Duck Egg Sponge Cake with Raspberry Cream Icing (Raspberry Fluff Cake)

Some may find inspiration from travel, I’m currently finding culinary inspiration from a bedtime story (my children’s, not mine).  My sons are big fans of Max and Ruby‘s Bunny Cakes, a story of Ruby, a rabbit, and her younger brother Max.  Ruby wants to make a raspberry fluff cake for her grandmother but in keeping with little brothers everywhere, Max just keeps getting in the way.  Eventually Max is locked out of the kitchen.  Ruby finishes her raspberry fluff cake and Max, stuck in the backyard, makes one of mud and worms.  Grandma is so excited, she doesn’t know “which one to eat first.”  After reading it for the umpteenth time, we decided we would make the cake for the boys’ grandma.  The raspberry fluff one, at least.

Raspberry Fluff Cake

I hadn’t yet settled on which white cake recipe to use when I managed to get a package of duck eggs from my meat CSA.  (Remember, I have a lot of cookbooks).  I’d been pestering them for long enough that they could hardly forget to set aside some for me when enough materialized.  Duck eggs are hard to come by since the birds don’t lay as predictably as chickens, dropping their eggs somewhat at random.

Duck Egg Sponge Cake (1 of 5)

I didn’t want duck eggs so I could write some oddball novelty blog post: rather,  you just might have noticed that I like baking, and duck eggs are brilliant at it.  Even so, they unsettle you a bit when cracked open.  Perhaps they are too close (to regular eggs) for comfort:  the intensely orange yolks that tumble out of the cracked shell are larger than you’re expecting, while the whites are slow and disconcertingly viscous:  separating the yolks and whites is no easy feat.  Those whites, too, are as clear as water, not yellow-tinged like chicken eggs.  Perhaps only appropriate for a duck’s aquatic habitat.

Duck Egg Sponge Cake (2 of 5)

Darina Allen‘s The Forgotten Skills of Cooking unsurprisingly has a few uses for these eggs, and I settled on making her duck egg sponge cake (which only uses three ingredients:  flour, sugar, and those eggs!)  This simplified the decision on frosting–for a light, somewhat dry cake like this, I could only imagine a shortcake writ large.  Raspberry whipped cream provided the perfect finish, moistening the dry crumb of the duck-egg sponge.  Not too sweet, but fresh and easy eating on a warm almost-summer night.

Duck Egg Sponge Cake (3 of 5)

Duck Egg Sponge Cake (4 of 5)

Duck Egg Sponge Cake (5 of 5)

If you can’t find duck eggs, you could of course try this cake with any sponge cake recipe.  Max and Ruby would approve either way.

Raspberry Fluff Cake

And so would Grandma.

Raspberry Fluff Cake

Raspberry Fluff Cake

Duck Egg Sponge Cake adapted from Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking (see the Kitchn’s take here) and Raspberry Whipped Cream adapted from JoyofBaking.  

Note:  Like the folks at The Kitchn, I used 8″ rather than 7″ cake pans (as prescribed by the recipe).  This made for two very thin cakes so I wouldn’t suggest trying a larger size.

For the cake

  • 3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted, plus 2 teaspoons for dusting
  • 3 duck eggs
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
For the raspberry puree
  • 1 12-ounce bag frozen unsweetened raspberries
  • 1/4c sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
For the raspberry whipped cream
  • 1 cup cold whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1T sugar (or to taste)
  • 1/3 c raspberry puree
  • 1 half pint raspberries for garnish (optional)
Make the raspberry puree (note you will have extra).
Thaw the raspberries either at room temperature or in the microwave.  Place in a fine-meshed strainer (fine enough to separate out the seeds) and press out the juice.  I find a large spatula to help with this.  You can stir what remains in the strainer a little bit from time to time and then continue to press, which seems to move things along.  Add the lemon juice and sugar to the juice.  You can discard the seeds, though me and my sons ate some of that pulp.  (We love raspberries!)  You’ll only need 1/3c for the frosting, so you’ll have extra you can use over the course of the week or freeze.  Consider making in advance to speed the process later.    
Chill the raspberry puree while you proceed.

Make the cake

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Butter your pan and line the base with parchment.  Then butter the parchment and dust the pans with flour.  (Note, I forgot the parchment and my cakes emerged unscathed, but spare yourself the gray hairs.)  Allen suggests using melted butter to line the pans.

Separate the yolks from the whites.   Put the whites and sugar into a bowl and whisk until stiff, preferably in an electric mixer (I used my kitchenaid). Whisk in the yolks one by one and then fold in the sifted flour, making sure not to deflate the mixture. Divide the mixture between the prepared pans.

Bake for 20–25 minutes. Turn out carefully and let cool on a wire rack.

Make the raspberry whipped cream

Note that Joy of Baking recommends placing your mixing bowl and wire whisk in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before you make the whipped cream.  There’s no way I have enough room in my freezer for a 6-quart kitchenaid bowl, but I did at least manage to do this with the whisk.  If you have space and remember, though, why not?  Place the whipping cream, vanilla, and sugar in the bowl and whip until soft peaks form.  Add the puree, and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.  Taste and fold in more raspberry puree if desired.  If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate. You’ll get about two cups of whipped cream.

Assemble

Spread a little less than half of the whipped cream over the first layer of the cake.  Place the second layer on top, and spread the remaining whipped cream on top.  Garnish with fresh raspberries and serve.  Store in the fridge.

Raspberry Fluff Cake--assembly

More Darina Allen on Three Clever Sisters:

Audrey Hoodie: Finished, barely in time

Considering I started this project before this little guy was born, it’s pretty sad that by the time I finished it he’s almost grown out of it. 

I think we managed to get a photo of Baby H in it, and that’s it.  I made the 6-12 month size and he was only 7 1/2 months at the time of this photo.  I think it’s a combination of the pattern (possibly) running small and Baby H (most definitely) running big.  I didn’t bother with the crochet edging on this–I knew that there just wasn’t time for such details!  It was a fun, straightforward pattern to do.  Using this yarn, which is a solid with slight variegations, gave it a bit more depth and made it more interesting than your standard moss stitch.

Pattern:  Audrey Hoodie from Vintage Baby Knits, size 6-12 months.

Yarn:  Sundara Yarn Sport Merino  in Sandstone over Shell

Knitting project updates

First, the Venezia Pullover.  We haven’t seen this in a while.  Sometime last summer I started working on other items, and this disappeared.  For some reason (being deep into winter?) about a month ago I was inspired to pick this up again.  I can’t say why–there’s no chance of me being able to wear this until the end of the year if I’m lucky, and shouldn’t I be busily knitting away on petite socks, tiny hats, and chubby baby sweaters?

Maybe, but when I felt moved to tackle this again, I figured I should listen.  If not, this could be one of those projects that lingers for years and years…

And while I’m far from done, I’ve hit some major milestones–namely, finishing knitting the body, meaning it was time to get out the scissors and start snipping into all that yarn I spent so many hours twisting and looping together.  (Essentially, steeking means I knit a tube with no armholes or even much of a neckhole.  This allows for faster knitting).

Pre-steek–or a version for a shrunken head:

Pre-steek close-up:  does your head hurt?  Can you see why I said that if I was feeling motivated to work on this ghastly thing, I shouldn’t fight it?  Here we have two sets of neck steeks and two sets of armhole steeks.  And not enough stitch holders (those would be what look like monster diaper pins).

Cut (ha ha) to a week later:  we’re looking much better.  Neckline done.  Armholes are snipped open and still raw, exposed, and threatening to ravel at any time.  (I’m not too worried.  Not only am I no longer a steeking novice (in fact, I didn’t even secure the stitches before cutting to be extra safe!), this type of yarn–shetland–lends itself perfectly to steeking.  It’s that itchier type of wool that’s not so popular–no supersoft merino here–but that same quality makes the knits and purls “stickier” and less likely to result in knitting disasters, tearing out your hair, gnashing of teeth, etc.

And:  I have started the left arm!

But I haven’t been entirely selfish–here’s my progress so far on what I am calling the “Manly” Audrey Hoodie from Vintage Baby Knits.  I am making the 6-9 months size out of Sundara yarn (Sandstone over Shell) that I bought to make a project for little E.  So, I’d really better make sure to get it done this time around.  Luckily baby knits are quick, but I fear I may be relying a bit too much on that fact as an excuse for procrastination…

Oliver + S Sailboat Top

I’ve been meaning to get a shot of this shirt being modelled for you by little E, but just haven’t gotten around to it.  He’s not exactly easy to photograph (moving target, anyone?), and this is supposed to be too big for him so in fact he hasn’t even tried it on.  He is on the big side, however, though so I’d better get on it before I find out it’s too small!

It’s hard to find cute patterns out there for boys, and while Oliver + S, like all other pattern companies, is weighted heavily towards dresses, skirts, and the like, the boys patterns they do have are unique and very cute.  (I can’t say the same for most pattern companies–they boys patterns they have are downright uninspiring at best, and hokey at worst).   Thanks to an online sale, a few months ago I ordered the Oliver + S Sailboat Top, Skirt and Pants Pattern (obviously I have in mind the top and pants, not the skirt) and decided to make size 3T.  Never knowing how long it will take me to finish one of these, I always make a bigger size that I need to give myself a bit of a cushion.

Oliver + S Sailboat Top, Skirt + Pants - Sizes 6m - 3T - Click Image to Close

I also wanted to use this opportunity to try my hand at sewing knit fabrics rather than woven cotton (i.e. the quilting fabric that so far is the only material that I’ve used).  I’m a bit more interested in apparel sewing than quilting (but that’s what kclever is for), but am still straddling the fence to some degree.  But apparel sewing, besides the challenges of fit and flatter, also opens up a huge array of fabric choices, from lacy sheers to heavier weight brocades and wools.  That’s well into the advanced category–first I need to get comfortable with jersey/knit fabrics–after all, that’s probably the type of fabric most of us wear everyday.

The difficulty with jerseys is that special stitches that also stretch must be used–otherwise you get ripping seams, puckering fabric–nothing  you much want in your clothing.  I found Sew U: Home Stretch indispensable to give me the confidence and technique to go ahead even with my very basic Kenmore (serious sewers would have a serger for their knits–I’m not sure I can justify that one yet!).  And as I learned when I first began to knit, child-size projects are perfect for learning new techniques–they are faster to complete and there’s less to rip out when you make those inevitable beginner’s mistakes.

And–I love the result!  The pattern I found to be well written–there’s a little unclarity about attaching the interfacing to reinforce the button and button holes, but if I figured it out, it can’t be that hard.  I did have some challenges with the fabric, as to be expected, but felt comfortable with it by the end.  I used the zigzag stitch, which works fine but isn’t ideal because it’s hard to figure out how to measure your seam allowance–rather than one straight line you have little zees back and forth making a rather wide seam.  (I have since learned of the specialized knit stitch on my machine which is a bit easier to use but also slower going, so it’s hard to say which I prefer).

I had some issues on the buttonholes as well.  I haven’t generally had problems with buttonholes since I started sewing again, but am always a a bit nervous about them.  (My mom’s heavy olive green Kenmore–1970s, need I say more–was none to sharp in the buttonhole department and the memory lingers on!).  My machine is just fine, but I think the newness of jersey plus various layers of cloth, and my poor job at marking the fabric and trimming the interior seam allowances all contributed to the fact that I had to sew and re-rip many times over–sometimes the fabric didn’t move through the machine, giving me the smallest buttonhole imaginable, other times the buttonholes ended up way too close together or crooked (which is pretty noticeable on striped fabric).  I got to what I thought was good enough, but after putting it aside a day or two pulled out the seam ripper, tried again, and finally got it just right.  (It’s hard to know in those circumstances–you don’t want to rip out “close enough” to then replace it with something worse, but you know it will continue to bother you if you don’t…).

This time at least, it all worked out.  I think that making sure to really HELP that fabric through the machine was what saved this shirt (and my sanity) in the end–though next time I’ll better prepare the fabric and hopefully avoid this problem as well.

Some “detail shots” — those darn buttonholes:

The adorable curved hem, which in addition to the button detail, also makes this more special than any old striped shirt.  While you’d have to zoom in to the photo, you can also see my zigzag seam topstitching.  (I have since learned that I could probably have topstitched with a long basting length stitch as it’s mainly decorative–can anyone confirm)?  I think the zigzag works on a little boy’s top, but not sure I’d want that on something for myself.

I’m already at work on another smaller version of this shirt, plus pants, in a slightly smaller size.  Don’t want Don Segundo to have only hand-me-downs after all.  (Don Segundo is my dorky way of trying to make “#2” sound a bit more special until the “big reveal” of his name–and putting my college degree in Spanish to work!)