Blackberry Blood Orange Sunset Cake

Back in high school, my “signature” cupcake was a blue velvet cake with orange curd, blackberry Italian meringue buttercream, and white chocolate “stems”, with the entire cupcake designed to resemble a flower with the shades of an oceanside sunset. It was inspired specifically by the oceanside sunsets that I would see growing up in a beach town. I honestly never bothered to revisit this recipe after high school(probably because I started using less artificial food colorings and blue velvet cake was very much artificial food coloring), but I figured all of these years later, I would revisit that cupcake and give it the update it needed to match my current skillset. Since mousse cakes and entremets are basically what I do, that was kind of the logical choice for where to go with this dessert. I knew the cake itself had to meet 3 main criteria: it had to feature a blue cake somewhere, there needed to be blackberry and orange, and it had to either be an homage to sunsets or flowers or both.

With the cake, it only was fitting I went with butterfly pea powder to dye it blue naturally. I left an option for using blue spirulina powder as well, but I opted for the butterfly pea since it was my go-to choice for natural blue food coloring for so many years. I also used a little but of blueberry powder as well, just because the purple color from that helps to lock in the blue color in the batter so that it stays a nice shade of blue after baking(as opposed to turning a weird shade of teal), but you can also omit that if you don’t want to buy two different kinds of powders. You can also do 2 dots of blue gel food coloring and 1 dot of purple gel if you want to go the food coloring route as well! The rationale behind using both colors is that the blue food coloring tends to denature and turn green as it bakes, but the red coloration in the purple helps prevent that from happening. That was something I learned years ago when attempting to make blue velvet cupcakes for the first time as a 16 year old. The sponge itself for this recipe is a chiffon cake, meaning that it will be really light and fluffy – the original iteration used an American style batter, which involved less super fluffy egg whites but I found that chiffon cake became more of my go-to cake batter as I got more comfortable in baking. The flavor will be on the milder side, as the other components are really what bring out the flavor in this little mousse cake! However, if you want the cake to taste like something, I recommend subbing out the oil with melted coconut oil and making the soak and glaze using coconut milk, just to give it a more distinct coconut flavor, which also pairs beautifully with the other ingredients!

For the other components, we have a basic cake soak since we don’t want to serve a dry sponge. We also have a blood orange curd disk, a blackberry gelee disk, a blood orange mousse rippled with blackberry coulis, a butterfly pea glaze, and white chocolate decorations on top. I wanted the dessert to look really unassuming, being lighter shades of blue and white to resemble the sky during a sunny day, but then when you cut into it, it resembles a sunset by the beach! To simply down on the steps of making this cake, the blackberry gelee and the blood orange mousse are both made using the blackberry coulis and the blood orange curd as bases respectively. This way, you’re really making 4 components for this cake at the price of 2! The white chocolate decorations add the height, while also being a playful homage to the flower shape I tried to create with the cupcakes all those years ago. Overall this was a super fun cake to conceptualize, just because of how much nostalgia was behind this. I have too many after school blue velvet cupcake-making memories, and this cake pays a perfect homage to my growth as a baker since then!

For the blue velvet chiffon:
2 egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp canola oil
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp blue spirulina or butterfly pea powder
1 tsp freeze-dried blueberry powder*(can omit as well)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

In a bowl, whip together the egg whites with sugar and baking powder until they form stiff peaks. In another bowl, mix together the egg yolk with canola oil, vanilla, or either blue spirulina or butterfly pea powder. Sift the flour into the egg yolk mixture and fold into that the egg whites to form your batter. Pour into a lined 6-inch ring mold and bake at 350 degrees F for 18 minutes. Allow the cake to full cool before unmolding and using for the initial assembly.

For the cake soak:
3 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

Mix together and drizzle over the cake to keep it from drying out.

For the blackberry coulis:
1 pint fresh blackberries
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp granulated sugar

Bring everything to a simmer in a pot over medium heat. Allow the mixture to cook down until the blackberries are completely soft, then pass everything through a sieve to remove the seeds. Allow the liquid to continue cooking down until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Then allow the mixture to cool down. Reserve 1/4 cup(2 oz) of the coulis for the gelee, and then transfer the rest into a piping bag for the initial assembly.

For the blackberry gelee:
1/4 cup blackberry coulis
1 tbsp agar agar
2 tbsp water
a pinch of salt

In a pot, cook down everything together over low heat until the agar is fully dissolved into the coulis. Pour the mixture into a lined 5-inch ring mold and allow the mixture to set up in the freezer until completely firm, about 10 minutes.

For the blood orange curd:
Juice and zest from 4 blood oranges
2 tsp gelatin powder + 3 tbsp cold water
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp cornstarch
a pinch of salt
3 tbsp unsalted butter

In a pot, heat up the blood orange juice and zest with the gelatin until the gelatin is fully dissolved into the juice. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg yolk, cornstarch, and salt. Pour half of the heated orange juice into the bowl while whisking the egg yolks. Then pour the egg yolk mixture back into the pot with the orange juice and whisk everything together on medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken and clings to the sides of your whisk. Pass through a sieve to remove any lumps and whisk in the butter while the mixture is still warm. Pour about 2oz of the curd into a lined 5-inch ring mold and freeze solid for initial assembly. Use the remaining blood orange curd to make your mousse with. It’s okay if the curd intended for the mousse sets up, as we will be reheating it in the mousse-making process.

For the blood orange mousse:
Juice and zest from 2 blood oranges
1 tsp gelatin powder + 1 tbsp cold water
a pinch of salt
remaining blood orange curd
1 cup heavy cream, whipped stiff

In a pot, melt down the gelatin in more blood orange juice, zest, and salt on low heat. Once the gelatin is fully dissolved, take the mixture off heat and stir in the blood orange curd until that mixture is fully incorporated as well. Pour the mixture into a bowl and allow that to cool down to just above room temperature. Then fold in the heavy cream to form your mousse.

For the initial assembly:
Line the sides of a 6-inch ring mold with acetate and bottom with cling wrap. Pour in 1/3 of the blood orange mousse first, then ripple in 1/3 of the coulis. place down the disk of curd first. Then add in another 1/3 of the mousse and coulis, then the gelee. Place in the last of the mousse and coulis, then the round of cake. Freeze solid, at least 4 hours in the freezer, before attempting to unmold and glaze.

For the tempered white chocolate:
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
a pinch of salt

Over a double boiler, partially melt the chocolate and salt in a bowl. Once the chocolate is roughly half-melted, take it off heat and stir until the rest of it is fully melted in. Continue to stir until the chocolate registers around 88 degrees F(for context, the human forehead is about 91-94 degrees F, so the exterior of the bowl should feel about as warm as your forehead!). Using an offset spatula or a knife, cut one side of the blade in white chocolate, scraping off the excess, before pressing it against acetate. Lift the utensil off the acetate sheet and repeat this with the rest of the chocolate until you have about 20 “petals”. Keep the rest of the white chocolate in the bowl for now. Place the acetate inside of 3-inch ring molds so that they stay curled and transfer into the refrigerator. Allow the white chocolate to fully set before unmolding.

Pipe a small dollop of the still-melted white chocolate onto acetate and place down the set “petals”, arranging them to form a flower-like shape. Transfer back to the refrigerator and chill down for another 5-10 minutes before attempting to unmold.

For the glaze:
1 1/2 tsp gelatin powder + 2 tbsp cold water
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp butterfly pea or blue spirulina powder
a pinch of salt
6oz white chocolate chips

In a pot, heat up the gelatin with milk, butterfly pea powder, and salt until everything is dissolved together. Take off heat and pour in the white chocolate. Allow everything to sit together for at least 1 minute before stirring to incorporate everything into a smooth and homogenous mixture. Pass through a sieve to remove any lumps. Heat the mixture to 90 degrees F before attempting to use on the actual cake.

For final assembly:
Place the frozen mousse cake on an elevated surface and pour on the glaze. Allow the excess to drip off and the rest of the glaze to fully set before transferring the cake to a serving surface. Garnish the top with the white chocolate flower to finish.

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