I am a lychee fiend. I grew up in tropical North Queensland, where farmers would sell bulging bags of the fruit on the side of the road. For the six weeks or so a year that lychees are in season, I can almost feel callouses forming on my fingers from the amount of lychee skins I peel. I’m often rapped over the knuckles by my Dad for being so greedy. But there is no better feeling that sitting in the hot sun, with a huge bowl between your knees, juice dripping all over your chin and hands, and that burst of sweetness on your tongue when you first pierce the skin of the fruit.
When I first moved to the Gold Coast, no one knew what a lychee was. I’ve been trying for years to get the south-east corner of Queensland on-board with my addiction, but no one wants to hear of it. Apparently the jelly-ish texture of the fruit is what puts them off.
Nevertheless, my devotion remains unwavering. I even pass over my regular favourite ice cream flavour if they have lychee sorbet. So imagine the audible intake of breath when I was flipping through my new “Naked Cakes” by Lyndel Miller recipe book and came across a lychee cake.
I am not exaggerating when I say that this is the best cake I have ever eaten. The lychee wasn’t overpowering, and more fragrant, so it was like eating a bottle of (very delicious) perfume, and the buttercream icing is something else.
Naked Lychee Cake with Mascarpone Buttercream
Cake (makes 1 cake- DON’T FORGET YOU’LL NEED TWO!)
240g plain flour
1 1/5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
160g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
165g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
185g peeled and seeded fresh lychees, or 1 x 560g tin of lychees, diced
175g unsalted butter, softened
270g icing sugar, sifted
120g cream cheese
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Edible flowers to decorate
Preheat oven to 170C. Grease a 20cm cake tin.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Use a handheld whisk to combine well.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg, a little at a time, and beat well after each addition. Add the vanilla and combine well. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just combined.
The original recipe said to dice the lychees, but I didn’t want chunks of fruit through my cake, so I put them in a Nutribullet to make a thick lychee liquid. When I told my Mum I’d done this, she was worried that the lychees would release too much juice and the cake would be too moist, but that wasn’t the case at all. Gently fold your processed (or diced) lychees into the mixture.
Spoon the batter into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 mins (min actually took about 50 mins). Let the cake stand in the tin for 10 mins, then turn out and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Repeat for second cake.
To make the buttercream, beat all ingredients together until light and fluffy. I chose to use vanilla extract instead of paste in my buttercream to avoid the little black seeds in my icing.
Place one of the completely cooled cakes on to your board, using a little buttercream under the base to “glue” the cake. Top cake with just under half the buttercream and then place remaining cake on top. Cover top of cake with the remaining half of the buttercream, leaving just a little aside to “whitewash” your cake.
Use a flat-bladed spatula (or the straight side of a bread and butter knife), use the small amount of butter cream remaining to smear a thin layer all around the outside of the cake. Also use the excess icing oozing from the middle and any from the top.
Decorate with edible flowers.
There you have it. You don’t have to be a fan of lychees to enjoy this treat, but if you are, you can thank me for sharing this one later.