In Italy, tradition has it that on the 8th March, you give the ladies in your life a bunch of mimosa to celebrate La Festa Delle Donne (Ladies’ Day). It’s a truly charming tradition. Of course, in our household, there is no festa without food and the 8th March calls for torta alla mimosa – just as Christmas calls for panettone and Christmas means lentils. I don’t know how ‘mimosa cake’ came to be customary on this day, other than for the fact that, when made right, the layers of crumbled yellow sponge looks like a heap of mimosa beads on a plate. It’s a simple recipe, albeit with a couple of stages: a light-as-air genoise sponge layered with sweet whipped cream and a thick crème patissière. If the 8th March is a celebration of womanhood, then this cake is a sweet embodiment of it: it’s delicate, light and flirty. And just so very delightful.
- 300 ml full-cream (whole) milk
- 300 ml double thick cream
- 8 egg yolks
- 200 g caster sugar
- 50 g (⅓ cup) plain flour
- 2 tsp orange blossom water
- 200 ml thickened (whipping) cream
- 75 g icing sugar
- mimosa or wattle flowers, to decorate (optional – see Note)
- 4 eggs
- 8 egg yolks
- 225 g (1 cup) caster sugar
- 1½ tsp orange blossom water
- 200 g (1⅓ cups) self-raising flour
- 40 g cornflour
- 100 ml water
- 60 ml (¼ cup) Cointreau or orange liqueur
- 50 g caster sugar
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time 1 hour
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Grease and line two 22 cm cake tins with baking paper.
To make the sponge, using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar for 10-15 minutes or until very light and fluffy; this is the key to the light-as-air sponge. Slowly add the yolks, one by one, whisking all the while until well combined. Add the orange blossom water and whisk for another 5 minutes or until well aerated. Sift over the flour and cornflour, and fold in very gently, trying to keep as much of the air in the batter as you can. Divide the batter equally between the tins, then bake for 30-35 minutes or until lightly golden on top and a knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle. As soon as the cakes are done, turn out of the tins and leave to cool on wire racks.
Meanwhile, to make the crème patissiere filling, pour the milk and the double cream into a saucepan and cook over low heat until it is just on the point of boiling. Meanwhile, place the egg yolks, caster sugar and flour in a small bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the orange blossom water and combine again. Just as the milk mixture is about to come to the boil, pour in the yolk mixture and whisk vigorously with a whisk until the custard begins to thicken, then take off the heat immediately (or the eggs will begin to scramble). Pour the custard into a lipped tray and cover with plastic wrap so that it is touching the surface (this will stop a skin from forming). Place in the fridge or freezer for 1 hour to cool and thicken.
Place the thickened cream in a small mixing bowl, sift over the icing sugar and, using an electric mixer, whisk until stiff, then refrigerate until needed.
To make the syrup, place the water, Cointreau and sugar in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.
To assemble the cake, start by trimming and discarding the browned exterior (top and side) of both cakes so that essentially you are left with two very light and uniform sponges. Take the first cake and use a bread knife to cut into 3 layers. Cut the second cake into thin strips, and then cut those into lots of tiny squares, roughly 1 cm-wide. You needn’t be too precise about this – what you want to create is a pile of crumbs to top the cake with.
Spoon two-thirds of the whipped cream into the crème patissière and fold gently, reserving the remaining whipped cream. Take the first layer of sponge, trickle over one-third of the orange syrup, then spread one-third of the remaining whipped cream and a generous dollop of the crème patissière, and gently set the second layer of sponge on top. Repeat this process again and then a third time with the final layer of sponge. Generously spoon the rest of the crème patissière over the top and sides of the cake, as if you were icing it and tumble the crumbled pieces of sponge on top to create a dome shape. Decorate with fresh mimosa flowers if you like.
• Mimosa are yellow flowers similar to Australian wattle, which can be substituted.
Recipe from From My Dining Table by Skye McAlpine, with photographs by Skye McAlpine.