The Paralympian and Great Celebrity Bake Off competitor shows Stylist how to make a passion fruit and vanilla buttercream showstopper.
When she’s not winning gold medals on the track (athletics or cycling; she is nothing if not multi-talented), Kadeena Cox is a keen baker and appeared on The Great Celebrity Bake Off in 2018 alongside Teri Hatcher, Alan Carr and Aisling Bea. “You watch at home and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, why are they stressing?’ then you do it and you realise there are a hundred reasons why they’re stressing,” she says.
We’re at Cox’s home in Manchester to pick up some baking tips, and it’s clear from the off that it’s all about buttercream. “I tend to do a Victoria sponge and then change the flavours inside. I quite like a salted caramel buttercream, or I might make a chocolate or vanilla buttercream but with salted caramel in the middle.” Her top tip? Use a stand mixer to make your life a whole lot easier. And decoration is key: naked cakes are out, and fault line cakes (with an uneven line of sprinkles around the middle) are in. “I learn a lot of baking tips on Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.”
So does she get roped in to making everyone’s birthday cake? “I do make a lot of cakes for my family. Nobody asks me any more because they know I’m limited on time – but they expect it! I need to make tasters for my sister’s wedding cake, too – no pressure!”
But for now, we’re making a tropical-themed cake with passion fruit curd and cocktail umbrellas (of course). “I haven’t used passion fruit curd before but it’s very summery, so it should taste lush.” And it does.
Kadeena Cox’s tropical passion fruit sponge with vanilla buttercream
30 minutes, plus chilling time
For the sponge:
- 300g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
- 300g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 medium eggs
- 300g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
- 8 tbsps passion fruit curd
For the buttercream:
- 800g unsalted butter, softened
- 400g icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Yellow and pink food colouring
- Fresh passion fruits, halved
- Freeze-dried raspberries
- Colourful cocktail umbrellas
Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/gas mark 5. Grease three 20cm round cake tins with butter then add a spoonful of flour and shake to cover. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl and beat well to make sure it’s creamed. I usually use my stand mixer for this. I’m getting big guns doing it by hand!
Break the eggs into the bowl one at a time, and slowly beat them into the mixture, but don’t over beat. You don’t want to overwork the eggs, or it will make the mixture tough. Then stir in the flour. Always sieve the flour – don’t cut that corner because it will make your cake so much smoother.
Divide the mixture between the three cake tins then bake for about 20 minutes. The cakes should be risen and golden in colour and if you press them in the middle they should spring back. Leave to cool for five minutes in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool while you make the buttercream.
Cut the butter into pieces and put it in lukewarm water for 10 minutes to give it a little bit of softness; that’s a Mary Berry trick. Then beat in the icing sugar gradually. Divide between three bowls and mix one with pink colouring and one with yellow. Sugarflair gels are so much more intense than liquid food colouring.
Place one of the cooled sponges on a cake stand or turntable then spread a layer of buttercream on top with a spatula. Block the edges off by piping buttercream round the outside then spoon the passion fruit curd in the middle. Repeat with the remaining two cakes, then place in the fridge to chill.
To do a crumb coating, apply a really thin layer of buttercream over the outside of the entire cake then put it in the fridge to let it set, so all the crumbs are trapped in that layer and you get a really smooth finish. Next, apply another layer of buttercream to the outside and smooth with a scraper.
Add alternating spots of yellow and pink buttercream to the sides of the cake, then smooth to create a sunset effect. Put the rest of the buttercream in a piping bag and pipe swirls around the top. Press dried raspberries around the base and top with passion fruit halves and cocktail umbrellas.
At the Paralympics in Rio in 2016, Kadeena became the first Briton since 1988 to win gold medals in two different sports at the same Games. A sprinter from an early age, she took up competitive cycling in 2015 and at Rio went on to win four medals – three for athletics, including a gold medal in the T38 400m, and one for cycling, a gold in the C4-5 time trial. As well as baking, she spends her spare time keeping her miniature dachshund puppy Minnie in check.
Images: Gemma Day