Ombre raspberry cake

  • medium
  • Serves 20
  • 3 hours
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This stunning four-layer ombre raspberry cake recipe is a towering beauty, perfect for those special occasions where only a true showstopper will do. The layer cake is filled with layers of luscious raspberry jam and sweet buttercream, and topped with yet more plump raspberries. Lemon thyme may sound like an unusual flavouring for a cake, but the fragrant, delicate leaves add a wonderfully aromatic edge to the sponge.

First published in 2016
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Raspberry jam

Crystallised lemon thyme

Lemon thyme sponge

  • 600g of butter
  • 500g of caster sugar
  • 8 eggs
  • 500g of self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 bunch of lemon thyme, leaves picked

Vanilla buttercream

  • 250g of butter, softened
  • 2 vanilla pods, seeds scraped
  • 500g of icing sugar, sifted

Pink buttercream

  • 400g of butter, softened
  • 800g of icing sugar, sifted
  • red food colouring



Begin by making the raspberry jam. Place the raspberries in a heavy-based saucepan with 50g of the sugar and mash with a potato masher. Bring to the boil and boil for a few minutes before adding the rest of the sugar and the lemon juice
Boil until the jam reaches 105°C on a sugar thermometer then leave to cool. Once cooled to room temperature, transfer to a piping bag and store in the fridge. This can be done a couple of days ahead if you have time
To crystalise the lemon thyme, mix the egg white with 2 teaspoons of water. Dip each thyme sprig in the egg white and shake off any excess before dredging through the sugar and laying on a tray lined with baking paper
To make the sponges, cream the butter and sugar with the lemon thyme leaves until light and fluffy then add the eggs one by one until fully incorporated. Finally, fold in the flour and the baking powder and divide between 2 deep 20cm diameter tins
Cook for 30–35 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the sponge comes out clean and the sponge springs back when gently pressed. Turn onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely
For the vanilla buttercream, whisk the softened butter with the vanilla for around 5 minutes until whipped then add the icing sugar in 2 parts. The icing should be smooth and glossy – if it is a little thick add a tablespoon of milk to thin it out. Transfer to a piping bag
Once the cakes are completely cold, use a large serrated knife to cut each horizontally into 2 layers. If the top layers are dome-shaped, trim to flatten them
Spread 3 of the cakes with a thick layer of buttercream and a layer of jam. Chill in the fridge for an hour or until set before carefully layering them on top of one another, finishing with the last piece of sponge
Carefully place the cake on an icing turntable. You should either place it on a cake board or line the turntable with baking paper so you are able to get it off afterwards! Use the remaining buttercream to create a thin even layer of icing all around the cake. Don’t worry too much about making it look perfect as this layer is mainly to prevent crumbs from the cake getting into the final icing
Chill the cake for another hour to ensure it sets and to prevent slippage of the layers
Meanwhile, make the pink buttercream. Use the same method as before, then divide into 3 bowls. Add a little red food colouring to 1 bowl to get a nice blush pink, add a little more to the next bowl and a little more to the third bowl until you have 3 varying colours of pink
Transfer to piping bags with a flat nozzle. If you don’t have 3 piping bags and nozzles, just do 1 at a time and cover the other 2 bowls with cling film so it doesn't dry out
Once the cake has set, remove from the fridge and begin piping around the cake with the darkest pink icing from the base to a third of the way up. Pipe the next third with the medium pink icing and then finally the last third and the top of the cake with the lightest colour pink. It is better to do a thick layer of icing at this stage that can be scraped off as this will help to get the edges straight
Hold an icing scraper at a 90 degree angle to the side of the cake and slowly turn the cake around, pulling the icing little by little until it is completely smooth without any air bubbles or lumps
To smooth the top of the cake, use the scraper to bring the icing from the outside in, wiping off the excess each time until the top is level. Add the fresh raspberries and crystallised thyme in a crescent shape on top of the cake and sprinkle over the freeze-dried raspberries. Chill in the fridge for a few hours, ideally overnight before serving
First published in 2016

After a five-year stint in the kitchen at two Michelin-starred restaurant The Ledbury, Sally is now head chef at The Harwood Arms in London.

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