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Extraordinary Cakes is divided into sections by season.  The first few cakes that I did were from the Spring section but since we are full on into summer now I decided to skip ahead to the Summer section.  The first cake that caught my eye was this Passion Fruit Ricotta cake.  I am sure the first thing that struck me was that it had a pound cake base.  Faithful readers will know of my total devotion to pound cake.  I just can’t get enough of it.  Add to that ricotta cheese and my Italian heritage kicks in and I am totally hooked.  Naturally I just couldn’t resist this one and couldn’t wait to get into the kitchen to make it.

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The cake base is a very simple although not at all a traditional pound cake.  It uses ricotta cheese and no butter at all but replaces the butter with unflavored oil.  This gave me a bit of cause for alarm on my first read through of the recipe.  If you have been following me for awhile then you are all familiar with the story of my aunt’s Mazola oil cake (which of course is nothing but a chiffon cake and not at all a favorite of mine) and was the cake that we had at every family get together.  I so detested this cake as a child that I flatly refused to eat it and to this day I cringe when a piece of chiffon cake is set before me.  I needn’t have worried here, the cake is marvelous.  It bakes to a beautiful golden brown and even though I used magic strips it still domed in the center.  This is not a problem as you need to slice off the top one quarter inch and toast the cake crumbs to decorate the side of the cake.  The cake has a rather dense texture but also has a rather holed appearance.  When sliced there are many small holes which you would not expect in a dense textured pound cake.  All the better for soaking up the wonderful passion fruit syrup and the cake does remain firm but moist and is heavenly to work with.  It is very easy to slice the three layers needed and they remain beautifully intact while the cake is assembled.

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The soaking syrup is the standard sugar and water variety to which is added passion fruit puree.  The syrup is a bit heavier than the usual soaking syrup but this denser cake takes it up very easily and man oh man is it ever delicious.

The filling is made from a combination of whipped cream and passion fruit curt.  This passion fruit curd is similar to lemon curd with the exception of fewer eggs and the addition of gelatin sheets.  It firms up as well as traditional lemon curd but remains very smooth which makes folding it into the whipped cream a breeze.

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To assemble, the cake base is sliced into three 1/4 inch layers and the domed top is sliced off, crumbled and toasted for later use.  The first layer goes into the mold, brushed with the soaking syrup.  The passion fruit curd is folded into sweetened whipped cream and about 1 cup of the passion fruit whipped cream is spread on top.  Next comes a layer of sliced bananas and sliced kiwi.  The second cake layer is added and the process is repeated except this time a layer of sliced strawberries is added on top of the passion fruit whipped cream.  The final layer goes on and is drenched with the soaking syrup.  The cake is wrapped in plastic wrap and goes into the freezer for its overnight rest.

When ready to finish the cake, it is removed from the mold and a thin layer of passion fruit whipped cream is spread over the top and sides.  The sides are then coated with the toasted cake crumbs and the top is piped with concentric circles of the remaining whipped cream and then decorated as desired.  All in all it makes a beautiful summer presentation.

Unfortunately, I made this cake for Norman to take to one of his work functions so I didn’t get to taste it but I did ask him to get some reactions from the people at the event and write me up description of what they said.  Norman tends to get a bit flowery with his prose but here is what he had to say.

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“This beautiful cake can be a warm weather treat full of a variety of textures and tastes.   The dewy, velvety almost creamy cake formed a wonderful base when contrasted by the texture of the outer ring of toasted cake crumbs.  The sweet mélange of bananas, kiwis and strawberries were complemented by the aromatic passion fruit purée.”

I think he has been watching too much Nigella Lawson but I appreciate his kind words about this cake.  Makes me even sorrier I didn’t get to taste it but there is always next time, as I am sure there will be a next time.

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