Watercolour Graffiti Cake

For those who don't follow foodie blogs...here's one you should definitely check out. I've been following Rosie Alyea's blog, Sweetapolita for a long time now and was absolutely thrilled with the Sweetapolita cookbook announcement. Naturally, I pre-ordered the book and waited (impatiently) for like, half a year. But it's so worth the wait - the photos are beautiful, the recipes are amazing and the creativity in recipe just shines through.

One recipe that particularly caught my eye was the Watercolour Graffiti Cake. The beauty of this cake is (aside from it tasting fabulous) is that it's so customisable what you paint on the outside, the colours you choose, the moods you can create. So I took this opportunity to test it out making an early birthday cake for my boss, M. Obviously she's not called M, but I'm not sure whether she'd like to be mentioned on here. Plus, M sounds pretty cool, no? Very James Bond-y.

I swear by Rosie's rich, dark chocolate cake so I was a little apprehensive about trying out the Chocolate Butter Cake as butter based cakes tend to dry out quicker than oil based ones. But I was so wrong. The cake is beautifully light and fluffy, the texture almost melt in the mouth and no dryness in sight at all. It tastes how a chocolate cake should taste. Nothing like those cakes which are basically horribly converted Victoria sponge cakes. You know the ones- ever so slight cocoa taste, dry coarse texture and the only thing to try salvage it would be to put lashings and lashings of cream or custard, washed down with a cup of tea or coffee. The experience usually only ever leads to disappointment with a hint of anger. 

The recipe below is entirely from The Sweetapolita Bakebook, but I've made a few ever so slight tweaks. I divided the batter to make a three layer mini 4" cake for M, a two layer 6" cake (as shown in the photos here) and approximately 6 cupcakes aswell. Or you could just make a three layer 8" cake as per the recipe.

Yields 1 three layer 8" cake
Recipe from The Sweetapolita Bakebook.

Chocolate Butter Cake

315g plain flour
120g dark cocoa powder (I used Cacao Barry Extra Brute)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
360ml buttermilk 
120ml coffee, hot
225g unsalted butter, room temperature
400g light brown soft sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract (I used Nielsen Massey)
60g mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp white vinegar (I didn't have this to hand so used red wine vinegar)

Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

300g egg whites
500g caster sugar
680g butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tablespoons high fruit content raspberry jam (Bon Maman Intense Raspberry Jam)
A couple of drops of pink colouring (optional)

To decorate

Ready to roll white fondant icing, enough to cover an 8" cake.
Gel food colouring
Gold shimmer dust (optional)
Vodka or lemon extract to dilute

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line 3 8" round cake tins with parchment paper. (Prepare your cake tins accordingly, should you decide to make smaller cakes like I have)
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder into a bowl and set aside. Combine the buttermilk and coffee in a container with ideally a spout. e.g. measuring jug.
  3. Using a stand mixer (I'm sure a hand mixer will be fine too) cream the brown sugar and butter until very light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mix until incorporated and scrape the bowl after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  4. Take the bowl off the stand and add 1/3 of the flour mixture and fold with a spatula until just incorporated, followed by 1/2 of the milk/coffee mixture. Repeat the process again until both mixtures have been used up. 
  5. Fold in the mayonnaise. In a bowl stir the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda quickly and quickly fold into the cake batter. Make sure to not overmix. 
  6. Divide the batter between the cake tins and bake the layers for 20-25mins, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with a few crumbs. Let cakes cool in the tins for 10mins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. Place egg whites and caster sugar in a squeaky clean heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir frequently with a whisk until the sugar has dissolved. (Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water, and keep whisking so the egg whites don't scramble!)
  8. Using an electric whisk, or pour into the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk the egg whites on medium high to stiff peaks and the bowl is cool to touch
  9. Add butter, approximately a tablespoon at a time to the meringue and whisk on low until each addition is incorporatedTurn the speed up to medium high and keep whisking until the butter and meringue mixture come together into a silky smooth buttercream.
  10. Lastly add the vanilla extract and jam and mix to incorporate.
  11. Trim the tops of the now cool cake layers so they're level and even. Fill, stack and cover the cake layers with the raspberry buttercream. Make sure the surface is smooth, otherwise this will show when covering with fondant.
  12. Roll out your fondant to the thickness of approximately 3-5mm and cover the cake. Gently smooth down the sides with your hands and then the surface with a fondant smoother. Trim and overhang of fondant.
  13. Per drop of colouring, dilute with approximately a teaspoon of vodka/ lemon extract. Using pieces of clean sponge (one for each colour used), gently dab each colour onto the surface of the fondant covered cake. Alternate with different colours for that layered watercolour effect.
  14. To add the finishing touch- dilute the gold shimmer powder with a little vodka/ lemon extract and lightly brush onto the cake, or you could splatter Jackson Pollock style, or blob it with a sponge- it's entirely up to you!


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Interior designer & part time baker. Lover of architecture, design and all things cute.