‘Sweet Memories’ Citrus Syrup Sponge

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Prep 1.5hr (+ Meringue Rosettes prep)Bake 18-20minMakes 8-10 serves

An absolute must-try for any citrus fan, this light-as-air cake is the ultimate balance between light sponge, mouth-puckering lemon curd and beautiful hand-made adornments.
Created by Make Me a Baker student, Cate Tibbertsma for her graduation, this cake is a nostalgic one "that will fill your belly with sweet memories" as Cate says.


125ml (½ cup) thickened cream
125g (½ cup) sour cream
1 tablespoon pure icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon Citrus Dust (see recipe below), plus extra to sprinkle
Meringue Rosettes (get Cate's meringue recipe HERE), to decorate
Oven-dried orange slices (optional), to decorate

Lemon Curd
2 eggs, at room temperature
egg yolks, at room temperature
165g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
80g unsalted butter, diced
2 lemons, zest finely grated and juiced

Sponge Layers
Melted butter to grease
4 fresh eggs, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons natural vanilla essence or extract
165g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
60ml (1/4 cup) milk
30g butter, diced
110g (3/4 cup) self-raising flour
30g (1/4 cup) cornflour

Citrus Syrup
110g (½ cup) caster sugar
60ml (1/4 cup) strained fresh lemon juice
60ml (1/4 cup) strained fresh orange juice

Citrus Toffee Shards
Oil spray
100g caster sugar
2½ tablespoons water
1 tablespoon liquid glucose
½ teaspoon Citrus Dust (see recipe below), to sprinkle

    Lemon Curd

    1. Combine the whole eggs, yolks and sugar in a small saucepan and stir with a whisk until smooth. Add the butter and the lemon juice and zest.
    2. Place the saucepan over a low heat and stir constantly with the whisk until thickened and the mixture reaches 75°C on a sugar thermometer.
    3. Strain through a sieve into a sterilised jar or glass container with lid. Refrigerate until required (see Baker’s Tips).

    Citrus Toffee Shards

    1. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper and spray lightly with oil; set aside. Combine the caster sugar, water and the liquid glucose in a small saucepan.  Stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Stop stirring when it starts to boil and brush down the inside of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve any crystals that have formed on the surface. Boil until the syrup turns a dark caramel colour (see Baker's Tips).
    2. Immediately pour the caramel over the entire surface of the baking sheet to create a thin layer.  Sprinkle with the Citrus Dust.  Set aside to cool and set. When completely cool, transfer to a sealed airtight container together with the baking paper.

    Sponge Layers

    1. Position the oven rack in the middle of the oven and then preheat it to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Brush two 18cm springform tins with melted butter to grease and line the base of each with a sheet of non-stick baking paper. Combine butter and milk in a small saucepan and set aside. Combine the Citrus Syrup ingredients in a separate small saucepan and set aside also.
    2. Use an electric mixer with a whisk attachment on medium-high speed to whisk the eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl until frothy. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking well between each addition, until the mixture is very thick and pale and the sugar has dissolved (this will take about 8 minutes).  Lift the whisk out of the mixture and slowly draw a figure eight, if the trail stays on the surface long enough for you to finish drawing then the mixture is ready. If not, continue to whisk for a further minute and then test again.
    3. Meanwhile, heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts and the mixture is almost simmering. Remove from the heat.  Pour the hot milk mixture down the side of the bowl and then sift the flour and cornflour together over the egg mixture. Immediately whisk briefly again with the electric mixer on low speed, until the flour mixture is just incorporated (make sure there is no flour caught at the bottom of the bowl and be careful not to over mix).
    4. Divide the mixture evenly between the cake tins (see Baker's Tips) and gently tap the tins on the bench top three times to settle the mixture. Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until the cakes are a pale golden colour, spring back when lightly touched in the centre and start pulling away from the sides of the tins.

    Citrus Syrup

    1. About 5 minutes before the Sponge Layers finish baking, place the saucepan with the Citrus Syrup ingredients over a medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil then reduce to a very gentle simmer to keep warm. 
    2. Remove sponges from the oven and immediately use a small palette knife to loosen the top of the sponges from the tins and turn onto a wire rack lined with a tea towel. Remove the baking paper and carefully turn the hot sponges back on their base onto a rack over a tray. Immediately pour hot syrup over the hot sponge layers. Set aside to cool completely before layering.

      To Assemble

      1. Use an electric hand mixer with a whisk attachment or a balloon whisk to whisk the thickened cream, sour cream and icing sugar together in a medium bowl, until soft peaks form.
      2. Place one sponge layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Spread about 1/2 cup of curd over the sponge layer and use a small sieve to sprinkle the Citrus Dust over the curd. Spread about half the cream mixture over the curd layer, spreading gently to avoid over-working the cream.  Top with the remaining sponge layer. Spread another 1/2 cup of curd on top followed by the remaining cream mixture, again spreading gently so you don’t over work it.
      3. Decorate with the Meringue Rosettes and Citrus Toffee Shards and sprinkle with extra Citrus Dust. Embellish with oven-dried orange slices, if desired.  Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 hours (see Baker's Tips).


      ORANGE CITRUS DUST: Preheat oven to 100°C (80°C fan-forced).  Use a vegetable peeler to peel the rind from 1 large orange.  Use a small knife to scrap any excess pith away.  Place on a lined oven tray and bake in oven for 1-2 hours.  Rind is ready when it has dried completely but still retains some of its original colour. Use a mortar and pestle or a small food processor to pound or process the rind to a fine powder that is aromatic and rich in colour.  Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to one month.

        Baker's Tips

        • The Lemon Curd will keep in a sealed clean, sterilised jar for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.  My preference is to make and refrigerate the lemon curd 1-2 days in advance of using it so that the curd thickens and the flavour develops.
        • As the Citrus Toffee Shards syrup begins to darken, gently turn the pan to encourage the colour to spread but avoid swirling the mixture too vigorously to prevent the mixture from crystallising.
        • The Citrus Toffee Shards will store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a month, depending on the humidity.
        • Having your butter and milk mixture for the Sponge Layers and the Citrus Syrup ingredients in separate saucepans, ready for heating, will make the preparation of this recipe more efficient and with help with the timing of when the different elements need to be ready.
        • To divide the mixture evenly between the tins, weigh the tins with the mixture in them to make sure they are the same weight. Placing a small upturned bowl on the scale and for the cake tin to sit on will mean that the measurement display window can be easily viewed.
        • Even though this cake is best eaten on the day it is baked, the unfilled syrup-infused sponge layers can be made the day before serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. To avoid the layers sticking to each other, separate the sponges with a layer of baking paper or store in two separate airtight containers. An upturned cake tin, larger than the diameter of the cake, also makes a useful barrier for separating sponges for storing.
        • To ensure this cake cuts easily, resist over-filling the middle layer of curd and cream and, if possible, chill the assembled cake for a few hours before serving. Decorate with the meringues, toffee shards and citrus dust just before serving.