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The Ultimate Mango Cake

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Nik Sharma

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The Ultimate Mango Cake

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This cake contains three parts: the mango cardamom cakes, the mango lime curd sandwiched between the cakes and the mango saffron buttercream that envelopes the entire assembly. You can make the curd or use the buttercream, but the curd adds a delicious punch of concentrated mango flavor that compliments the buttercream and cake.

Freeze-dried fruit has excellent potential in desserts but can be tricky to use, especially in cakes. I reached out to my friend and pastry whiz Stella Parks, aka BraveTart, who recommends using cake flour over all-purpose, which prevents the gummy texture that often arises when using ground freeze-dried fruit in the cake batter. Over the years, her Swiss Meringue Buttercream has become my go-to frosting recipe because it’s not cloyingly sweet and has a light texture. It’s also highly amenable to adding freeze-dried fruit to incorporate more flavor and color. This recipe makes enough frosting to cover two 8 in/20 cm layer cakes. I’m giving you the recipe for a whole batch if you decide to skip the mango lime curd. This recipe is based on Stella Park’s Swiss Meringue Buttercream (via Serious Eats) which is my go-to buttercream frosting recipe.

This recipe first appeared in my column at The San Francisco Chronicle (July 2018)

  • Yield: Two 8 in/20 cm round cakes

Ingredients

For the Mango Cardamom Cake

2 1/3 cups/280 g cake flour

1.7 oz/48 g unsweetened, unsulfured freeze-dried mango

2 tsp baking powder

seeds from 3 to 4 green cardamom pods (about 3/4 tsp)

¼ tsp fine sea salt

7.97 oz/226 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes plus extra butter to grease the baking pans

1 1/3 cups/265 g sugar

3 large eggs at room temperature

½ cup/120 g crème fraiche

½ cup/120 ml whole milk

For the Mango Lime Curd (makes about 1 1/4 cups/300 ml)

1 cup/240 ml canned Indian mango pulp pureed or the pulp from 1 medium ripe mango, pureed (See Notes)

2 oz/55 g unsalted butter, cubed

¼ cup/50 g sugar

Juice and zest of one lime

2 Tbsp cornstarch

2 Tbsp water

Mango Saffron Buttercream (makes about 6 cups/1.4 L)

1.7 oz/48 g unsweetened, unsulfured freeze-dried mango**

20 saffron strands

2/3 cup/160 ml egg whites (from about 5 to 6 large eggs)

1 2/3 cups/330 g sugar

¾ tsp fine sea salt

¼ tsp cream of tartar

1.24 lb/565 g unsalted butter, softened to 65F/18C

Instructions

For the Mango Cardamom Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
  2. Grease and line two 8 in/20 cm, baking pans with a little unsalted butter and parchment paper cut to size. Keep aside until ready to use.
  3. Using the metal blade in the bowl of a food processor, grind the cake flour, mango, baking powder, cardamom, and salt until you get a fine powder. Transfer the ground ingredients to a sheet of parchment paper and sift twice. Keep aside until ready to use.
  4. Cream the butter for about 4 to 5 minutes using the stand mixer’s paddle attachment until light and fluffy over low speed. Add the sugar in a steady and slow stream from the side. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl after adding each egg. The mixture will be pale yellow and fluffy in appearance. Add half the sifted dry ingredients to the bowl with the crème fraiche and whisk over low speed for 1 to 1 ½ minutes until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the remaining flour and the milk, and whisk over low speed for about 1 minute until combined and no visible flecks of dry ingredients can be seen. Divide the cake batter equally between the two prepared cake pans and bake in the preheated oven for about 30 to 45 minutes or until a skewer or knife comes out clean when inserted through the center of the cake and the tops are golden brown and firm to touch. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Using a knife, release the cakes from the sides of the pans, peel the parchment paper, and transfer the cakes to cool completely on a wire rack. The cakes can be prepared in advance, cooled, wrapped with cling film, and refrigerated for up to 2 days before frosting.

For the Mango Lime Curd

  1. Place the mango, butter, sugar, lime juice, and zest in a medium, non-reactive stainless-steel saucepan and heat on medium-high, occasionally stirring with a silicone spatula for about 3 to 4 minutes. Once the mixture starts to boil, whisk the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and quickly whisk it into the mango mixture; whisk until the mixture begins to thicken in approximately 1 to 2 minutes. The final consistency will resemble a thick custard. Remove from heat, strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, and transfer to a storage container; press a piece of food-safe plastic wrap on the surface (to avoid forming a skin), and cover with a lid. Allow to cool completely and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, until completely chilled.

For the Mango Saffron Buttercream

  1. Grind the mango to a fine powder using a food processor, transfer to a bowl, and keep aside.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the saffron to a fine powder and keep aside until ready to use.
  3. Fill a wide saucepan with about 1 ½ inches of water; the base of your mixing bowl must never touch the water. You can crumple a piece of aluminum foil to create a ring to prevent the bowl from touching the water. Heat the water on high until it starts to steam, then immediately reduce to a gentle simmer. Add the egg white, sugar, salt, cream of tartar, ground mango, and saffron to the stand mixer bowl and place the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water. Using a silicone spatula, stir the mixture and constantly scrape the sides of the bowl until the egg whites hold steady at 185F/85 C for about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and attach the bowl to the stand mixer. Whisk the mixture at high speed using the whisk attachment for about 10 minutes until the mixture becomes stiff and glossy and cools to about 90F/32C.
  4. With the mixer still running, add about 2 Tbsp of butter at a time and continue to whisk until all the butter has been used. The buttercream will be ready when there are no visible flecks of butter and the mixture is thick, creamy, and soft at about 72F/22C. Preferably, use the buttercream immediately or refrigerate in an air-tight container or ziptop bag for two weeks. Place the buttercream over a pan of steaming water till the edges melt a little, remove from heat, and whip to soften before using.

Assembling the Cake

  1. You can trim the top and edges of each cake with a sharp, serrated knife (I prefer trimming the tops off). Use the cakes only when completely cooled (preferably chilled); otherwise, the buttercream will melt.
  2. Place a cake board or round on a turntable and place a tablespoon or two of buttercream in the center. Center the cake on the board; the buttercream will help glue the cake while frosting. Spread the mango lime curd on top of the cake, center the second cake on top, and transfer the cake to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and coat the top and the sides with 1 cup of buttercream using an offset spatula to form a thin layer. Transfer the cake to the refrigerator and allow this “crumb coat” layer to firm up for about 30 minutes. Once this layer of buttercream has hardened, remove the cake from the refrigerator and coat it with buttercream using the offset spatula to get about a ¼ in/6 mm thick layer of frosting. Rotate the turntable while spreading the buttercream to get a smooth and even layer on the sides and the top of the cake. You can also create a pattern on top by swishing the side of your offset spatula to create a wavelike design on the surface of the buttercream. The cake can be served immediately or stored covered for up to 3 to 4 days at room temperature or refrigerated for up to 1 week in an airtight container.

Notes

  • I prefer to use the unsweetened canned mango pulp from India, sold at most Indian grocery stores. The two common varieties are Kesar and Alphonso, each with their characteristic taste and aroma. I find it unnecessary to add sugar if the pulp is already pre-sweetened.

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