Pink Peppercorn Cake with Raspberries and Rose Buttercream

So this was one of the treats I brought with me to my casting session for The Great American Baking Show. Given the timeframe I really only had a day or two to come up with the idea, but the flavor profile had been marinating in my head for a while, so it only remained to figure out how to implement it!

After some experiments with flavoring I concluded that rose-flavored cake was only mediocre and the pepper didn’t come through all that well in the frosting, so I used crushed pink peppercorns (which are really not peppercorns but are an unrelated berry) in the cake batter and made a buttercream flavored with rosewater to set it off. The floral notes really complement each other well (pink peppercorn cake may be a new favorite of mine), and adding fresh raspberries really added a punch of flavor to make it light and refreshing. I really, really like this cake as a whole, and will totally be making it again at some point.

I confess that out of paranoia over flavor and texture, I eventually made no fewer than four different versions of my cake layers for the big day, deciding at the last minute which one to use (the first one– go figure). And then my favorite cooked-flour frosting was too loose to properly frost the outside of my cake, so I had to make a second batch of frosting, this time with powdered sugar, for the outside. And while I made my initial batch of meringues with freeze-dried raspberry powder, the resulting grayish-purple color was very unattractive, so I made a second batch that was plain vanilla. So to summarize, there was a LOT of stuff leftover from making this perfect-looking cake!

That being said, the cake itself turned out lovely, both visually and culinarily. Here are the component recipes:

Striped Meringues

2 egg whites

100 g granulated sugar

Food coloring

1. Beat egg whites with the whisk attachment of a stand mixer until light and foamy.

2. Gradually add sugar while beating (about a tablespoon at a time) and continue to beat until a glossy meringue forms.

3. Using a toothpick, paint two stripes on opposite sides of a piping bag fitted with a star tip.

4. Add meringue to the piping bag and pipe onto foil- or parchment-lined baking sheets. This basically makes one half-sheet pan worth of meringues. They don’t spread, so don’t worry about spacing too much.

5. There are two baking techniques you can use, depending on time. First, you could bake these for 4 hours in a 200 degree oven. This takes time, but it results in nice, white meringues. Alternatively, you could preheat your oven to about 335 degrees, then turn it off as soon as you put your meringues in and then go to bed. In the morning the meringues will be fully baked and dry, though I find they tend to take on a slight golden color due to the higher initial heat.

6. When cool, remove meringues from baking sheet and store in an airtight container. If they start to get a little sticky due to humidity, you can crisp them up again in a 200 degree oven for about half an hour.

Pink Peppercorn Cake

2 sticks (226 g) butter, room temp
2 1/3 c (466 g) sugar
5 egg whites (150 g), room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 c (375 g) all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 1/2 c (355 g) milk, warmed for 30 sec in microwave to bring to room temp

1 tbs. pink peppercorns, ground (I used a small mortar and pestle)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and prepare three 7″ round baking pans (or two 9″ baking pans) with parchment liners and baking spray.

2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

4. Slowly add the egg whites, beating until each is incorporated.

5. Add vanilla extract.

6. Add flour mixture and milk in parts, alternating (flour-milk-flour-milk-flour) and beating well after each addition. This keeps your batter smooth and prevents it from splitting.

7. Add ground pink peppercorns and mix well.

8. Divide into prepared pans and bake approximately 20 minutes, until toothpick in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs on it. Let cool in pans for at least 15 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

Rose Buttercream (adapted from Wicked Good Kitchen)

  • 4 cups (480 g) 100% powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup (120 ml) boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs. rosewater (30 ml) or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (339 g) at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (96 g) organic palm shortening, such as Spectrum®, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

1. Put powdered sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and pour boiling water over it. Mix with paddle attachment until fully dissolved and cooled to room temperature. This will ensure there is no grittiness in your finished frosting.

2. Add vanilla, rosewater, and salt, and mix well.

3. Slowly add butter and shortening, beating on low for about 2 minutes. Taste to see if the level of rose flavoring is correct, and if not, add more rosewater at this point.

4. Then increase speed to medium and beat for a full 10 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

5. Tint buttercream as desired with gel food coloring.

To assemble this cake, I used a batch of my favorite cooked-flour frosting, flavored with more rosewater, to fill the layers (with fresh raspberries sandwiched between them) and to crumb-coat the cake. **I could have used the same rose buttercream, but I’m not sure that I’d have had quite enough with the batch size above to do that, so if you’re going to use the same frosting for both filling and decoration, you may want to increase your batch by 50%.**

Then I piped stripes of the rose buttercream around the sides and used a bench scraper to smooth everything out. Finally, I added the pink top and smoothed that out as well.

After that, it was just a matter of decorating it with the meringues, raspberries, and extra frosting! I also used sugar pearls and a sprinkling of ground-up freeze-dried raspberries. So pretty!


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