July 24, 2012

Almond & Raspberry Cattails Cake

Almond & Raspberry Cattails Cake

My dad really likes cattails.  I also like them (although not nearly as much as he does).  I think they evoke an image of a still, quiet pond, on which you while away an afternoon in a boat.  So, I decided to make a cattail-themed cake for my dad. 

Almond & Raspberry Cattails Cake

For the cake flavor, I settled on almonds since Dad seems to like almond cakes I've made in the past (he really enjoyed the traditional Battenberg cake).  I picked a recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible.  I received this book as a Christmas present last year, and haven't been using it nearly as much as I should.  My favorite part about it is the "Understanding" section at the end of each recipe where Rose talks a little bit about the reasoning behind some of her recipe decisions.  As someone who would like to create my own recipes one day, I find this really helpful.

Rose suggested raspberries, peaches, and chocolate as great accompaniments to almond, so between the cake layers, I decided to sandwich some raspberry jam.

Almond & Raspberry Cattails Cake

I thought long and hard about how to make cattails for the cake.  Originally, I considered using fondant cut-outs on the side of the cake, but ultimately decided I wanted something a little more three-dimensional than that.  Inspired by Baking Obsession's "Frog in a Pond Cake", I decided to put some cattails and leaves on wires.

I'd never used wires in cakes before.  I bought some gum paste wire and tape and proceeded to experiment with making cattails.  They were actually not too hard to make, and I ended up deciding that my "experiments" were good enough to be used on the actual cake.  They are a 50/50 mix of fondant and gumpaste for a little extra strength.  The lily-pads and flowers are pure fondant.  To get the cattails into the cake, I first pushed a thin plastic straw into the cake, then placed the wired cattails and leaves in the straw.  This was done for stability (I was worried the wires would just slice through the cake and the cattails would fall over) and for safety (I'm not 100% convinced that the wires should be in direct contact with cake). 

I'm pretty pleased with how these turned out!  The wires and leaves held up very well (even making it through the drive to my parents' house) and they looked very pretty and natural coming out of the blue buttercream.  Looking at these pictures, I think there is one place where you can see the straw poking through a little, so I'll have to make sure that doesn't happen in the future.

Almond & Raspberry Cattails Cake

The almond flavor was good, and the raspberry was a nice accompaniment.  In particular, I enjoyed the ground almonds.  I feel like they yielded a nice mild almond flavor at the beginning of the bite, which was replaced by the more potent taste of the almond extract.  It might be nice to try this cake again sans extract.  My dad seemed to really enjoy the cake - especially the almond-y-ness of it.  He also seemed pleased with the cattails.  Yay!

Kitty's opinion of the gumpaste cattails.

Almond & Raspberry Cake
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Golden Almond Cake  (The Cake Bible).

2 eggs
⅔ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1⅔ cups (166 grams) cake flour
⅓ cup (35 grams) ground almonds
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
4 oz raspberry jam

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Line two 6" round cake pans with parchment paper.  Grease and flour.
  2. Lightly mix together the eggs, ⅙ cup of the sour cream, and the extracts.  Set aside.
  3. Sift together the flour, almonds, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.  Beat in the remaining sour cream and butter on low speed until the dry ingredients are moist.  Increase to medium speed and beat for 1-2 minutes more.
  4. Add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating until incorporated after each batch.
  5. Spoon into prepared pans.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack.
  7. After the cakes are cool, level and torte (cut in half) each cake layer so that you have 4 even layers.  I like using a cake leveler to do this.
  8. Spread raspberry jam between each of your 4 cake layers (3 layers of jam).  Frost with almond Swiss meringue buttercream.

Almond Swiss Meringue Buttercream

4 egg whites
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 cup (two sticks) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
pinch of salt

  1. Cube the butter and leave out at room temperature (make sure you don't leave it over the dishwasher or oven or it will get too warm).
  2. Whisk the eggs whites and sugar together in the top part of a double broiler.  Make sure that the water in the bottom part is simmering, not boiling.  Keep whisking until a candy thermometer reads 160° F.
  3. Transfer to a stand mixer with the whisk attachment installed.  Whip at a medium speed until the mixture is at room temperature (the bowl feels neutral when you touch it).
  4. Lower the mixing speed and add the butter, one cube at a time.  Keep mixing until there is an obvious change in the consistency of the buttercream - from soupy to much more solid (you can usually hear the mixer start making different noises).  If it stays soupy for a very long time, throw the bowl in the refrigerator for ten minutes or so and retry.
  5. Add the vanilla, almond extract, and salt and keep mixing until they are incorporated.


  1. I look at a lot of food blogs (of people I don't know), but I'm always excited to see that you have a new post! I bake a lot but am never inspired to make it look particularly polished, so I especially love seeing your presentation.

    1. Thanks! Honestly, most of the time goes into the presentation. I find the presentation part fun (most of the time), but without it you still get delicious things in half the time.

  2. It looks really pretty and the combination of flavours sounds fantastic! xx

    1. Thanks! Yes, they were. Almond and raspberry are excellent together.

  3. AnonymousJuly 25, 2012

    Instead of wire, I've used uncooked spaghetti noodles to make cattails. I like to keep all ingredients edible.

    1. Yes, I thought about doing this as well. Does the spaghetti ever get soft or break?


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