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Last Updated on April 29, 2021 by Chenée Lewis
I’m so excited to share this recipe! Ever since I made my passionfruit tart last year, I’ve been obsessed with passionfruit curd. And this passionfruit cake is a love letter to my new favorite ingredient! It’s a simple vanilla cake recipe, layered with a sweet-tart homemade passionfruit curd and draped in a velvety white chocolate swiss meringue buttercream. It’s definitely a celebration cake, but you’ll want to make it all the time! The tartness of the passionfruit curd balances so well with the rich vanilla cake and that white chocolate swiss meringue buttercream! You’ve gotta make this cake!
What can I do with fresh passionfruit?
Passionfruit curd is one of my favorite ways to add the bright, tart flavor of passionfruit to your baking. If you haven’t worked with passionfruit before, it’s a great place to start. It’s made in much the same way as lemon curd, with eggs, sugar, and butter. And it’s great as a topping for pastries and breakfast treats, in ice cream or cheesecake, or here as a filling for this passionfruit cake!
Fresh passionfruit is delicious on its own — it’s got a distinctly tart flavor that is truly incredible! It’s made up of a thick rind that surrounds a pulp filled with juice and edible seeds. It can be enjoyed with a spoon, with a sprinkle of sweetener to cut the tartness, or strained for use in smoothies or other recipe. For this recipe we’re using frozen passionfruit pulp, since passionfruit can be difficult to find fresh — but if you do find fresh passionfruit, even better! The recipe below includes instructions for both.
At least a few hours in advance, or a day or two ahead of time, you’ll make your passionfruit curd for this cake. Here’s what you’ll need for that:
- passionfruit pulp – I found passionfruit pulp from the frozen section of a few supermarkets near me, including Target. If you’re having a hard time finding passionfruit pulp in stores, I’ve also seen it on Amazon! You can also look for passionfruit juice or nectar — just make sure that it doesn’t contain any added ingredients like sweeteners or flavorings.
- granulated sugar – sweetens the curd and balances out the tart flavor of the passionfruit.
- eggs and egg yolks – we’ll use both whole eggs and egg yolks for this recipe, to give us a nice rich texture without thickening the curd up too much. Your eggs should be room temperature, but it’s much easier to separate eggs when they’re cold, so I would recommend separating them first and then letting them sit out to get to room temperature. Save the whites for our Swiss meringue buttercream later!
- lemon juice – I love the added brightness of a little lemon juice in this passionfruit curd!
- salt – brings out these great flavors and balances the sweetness a bit.
- vanilla – for the best flavor, be sure to use a high-quality pure vanilla extract. Or better yet, check out my post on how to make vanilla extract at home with just 2 ingredients!
- unsalted butter – I often use salted butter, but to manage the amount of salt more carefully in this passionfruit curd, we’ll use unsalted. You’ll also need unsalted butter for the Swiss meringue buttercream.
Then for the cake layers, you’ll need:
- cake flour – you can purchase cake flour, or in a pinch, make your own cake flour substitute. I explain how to make it down below!
- baking soda and baking powder – to give our vanilla cake layers a nice lift.
- salted butter – I use salted butter in most of my baking. But if you would rather use unsalted (especially since we’re using unsalted butter elsewhere in this recipe) just add in 1/4 tsp salt with your dry ingredients.
- granulated sugar – adds just the sweetness we need for the layers for this passionfruit cake!
- eggs – make sure your eggs are room temperature. See below for a tip to save time!
- vanilla – again, I always use my homemade vanilla, but if you use storebought just make sure it’s good quality since vanilla is the main flavor in these cake layers.
- vegetable oil – the key to keeping your cake nice and moist! You can use any neutral oil that is liquid at room temperature. I like canola oil for this recipe.
- buttermilk – the buttermilk adds great flavor and moisture to the layers of this passionfruit cake. I like to use full-fat buttermilk if you can find it, but low-fat works too. If you don’t have buttermilk, see the tips below for a substitute!
Finally, we’re making a creamy white chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream! Here’s what you’ll need for that!
- egg whites – some of them can be the reserved whites from the passionfruit curd. You’ll need 6 whites in total, and they should be room temperature.
- granulated sugar – we’re dissolving the sugar into the egg whites to create a Swiss meringue. It’s easier than it sounds, trust me!
- unsalted butter – be sure to use unsalted butter here — we’re adding a LOT of butter to create this Swiss meringue buttercream, and salted butter will overpower the sugar and make it taste mostly like butter.
- white chocolate – grab a good-quality white baking chocolate. I like Ghirardelli White Baking Bars.
- vanilla extract
There are several important tools you’ll need for success with this passionfruit cake. First, for the passionfruit curd you’ll need a saucepan and a fine-mesh strainer to strain out any egg solids. Then, for your cake layers I recommend using a stand mixer if you have one. If not, a hand mixer will work too. You’ll also need three 8-inch cake pans with liners or parchment paper. Finally, our white chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream! Again, a stand mixer is best because we’ll be beating the meringue for up to 15 minutes or so. I’d also recommend an offset spatula, a bench scraper and a piping bag to assemble and decorate your passionfruit cake.
Tips and F.A.Q.
You can make a cake flour substitute for this passionfruit cake using all-purpose flour and cornstarch! Just sift together 1⅔ cups (218g) of all-purpose flour and ¼ cup (32g) of cornstarch. Then add it in with your dry ingredients as usual!
It’s important to use room temperature eggs in most baking so that the cold egg doesn’t affect the rise or even baking of your result. If you didn’t have a chance to leave your eggs out to get to room temperature, try this tip. Just submerge the eggs in a bowl of lukewarm water for about 15 minutes. That will allow them to get to room temperature more quickly and ensure a great result for this passionfruit cake!
If you don’t have buttermilk, feel free to use whole milk, replacing a tablespoon of the milk with vinegar. This will create the acidic effect of buttermilk to help your the layers for your passionfruit cake come out even more moist and tender.
This recipe will produce enough to frost an 8-inch cake the size of this passionfruit cake, with relatively short layers. If you plan to add more decoration to the top of the cake or around the borders, I’d multiply the Swiss buttercream amounts by 1 1/2 to give yourself a little extra.
You can make all components of this passionfruit cake ahead of time! The curd can be made 1-2 days in advance and stored in the fridge in an airtight container. I’ve also had success with freezing passionfruit curd for up to a month and thawing it in the fridge. The cake layers can be made and stored at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to two days. They can also be frozen for up to 2 months, wrapped well in plastic wrap and heavy duty foil.
The white chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream can be made a day or two in advance as well. Just store it, covered, in the fridge, and on the day you’ll be using it, allow it to sit out for a few hours to come to room temperature. Then use a stand mixer or hand mixer to beat the buttercream to bring it back to that silky smooth texture. And it’s ready to use on your passionfruit cake!
If this passionfruit cake has piqued your interest in more passionfruit desserts, you’ll definitely want to check out my Gluten-Free Passionfruit Tart with Almond Crust. It’s got the same passionfruit curd that’s in this cake, in a buttery almond flour crust that is SO good!
And another vanilla cake recipe that’s bursting with fruit flavor is my Vanilla Cake with Strawberries! It’s got layers of soft vanilla cake, macerated strawberries, and a fluffy homemade whipped cream frosting. It’s everything you want from a summertime dessert!
Equipment you may need
Vanilla Cake Layers
Prepare Passionfruit Curd
- Heat passionfruit pulp and sugar in a saucepan over medium low heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat.
- In a separate bowl, beat eggs and egg yolks until smooth.
- Remove some of passionfruit mixture from pan and pour into the eggs, a tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly to temper the eggs.
- Gradually add egg mixture to saucepan, whisking constantly. Turn heat to low.
- Add butter to saucepan, one cube at a time.
- Cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until thickened, being sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan as well. Curd should take about 10-12 minutes to thicken, and it's ready when it coats the back of a spoon. Whisk in vanilla.
- Remove from heat and cool. Chill in refrigerator, covered, for at least one hour or overnight.
Prepare Vanilla Cake Layers
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray three 8-inch cake pans with baking spray and line with parchment paper or silicone liners.
- In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
- Beat in vanilla and vegetable oil, followed by buttermilk.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
- Gradually fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined.
- Divide batter evenly into prepared cake pans and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick entered into the center of a layer comes out clean.
- Cool in pans for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Prepare White Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- In a large, heatproof bowl (such as the bowl of your stand mixer), whisk together egg whites and sugar
- Place bowl over another pot containing 2 inches of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not be able to touch the water.
- Cook egg white mixture, whisking constantly, until egg white mixture reaches 160°F, or until you are unable to feel any sugar granules when touching the mixture between your fingers.
- Transfer mixture to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture is glossy and comes to stiff peaks. If the bowl is still warm, place mixture in the fridge for a few minutes to cool to room temperature before adding butter.
- Place chopped white chocolate a microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds and stir. Repeat in 15-second intervals, stirring well in between, until white chocolate is melted.
- Switch stand mixer to the paddle attachment. Add butter gradually, one cube at a time, mixing continuously on medium speed, followed by white chocolate, vanilla extract, and salt.
Assemble Passionfruit Cake
- Place first layer of cake on a cake stand or turntable. Spread a layer of buttercream evenly on top.
- Use a piping bag to pipe around the top of the cake layer to provide a barrier for the passionfruit curd.
- Spoon about ⅓ cup of chilled passionfruit curd into the well created by the piped buttercream. Spread evenly.
- Repeat with second cake layer.
- Add top layer of cake and frost top and sides of cake as desired.
The white chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream can be made a day or two in advance as well. Just store it, covered, in the fridge, and on the day you’ll be using it, allow it to sit out for a few hours to come to room temperature. Then use a stand mixer or hand mixer to beat the buttercream to bring it back to that silky smooth texture. And it’s ready to use!
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