If you follow my blog or have attended my classes you know I like to give you recipes that you will actually make.  They usually don’t contain a log of ingredients and come together fairly well.  But every once in a while, you just need a cake that has that “wow” factor. It could be for a special occasion like Easter and/or Christmas and/or a birthday. In this case, my niece Rochelle’s birthday and Easter. A few years ago, she said I “upped the ante” for cakes when I made a crepe cake. So every year, I look forward to surprising her with a different cake. She inspires me to be more adventurous and look for the unusual. That’s what this cake is. According to her, it has “plenty of wow”, from the components making up the cake, to the look of the finished cake, and most of all – the taste, just wonderful.

It has many steps, so only attempt this for a special occasion. Unless you really like to be in the kitchen as I do, then look at is as a Saturday well spent! It is ridiculously moist and very reminiscent in flavor to Ambrosia Fruit Salad – that delightful fruit salad with pineapple, coconut, evaporated and condensed milk and marshmallows. Sounds interesting doesn’t it. My first reaction to ambrosia fruit salad (long before I became a Chef) was – you’re kidding?! Marshmallows and fruit? But there is something about the texture and combination of tastes that kept me coming back for more. I did have clementines as the recipe called for but rather than segment them out individually, I opted for good quality canned mandarin segments.

I think you could easily substitute flavors on the second pass at this cake, but only after you try the original recipe. On second pass I might, for example, try this with peaches poached in white wine instead of crushed pineapple, maybe some fresh ripe papaya, and instead of the clementine curd – a refreshing mango and passion fruit curd. Okay it wouldn’t be an ambrosia cake, but maybe – Utopia Cake?! You read it here first! Do try this cake, it is a showstopper and definitely won’t disappoint in making, assembling or eating. As always – enjoy!

For the cake:
2 ¾ cups/344 grams all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp fine sea salt
½ cup/118 mls whole milk
½ cup/118 mls unsweetened coconut milk – I like Aroy D brand, just coconut and water
1 tbsp. coconut rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 tbsps./170 grams unsalted Churn 84 (1 1/2 sticks), softened
¼ cup/59 mls coconut oil, melted and cooled
1 ½ cups/300 grams sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature, whites and yolks separated
1 ¼ tsps finely grated clementine zest (from about 2 clementines or the zest of 1 large orange)

For the Curd:
⅓ cup/78 mls fresh clementine juice (from about 4 clementines), plus 2 1/2 tsps finely grated clementine (or orange) zest
⅓ cup/78 mls fresh lemon juice
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks (reserve whites for frosting)
7 tbsps./88 grams sugar
Pinch kosher salt
12 tbsps./170 grams unsalted Churn 84 (1 1/2 sticks), cubed
¼ tsp vanilla extract

For the frosting:
4 large egg whites
1 cup/200 grams sugar
¼ tsp cream of tartar
Pinch kosher salt

For decorating and assembling:
2 cans/cups of mandarin orange segments – drained
1 ½ to 3 cups/100 to 200 grams shredded sweetened coconut, to taste
1 can crushed pineapple – drained
Strawberries, sliced (optional)

Bake the cake:
Heat oven to 350f and place a rack in the middle
Butter two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt
In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, coconut milk, rum and vanilla
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, coconut oil and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes
Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, then beat in zest
Beat in half the flour mixture, followed by half the milk mixture – repeat 2 more times, scraping down bowl as necessary
In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to whisk egg whites just until stiff peaks form – fold into batter, divide batter between pans
Bake until lightly golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes
Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then remove cakes from the pans and cool
Make the curd:
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, yolks, zest, sugar and salt
Bring clementine juice and lemon juice to a boil over medium heat in a medium sized saucepan
Whisking constantly, slowly pour hot juice into eggs, then return mixture to saucepan
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes
Remove from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla, when incorporated, immerse the bottom of the pan into ice water to stop the cooking process and cool down the curd
Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd and refrigerate until cold – cover and refrigerate until needed
Assemble the cake:
Use a large serrated knife to level tops of cakes, and cut both cakes in half horizontally to make 4 layers
Place a cake layer on a serving dish and spread a third of the curd over it, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge
Layer a third of the clementine segments on top of curd, spacing them evenly so cake will be balanced
Top with another cake layer, spread another third of curd over it, and layer with 1/2 cup shredded coconut (I also used sliced strawberries in this layer)
Top with cake layer, repeat curd and mandarins, saving some for the top of the cake
Place the remaining cake layer on top, and chill while making frosting
Make the frosting (no more than 8 hours before serving) and decorate the cake:
Bring a medium pot with 1” of water to boil
In the bowl of your stand (or electric hand) mixer, combine all frosting ingredients – whisk
Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk constantly until eggs reach 160 degrees, or the sugar has melted – it doesn’t take long to reach this temperature so watch it closely
Remove from heat, and using the mixer/hand held, beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes
Spread the frosting on the cake, press shredded coconut onto the sides and finish decorating the top with any remaining pineapple, mandarins, shredded coconut etc. Keep the cake in a cool spot until ready to serve. If you are using strawberries or other types of berries that ooze color to decorate the top of the cake, put them on just before serving
Small slices please – so many more dishes to make! I got at least 20 slices from a 9″ round pan