Eastern tile mosaic

Eastern tile mosaic

Flourless apricot-cardamom cake

The Birthday Cake Book
Laura Edwards

This cake was inspired by exotic holidays in faraway, hot, sunny places... just wishful thinking as it is pouring with rain outside as I make it! My tile decoration is just one idea; you could make it simpler or more complicated. You could even paint on the tile design instead with food colour paste. The cake can be made a day or so ahead, but the tiles should be applied on the day. The tiles can be made weeks ahead, but in that case you may need extra sugarpaste, as I’ve used and coloured the white sugarpaste that was left over from covering the cake.

For the cake


Quantity Ingredient
unsalted butter, for the tin
20 green cardamom pods
225g apricots in juice or syrup, (drained weight)
50g unsalted pistachio nuts
5 eggs, lightly beaten
200g golden caster sugar
250g ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 large orange, finely zested

For the mascarpone frosting

Quantity Ingredient
250g mascarpone
2 tablespoons juice or syrup from the can of apricots
1 large orange, finely zested

To decorate

Quantity Ingredient
1.4kg white sugarpaste
icing sugar, to dust
ice blue food colour paste
egg yellow food colour paste
edible glue
1 sheet edible gold leaf
26 2 mm gold dragees
39 4 mm gold dragees

Special equipment

Quantity Ingredient
1 25 cm square gold cake drum
1 3 cm star cutter
1 1.5 cm square cutter
1 1.4 cm clover aspic cutter
small paint brush


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 170°C. Lightly butter a 25 cm square cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.
  2. To deseed the cardamom pods, split each open with the side of a heavy knife, empty the tiny seeds into a mortar and pestle and grind to a powder. If there are any pieces of husk, sift the powder to remove them. This takes a little time, and can be done a few days beforehand.
  3. Drain the apricots very well, dry with kitchen towel, then mash with a fork. Roast the pistachio nuts on a baking sheet in the oven for about five minutes, cool and roughly chop.
  4. In an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and foamy; it will take four to six minutes. Start the mixer slowly and increase to medium speed, then beat until the mixture looks like a light mousse. It is important to stop at this point (the whole cake can collapse if the mixture is under- or over-whisked here). Very gently, with a large metal spoon, fold in the almonds, baking powder, orange zest, cardamom powder, apricots and pistachio nuts.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 35–40 minutes, or until a skewer emerges clean. Leave in the tin until completely cold. Carefully remove from the tin and remove the papers; this cake is very fragile as it is flourless. You may find it dips a little in the middle, which is fine. At this stage, you can chill it for a couple of days.
  6. To make the frosting, place the mascarpone in a bowl, beat until smooth, then slowly add the juice or syrup and zest, mixing well.
  7. To decorate, place the cake upside down on the drum, sticking it on with a little of the frosting. The cake will probably have dipped a little in the middle, so spread a bit of extra mascarpone frosting to level it. Cover the sides and top with mascarpone frosting.
  8. Knead the sugarpaste to soften, then roll out on a work surface lightly dusted with icing sugar (dust your rolling pin too). Aim for a rough 30 cm square about 5 mm thick. Wrap very loosely around the rolling pin, place over the cake and gently smooth with your hands. Do not stretch it and work quickly as the paste dries out. Cut away excess all around the base, discarding any that has mascarpone frosting on it, and seal in a polythene bag. You will use this to make the decorations.
  9. Colour half this leftover sugarpaste (about 200 g) with ice blue and the rest with egg yellow. To make the decorations, roll out the blue sugarpaste to about 2 mm thick on a board very lightly dusted with icing sugar. Using the cutter, cut out 42 blue stars and, with a knife, cut out 48 x 5 mm blue squares. Next roll out the yellow to 2 mm thick and, with the cutter, cut out 12 x 1.5 cm squares (I then cut these into a four-sided star by using the tip of the star cutter to make small ‘V’ shaped cut-outs) and 12 little clover shapes, using the tiny aspic cutter. I also cut out 12 x 6 mm yellow squares with a knife, let them dry for an hour or so, painted with edible glue and attached gold leaf. Allow all decorations to dry for at least a couple of hours, as they are then easier to handle.
  10. It is best to work out your tile design before sticking down the pieces, when it is difficult to move them!
  11. Begin with the stars (cutting some in half at the edges) and gradually add the rows of tiny squares and smaller dragees. It is best to do this using a paint brush and edible glue, applying it to each decoration and then positioning it. Finish the cake by sticking one larger gold dragee in the centre of each blue star.
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