Hot milk sponge cake with rooibos and orange

Try this unfussy icing technique to finish a not-quite-naked cake you’ll be proud to share.

Makes 1 three-layer cake

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Baking time: 25 minutes

Oven temperature: 180°C

• 420 g (750 ml) flour

• 22.5 ml baking powder

• 6 eggs

• 330 g (410 ml) sugar

• 375 ml milk

• 1 rooibos teabag

• 150g butter, melted

• 5 ml orange blossom water

• 5 ml orange zest


• 80 ml boiling water

• 80 ml (65 g) castor sugar

• 15 ml apricot jam or marmalade


• 200 g butter, softened

• 200 ml (105 g) icing sugar

• 250 g cream cheese

• 2 ml vanilla essence

Tip If the cake looks unstable, insert a kebab stick into the middle of the stack, vertically (cut off the top so it’s not visible) – this will prevent the layers from sliding off each other.

layer cake, icing, creamcheese, flvours, lemon, ch

1 Preheat the oven and line three 20 cm cake tins with baking paper. Sift the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Use a separate bowl to beat the eggs and sugar until very thick and light in colour.

layer cake, icing, creamcheese, flvours, lemon, ch

2 Scald the milk and let the teabag draw until strong. Remove it and mix the milk with the melted butter, orange blossom water and zest. Fold the flour and milk mixtures into the egg mixture, alternately, until just combined. Retain as much air as possible.

layer cake, icing, creamcheese, flvours, lemon, ch

3 Divide the batter between the three prepared cake tins. If you only have two, retain the third portion and bake it after the first two layers are done. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before turning out.

layer cake, icing, creamcheese, flvours, lemon, ch

4 Make the syrup by dissolving all the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan over moderate heat; cook for a minute or two. Level off the cooled cake tops with a sharp knife, making sure they are all more or less the same thickness. (Check all the layers together at eye level to ensure they are even.) Brush the syrup over the cut tops – it keeps the cake moist and helps to reduce crumbs.

layer cake, icing, creamcheese, flvours, lemon, ch

5 Prepare the frosting by whisking the butter and icing sugar together until light and fluffy, then quickly whisk in the cream cheese and vanilla essence. This will ensure that you don’t overwork the cheese. Spread a layer of frosting onto each of the cake layers and stack them on top of each other.

layer cake, icing, creamcheese, flvours, lemon, ch

6 Use a palette knife to coat the outside of the cake with icing. Start by scooping a large dollop of frosting onto the knife and “plastering” it on. Then scrape away any excess icing as you work your way around the cake, so the sponge shows through in places. The beauty of this technique is that it doesn’t have to look too polished.

layer cake, icing, creamcheese, flvours, lemon, ch

7 Carefully place the cake on a pretty board or cake stand and decorate the top generously with toppings to suit the flavour of the cake. We used Clemengold preserve, gooseberries, chocolate chips, candied orange peel and caramel hazelnuts, as well as lemon leaves and edible flowers brushed with edible gold.

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April 2023

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