Torus Link Birthday Cake πŸŽ‚πŸ₯³

Happy birthday to Torus Link!πŸ₯³πŸ₯³πŸ₯³ Officially commemorating TL’s 9th birthday, this cake is two sides of fruit flavors combining in each of its four interconnecting slicesa straight-up TL cake, with each slice making an *elemental profile* of fiery- warm cayenne-spiced mangos and passionfruit, earthy-rich dark grapes and herbed oranges, airy-zesty lemons and fresh blueberries, and watery-cooling peaches and plums with floral lavender.

Decked between blends of white and black sesame, sweet potato, parsnip, and olive oil icings with additional fresh fruits; adorned with a fruity centerpiece, basil, and mint, and finally, optionally crowned with a cute little cut-out of the TL main cast, this is truly a showstopper of a celebratory cake. Make ahead of time for when you have a special occasion of your own and enjoy sharing each of the four-elemental flavors in this joyous and deliciously-interlinked cake.

***Special note: the photo of my personal cake above only uses two layers, versus the four-tiered cake this recipe creates. If you’re interested, see more of my story in baking this cake here— how and why it’s equally critical, and *linked* that some things didn’t go entirely to plan before my sharing this recipe with you.

Ingredients:

I. Cake bases:

  • 4 cups almond flour, divided
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened hazelnut milk, divided (can substitute with nut milk of your choice)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 medium-sized orange (enough for 1/4 cup orange juice and 1 tsp zest)
  • 2 lemons (enough for 1/4 cup lemon juice and 2 tsp zest)
  • 1/2 cup passion fruit pulp (can be frozen and thawed, or strained from 3 whole, ripe dark passion fruits– seeds are edible, so if a few should get in, it’s alright πŸ˜‰ )
  • 1/2 cup peeled mango slices, cut into uniform chunks or slices (can be frozen and thawed)
  • 1/2 cup peeled ripe peach slices (can be frozen and thawed)
  • 1/2 cup peeled ripe plum slices (can be frozen and thawed)

II. Cake icings:

  • 2 Jewel sweet potatoes/yams, enough for 3 cups
  • 8 parsnips, enough for 3 cups
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened black sesame paste
  • 1/4 cup toasted (white) sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried lavender
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tsp fresh orange zest

III. Cake icing layers and topper:

  • Prepared elemental cake bases
  • Prepared elemental cake icings
  • Whole dried lavender, ground finely to garnish
  • Cayenne pepper to garnish
  • 1 lemon for garnish slices
  • 1 medium orange for garnish slices
  • 1/2 cup passion fruit pulp with seeds to garnish (pulp from 1 whole, ripe passionfruit)
  • Peach slices to garnish
  • Peeled mango slices, plus some reserved to garnish
  • Blueberries, plus some reserved to garnish
  • Dried prunes, plus some reserved to garnish
  • Dark purple grapes sliced in half, plus some reserved to garnish
  • Fresh basil leaves to garnish
  • Fresh mint leaves to garnish

Special Equipment:

  • TL Cast Cake-Topper printout (Print here!)
  • Wooden barbecue skewers
  • Masking tape
  • Kitchen pencil or non-toxic marker
  • 4 six-inch-diameter cake baking tins (or one, if you don’t mind washing and reusing each time)
  • Olive oil spray to lightly coat
  • Parchment paper
  • Paper plates
  • Whisk
  • Citrus zester
  • High speed blender or food processor
  • Rubber spatula
  • 4 medium sealable containers with lids
  • 4 large-gallon sized plastic zipper bags
  • Piping bag with a large tipped nozzle
  • Serrated knife
  • Clean ruler or measuring tape
  • Large, sturdy, light-colored cake serving platter of your choice (I recommend a minimum 9 x 9″/ 9-inch diameter.)

Prep time: 6 hours
Yields: 8 servings

Preparation:

I. Bake the Cake Bases

  1. Divide and set the ingredients mise-en-place for each cake:
    • Fiery Cake Base: 1 cup almond flour, 2 eggs, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup peeled mango slices, 1/2 cup passion fruit pulp (some seeds okay), 1/4 cup hazelnut milk
    • Earthy Cake Base: 1 cup almond flour, 1 egg, 1/4 tsp salt, juice from 1 medium sized orange (about 1/4 cup), zest from medium sized orange (about 1 tsp), 1/2 tsp marjoram, 1/2 tsp sage, 1/2 tsp rosemary, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1 cup hazelnut milk
    • Airy Cake Base: 1 cup almond flour, 1 egg, 1/4 tsp salt, zest from 2 lemons (about 2 tsp), juice from 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup), 1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup, 1 cup hazelnut milk
    • Watery Cake Base: 1 cup almond flour, 2 eggs, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup ripe, peeled peach slices, 1/2 cup ripe, peeled plum slices, 1/4 cup hazelnut milk
  2. Puree for the ethereal-elemental cakes; zest for the tangible-elemental cakes:
    • For the Fiery Cake Base, puree together the nut milk, eggs, mango and passion fruit passion fruit pulp in a high-speed blender; set aside in a large container and chill until ready to use.
    • For the Earthy Cake Base, zest the orange onto a small plate and reserve. Squeeze the juice from the orange into a small bowl and reserve.
    • For the Airy Cake Base, zest two lemons onto a small plate and reserve. Squeeze the juice from the lemons into a small bowl and reserve.
    • For the Watery Cake Base, puree the nut milk, eggs, peach slices and plum slices; set aside in a large container and chill until ready to use.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and prepare baking tins:
    • ***If you have four 6-inch baking tins available, grease each amply with olive oil spray/1 tsp olive oil and line each tin with parchment paper at the bottom.
    • ***Note: if you do not have four baking tins available (as I don’t at the time of writing this), grease and line one 6-inch baking tin. Bake each cake one at a time, washing and reusing the same tin each time, and cooling and storing each finished cake in refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.
  4. Prepare the batters for each cake base:
    ***If baking immediately/with the other cake bases, pour each batter into the greased, lined tin.
    ***If baking one cake at a time, pour each batter into a large, sealable container and chill in refrigerator until ready to bake; rinse mixing bowls and reuse for the next cake base.
    • Fiery Cake Base: pour blended puree into a large mixing bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the almond flour and salt to fully incorporate, then use a rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the puree, a little at a time, until you have a smooth batter.
    • Earthy Cake Base: In a separate small bowl, combine almond flour, zest, salt, and dry herbs with a whisk to fully incorporate. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, juice from the reserved orange, and nut milk, then use a rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet, a little at a time, until you have a smooth batter.
    • Airy Cake Base: In a separate small bowl, combine almond flour, zest, and salt with a whisk to fully incorporate. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, maple syrup, juice from the reserved lemons, and nut milk, then use a rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet a little at a time, until you have a smooth batter.
    • Watery Cake Base: pour blended puree into a large mixing bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the almond flour and salt to fully incorporate, then use a rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the puree, a little at a time, until you have a smooth batter.
  5. Pour each cake base batter into prepared pan–giving the pan a slight tap at the side with your hand to ensure an even baking surface, and bake for 45 minutes, or until cake is fully set and an inserted fork comes out clean.
  6. Cool each cake base in its pan for a minimum of 15 minutes, then invert onto a paper plate. Discard oiled parchment paper, top with a second paper plate, and store the cake bases within their plates directly into plastic sealable bags. (***Tip: label each plate so you don’t get them mixed up before storing.) Chill the cake bases in the refrigerator (stacking on top of each other for space) until ready to decorate, or freeze overnight (storing in freezer-safe plastic bags) and thaw in refrigerator for a minimum of 6 hours when ready to assemble.

II. Make the Icings

  1. Prep sweet potatoes and parsnips:
    • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place rinsed and dried sweet potatoes in a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Roast for 1 hour, or until soft enough to insert a fork all the way through. Once done, remove from oven and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 10-15 minutes, then peel off skins, reserving the flesh. (I personally like to eat the cooked skins as they are!)
    • Meanwhile, rinse, dry, and peel the parsnips. (You can save the peels for a veggie-scrap soup stock if you wish.) Then chop into large chunks and stew in a water-filled saucepan on medium-low heat for 45 minutes, until completely soft. Drain water and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 5-10 minutes. Mash stewed parsnips together with a lareg wooden spoon and reserve.
  2. Divide and set the ingredients mise-en-place for each icing:
    • Fiery icing: 1/2 reserved roasted sweet potato (1 1/2 cups), 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/4 cup toasted white sesame oil
    • Earthy icing: 1/2 reserved roasted sweet potato (1 1/2 cups), 1 tsp fresh orange zest, 1/4 cup black sesame seed paste with oil
    • Airy icing: 1/2 reserved mashed parsnips (1 1/2 cups), 1/2 tsp lemon zest, 1/4 cup olive oil
    • Watery icing: 1/2 reserved mashed parsnips (1 1/2 cups), 1/2 tsp crushed dried lavender, 1/4 cup olive oil
  3. In a high speed blender, separately puree each of the icing ingredients until completely smooth and thoroughly immersed.
  4. Reserve each icing in an air-tight container with a lid, and chill in refrigerator until ready to use. (Icings can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; I do not recommend freezing.)

III. Assemble the Cake

  1. Prepare serving plate:
    • Cut and measure a piece of parchment paper 8×8 inches. On one side of the paper, use a non-toxic marker or kitchen pencil to trace around the edge of the 6 inch cake tin used to bake to the cake bases. Then use a clean ruler to draw two lines perpendicular down the middle of the circle to create four equal spaces for the cake.
    • In the top left quadrant of the circle, write “A” for air. Going clockwise for each quadrant, write “W” for water in the top right, “F” for fire in the bottom right, and “E” for earth in the bottom left. (***Fun fact: plating it this way mirrors the sequential order of the four elements in western astrology!)
    • Flip the parchment paper completely over so that the unwritten side is facing up with letters in reverse, and place flat on the light-colored serving plate. (The plate should be lightly colored enough so you are able to see the writing through the parchment paper.)
  2. Begin the layering process:
    • Set the ingredients mise en place:
      • Fiery layer: Fiery icing, plus some reserved for the cake’s surface, 1 cup ripe diced mangos
      • Earthy layer: Earthy icing, plus some reserved for the cake’s surface, 1 cup fresh whole black grapes cut in halves
      • Airy layer: Airy icing, plus some reserved for the cake’s surface, 1-1 cup fresh whole blueberries
      • Watery layer: Watery icing, plus some reserved for the top of the cake, 1 cup dried plums/prunes
    • Using the length of a wooden skewer for guidance and a serrated knife, carefully slice each of the cake bases in cross-halves to create four equal-sized slices for each base.
    • Dot a small dab of the first elemental-cake base’s icing in the center of its respective elemental quadrant.
    • Take one of the first elemental cake slices and place it directly onto its icing-dabbed quadrant on the parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the cake slices until the bottom layer is covered.
    • Fill 3/4 of a large piping bag with the first corresponding elemental icing. Pipe a single layer onto the first cake slice, and place a single layer of prepared corresponding elemental fruits onto the iced layer. Top with the next slice, and repeat with the remaining elemental cake bases, stopping until you have plated all of the elemental cakes.
  3. Decorate the surface:
    • ***Special note: I, Yasmine, am not personally trained in cake decorating techniques when it comes to smoothing icing. If you like the more *rustic, organic* look like I have, follow my steps below. If you prefer greater precision and you have the skill, have at it and decorate as you prefer!! I’ll love to see pictures in the comments!!
      • Take the remaining icings for each cake base, and carefully pipe onto the surface of each cake base. Taking care to keep the icings as separated as you can, carefully smooth the surfaces of each with a rubber spatula until reasonably smooth.
      • Press grapes halves, blueberries, diced mango, and prunes gently onto the corresponding surfaces of each cake.
      • Place sliced peaches, orange slivers, and lemon slivers together along the creases of the cake to create the first part of the *links*, and then spoon fresh passion fruit pulp and seeds over the creases.
  4. Prepare the centerpiece:
    • Carefully arrange sliced peaches, orange slices, lemon slices in the center of the cake like a flower. Place basil and mint leaves directly on top in the center so that they look like they are sprouting from the fruit-flower.
    • Print out the TL cast cutout onto thick paper. Cut carefully around the edges, and tape the back to the top of large wooden skewer with masking tape.
    • Insert the TL cast cutout into the center of the cake, take pictures, and enjoy your wonderful celebration, courtesy of TL’s own.

Yasmine’s notes:

In tasting each component of this cake, everyone… oh my. You may often hear some people complain that certain creations are “all style, no substance…” but oh my goodness: even if you, like me, cannot manage precise craftsmanship to save your life… the very things that make this cake, no matter HOW you style it on the outside, are inherently absolutely delicious just by being themselves. And when you pair them together as I have…

You truly feel like you’re eating each of the four elements themselves in their own right. When and if, at that, (in my case, there is no ‘if’– again, zero precision in craftsmanship here…) some of each elemental cake mixes up with the others, you then get to taste more than just each element itself: you get to taste interlinking combinations: a burst of passionfruit here; a zap of lavender there– fresh lemon and orange and a peach: a symphony of linking up indeed!

In the order that I personally tried each base my first time making this– the Watery cake tastes like you are eating refreshing water itself made into solid cake form– light, subtle, and mild, with the prunes in between offering just the right amount of sweetness to the effect overall. The Airy cake tastes like a powerful lemony ZAP!!! Where the small amount of maple syrup keeps it from being just outright tart, you all the same *wake up* with this with cake… and the blueberries don’t get in the way of that! On the contrary, they act as a conduit to the lemon’s electricity. (Literally, by the way: lemons are naturally filled with electrolytes!) The Fiery cake is BOLD in its upfront, hit-you-all-at-once, raw, hot, sweet flavor: mango, passion fruit, sweet potato and cayenne all working as one great big torch of taste. And finally, the cake a la my own personal speed… the Earthy cake– it felt like literal calmness on a plate. All of the green savory herbs paired with the mellowed sweetness of orange and grape therein, plus the depth of the darker sesame paste… just felt so calm and steady to eat.

Again: I’m no professional patisserie when it comes to craftsmanship. But for what I personally lack in terms of training and expertise there– i.e. to create smooth bases of icing and delicate swirls that you yourselves may achieve much more effectively than me– what IS my space instead is to offer you the very substance of this cake’s being in itself. And in practical terms, using frozen fruits and pulp when you can find them make ALL the difference for this in cost-efficiency, seasonality, preparation and cutting time, and food waste overall. Whatever you don’t use of the fruits you might buy, you can freeze, portion, and save for other recipes. While you can use pre-dried citrus zest to same yourself time as well, (in which case, halve the recommended amount in the cakes that you use for this recipe) I personally recommend fresh zest for fullest flavor and effect.

Lastly, I genuinely hope you enjoy this cake. πŸ™‚ Happy birthday to TL… and to you too, should you use this for yours and other loved ones’ birthdays.