Miette and the tomboy cake

Growing up I was very much a "girly girl" (until about age 8).  I believed the rhyme about little boys being made of snails and puppy dog tails  and girls being made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Little did I know that I was composed of sugar, spice, complex genetic material and recycled molecules of the dead. I was steadfast in my gender roles. So much so if my mother ever tried to dress me in pants it was the end of the freaking world. In my world, boys wore the pants, girls wore the dresses. That was how it was. And I loathed the idea of ever being considered a boy. Girls rule boys drool.  Pink was my colour and dresses had ruffles. If you had shown me this "tomboy" cake back then my tomboy phase probably would have started much earlier and I would have been all for wearing pants and kicking a football around with some smelly boys. Especially if it meant eating chocolate cake with pink icing.

Like most things I found in America, I stumbled onto Miette purely by accident  and it is pretty much as darling as cakeries come. A much loved staple for San Fransisco and devotees of American Patisseries. Containers of macarons and gingersnaps line the counter and trays of cupcakes and sweet tarts fill the cabinets. I walked in completely smitten with the colour schemes of pinks and mints and dark chocolates and remember thinking "this is exactly how a cake shop should look!"
I walked out considerably poorer with their cookbook under one arm and an overabundance of cupcakes, tarts and cookies under the other. I was flicking through the cookbook the other day and found the recipe for their signature tomboy cake. It is dubbed tomboy because of the feminine but overall unfinished quality of this cake. I love the look of a layer cake with un-frosted edges.




  • 1½ cups (7½oz) plain flour
  • 1¼ cups (4½oz) natural unsweetened cocoa powder (for a deep, dark chocolate flavour)
  • 1½ tsps baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder   
  • 2oz 70% cacoa chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2¼ cups (16oz) sugar


  • 2 cups (14oz) fresh raspberries
  • 2 tbsps water
  • 1 tbsp sugar


  • 2 cups (14oz) sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1tsp cream of tartar
  • 3 cups (1½ pounds) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsps vanilla extract
  • A fondant rose (or three)


To make the cake

1. Liberally butter the cake tins and dust with sifted cocoa powder. Tap out the excess cocoa

2. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F

3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside

4. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Whisk until the chocolate is melted. Let the mixture cool for 15 minutes

5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and vanilla. Set aside.

6. whisk the eggs until foamy, (about 2 minutes with stand mixer). Reduce the speed to medium and whisk until fully incorporated - about 30 seconds longer. Reduce the speed to low and slowly pour the cooled chocolate mix into the egg mixture. Slowly pour in the buttermilk and vanilla mixture. Add the sugar and whisk until fully incorporated, about thirty seconds longer Stop the mixer.

7. Remove the bowl and add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated, preferably by hand, lifting and folding in from the bottom centre. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again just briefly by hand. The batter may still look a little lumpy, but stop mixing

8. Pour the batter through a medium-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup or bowl to remove any lumps. Press against the solids in the sieve with a rubber spatula to push through as much batter as possible, then discard the lumps. Divide the batter between the prepared cake tins. Bake until the tops spring bake when lightly pressed and a tester inserted in to the centre comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes

9. Transfer to wire racks and let cool in the tins for about 20 minutes. When the cakes are cooled enough to handle the pans but still a tad warm to touch, carefully run an offset spatula around the edges of the pans to loosen them, then invert the cakes on to the racks and remove the pans. Let cool for about twenty minutes longer. Make sure it is cool inside and out.

10. Prepare a space in the refrigerator large enough for the cake on a cake board or a flat plate (at least 2 inches bigger than the cake) once it's decorated

To make the raspberry buttercream:

1. . First prepare the raspberry juice. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the fresh raspberries, water and sugar. Cook, gently stirring the berries to break them down, until the berries are liquefied (10-15 mins). Remove from the heat and strain into a heatproof bowl through a fine-mesh sieve. Leave to cool at room temperature

2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Clip a thermometer to the side of the pan. Cook the mixture until it reaches 238F/114C, 5 to 10 minutes, keeping a constant eye on it

3. Meanwhile, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk until soft peaks form

4. As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 238F/114C, immediately pour it into a heat-proof jug. Pour a few tablespoons into the whites, away from the whisk, so the hot syrup doesn't splash, and whisk on a medium speed for a few seconds. Be careful as the syrup is very hot. Pour in a little more syrup and whisk for a few seconds, until incorporated. Repeat until all the syrup has been added. Raise the speed to high and continue to whisk until the mixture cools to room temperature, 70-75F/21C, 5 to 10 minutes

5. Only when the meringue is cool enough should you begin adding the butter. Reduce the speed to medium. With the mixer running, drop in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting until each is incorporated before adding another. The mixture may deflate and begin to look curdled. Raise the speed to high and continue to add the butter as before. When all the butter has been added, the frosting should be smooth and thick. Add the vanilla and mix to combine

6. For each 1 cup of vanilla buttercream, stir in 3 tablespoons raspberry juice until well combined and smooth. Use immediately

To assemble the cake:

  • Set up a revolving cake stand on a clean, dry surface and place the cake top side up, on the stand. Using a serrated knife and holding the blade perfectly horizontal, cut the cake into three equal layers. While you saw gently with the knife, use your other hand to rotate the stand gradually and bring the cake toward you. Get eye level to the cake as needed to make sure you're holding the knife exactly level(You do not need to level the top of the cake)

  • Arrange all three layers on the work surface. Using your hands, tap and brush away excess crumbs. Turn the original bottom layer flat tin-side down; reverse this to be the bottom layer of the cake. Tap any crumbs off the cakestand, and brush the work surface clean

  • Place a damp paper towel on the cakestand to prevent slipping and centre a cakestand on top. Take up the reserved bottom of the cake and centre it on the board, first double-checking for crumbs and brushing any away

  • Fit a pastry bag with a medium (½ inch) star tip and fill about halfway with buttercream. Pull up the cuff and twist it to seal and tighten the frosting down into the cone. Keep the bag tightly twisted so that the frosting doesn't come back up on your hands. Holding the bag at a 90-degree angle, pipe a ring of frosting around the outer-edge of the cake, keeping a 1/8-inch border at the very edge. Starting at the inner edge of the border, spiral inward filling at the centre of the ring to make an even layer of buttercream. Holding an offset spatula flat on the inside ring of frosting, with spatula centred on the cake, smooth the inside of the ring leaving the piped edges untouched

  • Double-check a second cake layer for crumbs, then place it on top of the buttercream layer. Using your fingertips, gently centre the cake on top. Be sure not to press too hard. Repeat the above piping

  • Double check the final cake layer for crumbs, then place it on top. Using your fingertips and gentle pressure, press down in the centre and out to the edges to coax the frosting to align with the cake edge, but not beyond, on all sides

  • For the top layer, pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge, leaving a 1/8-inch margin. Fill in the centre with slightly more frosting than the inner layers. Using a small offset spatula, smooth the centre first by rotating the cake stand, then gradually work out to the edges, pushing the frosting very slightly as you go

  • If desired, in the centre of the cake, scoop out a little hole in the frosting to make a setting for the rose. Nestle the rose in the hole and arrange the leaf next to it at a 45-degree angle. Very carefully transfer the cake on the board to a presentation platter

  • Serve at room temperature at once, or refrigerate for up to 3 days and remove 4 hours before serving

    Recipe from Miette