Vanilla Blackberry-Mascarpone Cake

My second three layer cake! Not my best looking cake, but it sure is delicious. I tried this one out for a birthday dinner, and it was a resounding hit. I do warn you – the ombre style icing is a lot of effort, and can be a little problematic. But take it easy, and all is mostly forgiven, unless you pick colours that combine to brown.

Serves: 1 triple layer cake
Preparation Time: 2 sessions – one of approximately 45 minutes for preparing and baking the cakes, the second of approximately 2 hours in total for icing and construction!


For the Cake:
+ 240 ml whole milk, at room temperature
+ 4 egg whites ( approximately 130 g), at room temperature
+ 2 whole egg, at room temperature
+ 4 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
+ 280 g cake flour, sifted twice
+ 300 g sugar
+ 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
+ 1 teaspoon salt
+ 115 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
+ 52 g vegetable shortening

For the Blackberry Compote:
+ 2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries, divided
+ 1/2 cup (100 g) superfine sugar
+ 2 tablespoons orange juice
+ 2 tablespoons water
+ Pinch of salt

For the Whipped Mascarpone Filling*:
+ 2 tablespoons cold water
+ 2 teaspoons unflavoured gelatine (such as Knox brand)
+ 420 ml whipping cream, cold, divided
+ 1/2 cup icing sugar
+ 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
+ Pinch of salt
+ 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
* Note – there will be extra, but it is difficult to make any smaller portions!

For the Whipped Vanilla Icing:
+ 375 g unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
+ 400 g icing sugar, sifted
+ 3 tablespoons milk
+ 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
+ 1 tablespoon water
+ Pinch of salt

You Will Also Need:
+ Medium or large pastry bag fitted with plain round tip (a resealable Ziploc bag will do in a pinch)
+ Food colourings of your choice
+ Small offset spatula for icing


SUMMARY: This cake needs to be created in two sessions – the first one for the cakes and the blackberry compote, the second for the making of the mascarpone filling and icing. These do not need to be a day apart, but the cake must be well and truly cooled.

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 180°C. Prepare three 8″ round cake pans by lining with baking paper. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, egg, 2 tablespoons of the milk (measure out the full 1/2 cup and then remove the 2 tablespoons) and vanilla. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar, together on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and shortening, and blend on low speed for about 30 seconds, then add remaining milk, and mix on low speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 1-1/2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg/milk mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium for 20 seconds after each addition.

Divide the batter in three, spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh the batter in the pans to ensure 3 even layers. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. Be so careful to not over-bake. Check cake at 20 minutes, but not before, and once you feel it’s almost ready, set the timer for 2 minute intervals.

Let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. Gently turn cakes back up, so the tops are up and cool completely.

For the Blackberry Compote:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1-1/2 cups of the blackberries, sugar, orange juice, water, and salt until the berries start to break down, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Lower the heat and simmer until compote coats a spoon, about 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool down slightly. Using an immersion blender (carefully) or counter-top blender, pulse until smooth. Push compote through a fine mesh sieve into a clean glass bowl and discard the seeded pulp from the sieve. Stir in remaining fresh blackberries. Keep covered and chilled for up to 3 days.

For the Whipped Vanilla Mascarpone Filling:

In a small bowl, place the cold water and sprinkle with the gelatine. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring 1/3 cup of the cream just to a simmer, then stir into the gelatine mixture. The gelatine should dissolve. Refrigerate, stirring frequently, until cool but not set, about 8 minutes.

In a chilled stainless steel bowl with a chilled whisk attachment (for stand mixer), beat the remaining whipping cream, icing sugar, vanilla and salt until it thickens just slightly and soft peaks begin to form, about 1 minute. Very gradually add the gelatine mixture and continue beating until medium-firm peaks form (should be thick enough to spread). In a large bowl, soften mascarpone and gently fold in whipped cream mixture. Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.

For the Whipped Vanilla Icing:

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium. Butter will become very pale & creamy. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium for 6 minutes. Icing will be very light, creamy and fluffy. This icing is best used right away, for ideal spreading consistency.

Assembly of the Cake:

Place the first of three layers, face-up, onto a small plate or cake stand. Fill your pastry bag with about a cup of the plain vanilla icing and pipe a dam around the perimeter of the cake layer (this will keep our compote and mascarpone filling in place). Spoon a few tablespoons of the compote and berries inside of the dam, along with a few tablespoons of the whipped filling. Gently spread the filling using a small offset spatula.

Repeat until you come to your final cake layer, which you will place face-down. If you find the cake too soft and unstable, put in refrigerator for a few moments to firm it up, then resume. If you see any spots where the compote is peeking through or starting to ooze out (ahh!), use your piping bag to squeeze more frosting over it, between the layers. Use your clean offset spatula to carefully smooth the frosting so it’s flat against the cake.

Cover the entire cake gently with plastic wrap, and then, once covered, use your hands to carefully ensure the cake is lined up straight and flattening any lumps or bumps of frosting. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Once cake is stable and chilled, apply an even layer of frosting to the entire cake, to seal in crumbs using the remainder of you. Chill again until frosting is firm, about 30 minutes (at least). While the cake is chilling, you can divide remaining frosting into 4 small bowls, and tint 3 of them with your soft gel paste. Keep one bowl (your smallest) of frosting un-tinted.

Place cake plate or board with cake onto a turntable, if possible. Be sure your frosting is smooth and fluffy, working it with a rubber spatula for a few moments to remove any excess air bubbles. You can even warm in microwave for a few seconds to soften it up.

For a video demonstration of how to create the ombre effect of this cake, see the video provided by Sweetapolita at the bottom of the page.

Apply a thick layer of your darkest colour to the bottom third of your cake, then another above it over the middle of the cake, and finally your final colour of frosting all over the top and upper third of cake. Add the un-tinted frosting in a few areas, to add interest. Using a metal spatula blend the colours together by smoothing frosting all over cake, as you would a typical one-colour cake. Be careful to not overblend. For textured effect (as in photos) you can use a small metal spatula, holding it with one hand on an angle starting at bottom of cake, keeping it fairly still, move the turntable with the other hand, slowly letting the spatula move up slightly with every turn.

Original recipe sourced from the Sweetapolita.

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