with images and recipes for all sorts of delicious baking so I thought I would add to the mix with this seasonal spiced Clementine Cake with Cranberry. I think it looks so beautiful with the subtle orange and pink tones from the clementines and cranberries further contrasted with some green pistachio macarons! It has a lovely moist texture and paired with the silky meringue buttercream, would make a lovely light alternative to some traditionally heavier seasonal cakes.
The recipe has quite a few components and in its entirety is aimed at the experienced baker, but for the novice baker please don’t let this put you off! The cake itself is so easy to make and would look fabulous simply sandwiched together with the icing and decorated with a smattering of cranberries and pistachios, obviating the need to attempt to make notoriously difficult macarons! Furthermore, should you wish for a simpler buttercream recipe, simply add some of the cranberry curd to this buttercream.
Clementine Cake with Star Anise and Cinnamon, Cranberry Curd Meringue Buttercream and Pistachio Macarons
Ingredients for the cake:
- 3 clementines
- 2 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 275g self-raising flour
- 3tsp baking powder
- 275g caster sugar
- 225g butter
- 4 eggs
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
Ingredients for the cranberry curd:
- 225g cranberries
- 1/2 cup water
- 140g caster sugar
- Zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
- 3 egg yolks (keep the whites for your macarons)
- 1 egg
- 60g unsalted butter
Ingredients for the cranberry swiss meringue buttercream:
- 150g egg white (can be from a carton)
- 250g caster sugar
- 340g unsalted butter, cubed
- 3-4 tbsp cranberry curd to taste
- pinch salt
Ingredients for the Pistachio Macarons
- 65g icing sugar
- 45g ground almonds
- 20g shelled pistachios
- 45g caster sugar
- 50g aged egg white (approx two egg whites)
- Green paste food colour
Step 1: To make the cake, preheat the oven to 160°C/320F/gas mark 3. Grease and line two 6″ round cake tins.
Step 2: Place the whole clementines (including skin) in a saucepan with the star anise and cinnamon stick, cover with boiling water and simmer for approx 20 mins until skins are soft. Leave to cool slightly and infuse. Remove clementines from the water, cut in half, remove any pips and then process in a food processor until pulpy.
Step 3: Add the remaining cake ingredients to the clementines in the food processor and process until smooth and well mixed. Avoid overmixing.
Step 4: Pour the mixture into the prepared tins and bake for 30-40 mins until cake is springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Step 5: To make the pistachio macarons, process the icing sugar, ground almonds and pistachios in a processor until fine. Sieve into a clean bowl and discard any larger particles.
Step 6: Wipe the inside of a metal bowl and an electric handheld whisk with some lemon juice and paper towel to remove any traces of grease. Weigh the egg white into the bowl and whisk on low speed until foamy. Increase speed and whisk until you see trails in the egg white. Add the caster sugar in thirds, whisking well after each addition. Continue whisking until just before stiff peaks form. Add desired amount of green food colouring before continuing to whisk to stiff peaks.
Step 7: Add half the almond mixture to the egg white and fold in before adding the remaining half. Gently fold the mixture (it’s called macronage) to remove some of the air until it has a flow and consistency of lava.
Step 8: Pour into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Fix some baking paper onto a tray with a dot of the mixture (or use a silicone baking mat) and pipe rounds. You should get approx 30 macaron shells. Bang tray firmly on the counter to remove any excess air bubbles. Leave to form a ‘skin’, this takes approx 30mins depending on humidity. To test for this simply lightly touch the top of one of the macarons and check that your finger comes away clean. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 160°C .
Step 9: Bake macarons for 14-16mins turning the tray around half-way through. The macarons are cooked when you can lightly a shell and the top doesn’t move from the feet. Leave to cool on the tray before removing.
Step 10: To make the cranberry curd, place cranberries and water in a saucepan, cover and heat until cranberries have burst and liquid bubbles. Pour through a sieve into a clean bowl and press through cranberry pulp. Return the pulp to the saucepan and stir in sugar to dissolve. Add the lemon and orange zest if and allow to cool slightly.
Step 11: Whisk the egg yolks and whole egg together and pour into the cranberry mixture, whisking until combined. Stir over a medium heat using a wooden spoon until the mixture has thickened and easily coats the back of a spoon (approx. 8-10mins). Pour into sterilised jars and place in the fridge once cool to set. This will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge to use any leftovers as you see fit!
Step 12: To make the cranberry swiss meringue buttercream, wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice. Add egg whites and sugar and place over a pan of simmering water whisking constantly until it reaches 160°F. If you do not have a sugar thermometer heat until sugar has completely dissolved and mixture is hot.
Step 13: Place the bowl on an electric stand mixer and whisk until the meringue is thick and glossy and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch, approx 10mins. Change to a paddle attachment. Slowly add the butter in cubes one at a time until incorporated. Continue to beat until it has reached a smooth silky texture. Add cranberry curd and mix to combine. If buttercream is too runny place in the fridge to firm up slightly before remixing.
Step14: To assemble the cake, level each cake using a cake leveller or sharp knife. Cut each cake in two so you have four cake layers. Place the base of the first cake on a cake card (or a cake stand or plate) and using a piping bag cover with the buttercream icing. Smooth the icing with a palette knife. Add the second layer and repeat, finishing with the inverted base of the second cake. Before coating the outside of the cake, place in fridge to firm up slightly first. Crumb coat the cake by spreading a small amount of buttercream over the cake and scraping off any excess before refrigerating again until firm. Now feel free to ice in your favourite texture, rough, smooth, patterned! I have finished with a smooth buttercream. For this I placed the worked on the sides of the cake first, adding buttercream so that it was up over the top of the cake, scraping with a metal scraper, refrigerating until firm before repeating the process until perfectly smooth. For the top, use a palette knife to level the buttercream at the edge before filling in the centre.
Step 15: Fill the pistachio macarons with some of the buttercream (or your preferred buttercream) and fix on the cake with a dot of buttercream. I decorated with some pistachios and sugared cranberries but feel free to get creative!