I like to make things complicated. Well actually, I don’t like it, it’s just the way I seem to operate. It’s beyond my control. Recently, I was asked to make a cake containing passion fruit. That was the only request, the rest was up to me. I started to get excited – a time to flex my pâtisserie muscles! All sorts of ideas immediately whirred through my head.
White chocolate sponge with passion fruit jam? Too conventional.
Let’s ramp it up a gear and French-ify: vanilla génoise with passion fruit curd and billowy white chocolate ganache? Too sweet perhaps.
OK, let’s marry some flavours, crank up the citrus levels and get some texture in there: giant macaron base smothered with passion fruit curd, génoise sponge soaked with a tangy passion fruit syrup, cubes of lime-and-ginger-marinated mango and a passion fruit crème mousseline, all topped with a clementine glaze? Yeah, why not; sounds simple enough, right?….
I did a practice run and was pretty happy with the result. A meld of tropical loveliness with the mellowness of the mango nicely offset by the zing of the passion fruit. The crunch and chew of the macaron base provided a good texture to offset the otherwise creamy nature of this cake. And finally the mandarin glaze gave a clean finish and gentle sweetness and flavour that didn’t detract from the passion fruit.
All-in-all I was happy with the flavours but nevertheless underwhelmed by the lack of colour contrasts in the sliced cake. There was nothing interesting about the layers of yellow running continuously through the cake. I wanted a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy.
So, despite having created a cake that seemed like a winner in terms of flavour combinations, I started Googling around to see what other people paired with passion fruit. My pâtisserie hero is Pierre Hermé, so I searched what he was up to and came across his “Céleste” range that pairs passion fruit with rhubarb and strawberry. I couldn’t resist giving this flavour combination a try, if nothing else but because the vivid red of the two fruits would definitely give me the wow-factor I was after. Armed with this inspirational flavour combo I attempted cake #2 and have to say was pretty pleased with the result. I hope you’ll like it too!
Recipe – makes enough for 4 x 4-portion servings
300g ground almonds
300g icing sugar
110g aged egg whites (or Two Chicks Egg Whites)
1/2 to 1 tsp ground turmeric (it has a mild taste but don’t overdo it. You could replace with yellow food colouring if you prefer; I just like to keep colourings natural)
300g caster sugar
110g aged egg whites (or Two Chicks Egg Whites)
1. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and draw 4 x 12cm diameter circles.
2. Grind together the ground almonds, icing sugar and turmeric to obtain a fine powder. Sieve contents (if using liquid food colouring mix this into the first portion of egg whites).
3. Make a hollow in the nut/icing sugar mixture and pour the first portion of egg whites into the centre.
4. Have ready the second portion of egg whites in a bowl of a stand-free mixer.
5. Boil the sugar and water together over medium heat, brushing the sides of the pan with water as it starts to boil. When the temperature reaches 115°C start to whisk the egg whites on high speed to a soft peak.
6. As soon as the temperature of the sugar syrup reaches 118°C carefully pour onto the egg whites. Continue whisking at high speed for 1 minute.
7. Lower the speed to medium and continue whisking for approx. 2 minutes.
8. Once the Italian meringue has cooled to 50°C add it to the nut/icing sugar/egg white mixture. Fold together until fully combined and the mixture falls from the spatula like runny cake dough.
9. Pour mixture into a piping bag and pipe spirals starting from the outer edge of the templates to completely fill the circles.
10. Rap the tray on a work surface lined with a tea towel and leave to dry out for approx. 30 minutes until a skin forms on the surface and the mixture is no longer sticky to the touch. Pre-heat the oven to 150°C.
11. Once dry, place macarons in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 135°C. Bake for approx. 30-40 minutes until the tops of the macarons no longer wobble when gently moved back and forth.
12. Slide macarons from tray onto a work surface and allow to cool.
Passion fruit curd
1.5g leaf gelatine
100g passion fruit purée*
200g whole eggs
90g caster sugar
90g unsalted butter
2 passion fruits
1. Place gelatine in enough cold water to cover and set aside until soft (5-10 minutes). Drain and squeeze out the excess water.
2. Whisk the whole eggs and sugar together until light in colour. Bring the passion fruit purée to a boil and then add half to the egg/sugar mixture. Mix until smooth. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve and then combine with the remaining passion fruit purée in the saucepan.
3. Continue to cook over a low heat for 3-4 minutes until the mixture has thickened a little.
4. Remove from the heat, add the butter and gelatine and stir to dissolve.
5. Add the pulp from the fresh passion fruits to the curd and refrigerate until needed.
(Makes more than you require: any excess sponge can be frozen)
90g egg whites
90g caster sugar
100g egg yolks
90g plain flour
1. Line a 25.5 x 30cm baking tray with greaseproof paper. Pre-heat the oven to 175°C.
2. Whisk the egg yolks until stiff and then gradually add the sugar while continuing to whisk until soft peaks form.
3. Continue to whisk whilst gradually adding the egg yolks.
4. Fold in the flour and then spread the mixture onto the lined tin. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the sponge is lightly golden and springy to the touch. Remove from oven and leave to cool in the tray.
Passion fruit syrup
1/2 vanilla pod
150g caster sugar
130g passion fruit purée*
1. Split the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add them to the sugar and rub the sugar and seeds together. Place in a small saucepan, along with the empty vanilla pod.
2. Add the passion fruit purée to the sugar/vanilla mixture, reserving 2 tablespoons.
3. Bring the mixture to the boil stirring constantly, remove from the heat, cover with a lid and leave to cool.
4. Once cool, stir in the reserved passion fruit purée and remove the vanilla pod.
Rhubarb and strawberry jelly
15g caster sugar
10g lemon juice
7.5g gelatine leaves (about 3 sheets)
180g puréed strawberry
20g caster sugar
1. The night before, peel and slice the rhubarb into small pieces. Place in a small bowl, sprinkle over the sugar and lemon juice, cover and leave overnight at room temperature.
2. The following day, drain off the rhubarb and cook gently to soften and purée the fruit. Leave to cool.
3. Soften the gelatine in cold water, drain and squeeze out the excess water.
4. Add the sugar and puréed strawberries to the cooled rhubarb and mix together. Heat 1/3rd of the fruit mixture to 45°C then mix in the gelatine. Combine with the remaining fruit mixture and stir until no trace of gelatine is visible.
5. Line 4 circular moulds, approximately 8cm in diameter (eg, small ramekins), with cling film and pour the mixture into the moulds to a depth of approximately 1.5cm (you may not need all of the mix. Any excess can be poured into additional moulds and frozen for use in other confectionaries). Allow to cool and set in the fridge.
Passion fruit cream
(pepare a day ahead)
2 gelatine leaves
250g whole eggs
230g caster sugar
180g passion fruit purée*
2 tbsp lemon juice
250g unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into cubes
1. Soften the gelatine in cold water, drain and squeeze out excess water.
2. In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water combine the eggs, sugar, passion fruit purée and lemon juice. Cook until the mixture thickens to a custard consistency and the temperature reaches approximately 85°C (should take around 15 minutes). Remove from the heat.
3. Incorporate the gelatine into the mixture and leave to cool to around 60°C, at which point beat in the butter a little at a time.
4. Place mixture in a food processor (or use a hand blender) and process for 10 minutes until the mixture is very smooth.
5. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Passion fruit glaze
250g passion fruit purée*
20g caster sugar
3g leaf gelatine
1. Boil the passion fruit purée and cook to reduce by half then add the sugar.
2. Soften the gelatine in cold water, drain and squeeze out the excess water. Add to the passion fruit purée and then strain through a fine-mesh sieve.
12cm spring-form cake ring or pastry mould lined with acetate or other non-stick liner, 4.5-5cm high.
1. Trim the macaron base to fit inside the mould and cut out rounds of génoise sponge approximately 10cm in diameter. Demould the rhubarb and strawberry jelly.
2. Layer the cake as follows into the cake ring: macaron base, thin layer of passion fruit curd, génoise sponge soaked on both sides with passion fruit syrup, thin layer of passion fruit cream piped around the edges of the sponge to fill the gap as well as a thin layer on top of the sponge, rhubarb and strawberry jelly, passion fruit cream piped nearly to the top of the mould, leaving a few millimetres at the top for the passion fruit glaze**.
3. Place in the freezer until the glaze has set (2-3 hours).
4. Demould the cake and decorate with tempered white chocolate squares and curls if desired.
*I used Passion Fruit Purée from Funkin Pro. It’s pretty intense so you may want to consider using half or two thirds the quantities used in this recipe and making the rest up with water for a smoother flavour hit.
**If the cake is to be transported, omit the glaze – it’ll wobble itself right off the top of the cake and ruin your beautiful finish! I speak from experience