Red Currant and Vanilla Cake with Orange and Cream Cheese Frosting

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Perfect for a small gathering, this petite cake is ideal when you want a celebration cake but don’t want to be eating leftover cake for a week. Puréed tart red currants provide balance to the cake’s sweetness, and a healthy dose of orange zest in the buttercream frosting keeps things feeling bright and compliments the currants beautifully. If you’d like, you could use tart raspberries in place of the currants for a similar effect.

The amounts given for the buttercream frosting are for filling, frosting, and lightly decorating this as a seven layer cake (four layers of cake interspersed with three layers of buttercream), but you can halve the recipe for the buttercream if you are going to do this with two thick layers of cake and just one layer of buttercream between them. The recipe for the cake can easily be doubled to created a full-sized cake (use three 9″ cake pans) for a larger gathering.


For the cake:

1 stick butter (4 oz/ 8 tablespoons/ 1/2 cup)

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup red currants, pureed in a food processor (should have about 1/3 cup puree)

2 eggs

Scrapings from 1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup cake flour, sifted

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup milk
For the buttercream

2 sticks butter (8 oz/ 16 tablespoons/ 1 cup)

8 oz. cream cheese

5 cups powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons whole milk, plus more as needed

Finely grated zest from 2 oranges

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Make the cakes:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare two round 6″ cake pans for baking by buttering and flouring them.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth, then add the sugar and beat together until fluffy and light in color (this is called creaming the butter and sugar). Stop the mixer to scrape down the bowl a couple of times during mixing, if necessary.

3. Once the butter and sugar are creamed, add the fruit purée and mix until fully combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing each until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla extract or vanilla bean scrapings and mix until combined.

4. Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until the flour is about halfway incorporated. Add half the milk and mix until almost incorporated. Add the next third of the flour, then the rest of the milk, then the rest of the flour, mixing each addition until almost incorporated. After the last addition of flour, mix until no traces of flour remain. Scrape down the bowl, then briefly mix again to make sure all the butter was incorporated.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center removes with a few moist crumbs (if it comes out completely clean, the cake has baked a few minutes too long). Place the cake pans on a cooling rack and let cool for 15-20minutes, then remove them from the pans and let them cool completely before proceeding.

Make the buttercream:

1. While the cakes are baking, wash the bowl and battle attachment to your stand mixer*. Place the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of the mixer and beat until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar, mixing until smooth and creamy. Add the milk, vanilla, and orange zest and mix until the zest is evenly dispersed through the buttercream. If the mixture is too thick for your liking, you can add a few more tablespoons of milk to achieve your desired consistency.

Once the cakes are fully cooled, frost and decorate the cake as desired. To make the cake pictured, use a serrated knife to split each cake in half for four layers of cake layered with buttercream. Frost the whole thing, decorate as desired, and garnish with leftover red currants.

*or use a hand mixer fitted with paddle attachments, if you’d like.


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