This year only being my second winter in California, I’m still adjusting to the absence of “four seasons.”
Not that the New England ideal of three months each of winter, spring, summer, and fall was something that ever really occurred in the two decades I spent there… and the seemingly relentless winters of heavy snow, ice, and car-scraping are nothing I miss. I’ve vowed to not move back until my living arrangement includes a garage. And maybe one of those automatic car starters that let you turn your car on from inside the house.
However, the year-round temperateness of the Bay Area has taken some getting used to as well. Although it stays between 55 and 70 degrees and slightly overcast pretty much all the time, there is still a definite feeling of transition that comes with each would-be season.
The shorter days of winter still get me craving the indoors, a slower pace, thick books, cozy blankets, and of course good comfort food. I’ve found everyone has his or her own definition of comfort food, but to me it means warm spices, earthy, sweet flavors, and things cooked slow and low.
This cake hits all those points. It is perfect for either the holiday season or the calmer, more reflective months that follow.
Or if you live somewhere with snow, the three prolonged months of slush and ice and misery that make you wonder if you’ll ever see green grass again.
I use my favorite yellow cake recipe here, adding in some orange and lemon zests, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The combination of raspberry and fig jams really balance each other, and are a great complement to the citrusy notes in the cake. I highly encourage you use both flavors together and not just one. I find my fig butter at Trader Joe’s.
The best part of this cake though is the frosting, hands down. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who actually really likes a sugary-sweet butter cream. I think there’s a time and a place, but I definitely prefer my cakes with more flavorful icings like this one here. The cream cheese provides tang while the mascarpone lends the most incredible airy texture. The result is almost like homemade whipped cream, but with more… oomph.
That’s the only way I know to describe it, so it’s probably best you make it yourself. You’ll understand after the first bite! Don’t be intimidated by the seemingly long recipe. I’ve just been really thorough; I want this cake to be a perfect for you as it was for me!
Yields one 8-9″ double layer cake
A beautiful, subtly spiced yellow layer cake with hints of citrus, sweet fruit filling, and light-as-a-cloud cream cheese-mascarpone frosting. The perfect dessert for welcoming the shorter days of winter.
- 2 ¼ cups (270 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 ¾ tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. nutmeg
- 10 Tbs. (135g) butter, softened
- 1 Tbs. canola oil
- 1 1/3 cups (265g) granulated sugar
- 3 eggs, separated and at room temperature
- 3 tsp. vanilla
- ¼ tsp. almond extract
- 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
- 1 tsp. grated orange zest
- 1 cup low fat buttermilk, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (4oz) cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup (2oz) mascarpone cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup (57g) butter, softened
- 1 ½ cups (180g) powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- ½ tsp. lemon juice
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1/3 cup fig butter
- 1/3 cup raspberry preserves
- Cinnamon sticks, rosemary springs, whole nuts, star anise, coarse sugar, candied peel…. anything that reminds you of winter!
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly spay two 8 or 9” cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, or grease with butter.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices, and set aside.
Cream butter in a large bowl using either a stand mixer or a hand mixer. Add sugar and canola oil and continue to beat until fluffy.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites, setting the whites in a clean bowl. Add the yolks to the butter/sugar mixture, along with the extracts and zest. Mix until thoroughly combined.
With the mixture on low, begin adding the flour in 3 batches, alternating each addition with the buttermilk until everything is incorporated. Do not over beat!
Using clean & dry beaters, begin to whip the egg whites on medium speed. Beat until stiff peaks form. If you tip the bowl upside-down, the egg whites should stay in place.
Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter just until combined.
Divide batter evenly between the two pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow layers to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before inverting onto a cooling rack. Cool thoroughly before assembling the cake.
For the frosting:
In a large bowl, beat together the cheeses and butter until smooth. Slowly add the sugar a half cup at a time.
Once all the sugar is in the bowl, add the remaining ingredients.
Continue to beat the frosting at medium-high speed until very light and fluffy. It should be like a dense whipped cream. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour while the cakes cool.
For the filling:
Using a fork, mix together the two jams until they are a spreadable consistency.
Set one cake layer on a large plate or cake stand. Make a rim of frosting about ½ an inch thick around the diameter, either with a spoon or piping bag. Fill the inside circle with the jam mixture, making sure it’s fairly even.
Place the second layer on top of the bottom. At this point, it is a good idea to refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to ensure the layers don’t slide around the outside while frosted.
Generously coat the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Decorate as desired. Keep it chilled in the refrigerator until ready to be served.