If you are a reader of the Sprinkle Bakes book, then you already know I have a crush on Marimekko’s iconic poppy flower print known as Unikko. I created Unikko flood sugar cookies for the book over three years ago, and that project remains one of my favorites to this day. I love making the recipe for party favors, and I really wanted to make some for my art reception a few weeks ago (they would have been perfect for CBI’s modern interior) but I was short on time. The desire for a new Unikko confection took residence in my heart, but this time in the form of poppy seed-speckled cake layers with sunny orange filling – flavors I felt were so apropos for the beloved design.
I used the cookie template from the back of the Sprinkle Bakes book as a guide to draw the flowers onto the cake. In hindsight, I could have free-handed them since the shapes are so organic (and you could too!) but if you need a little help then feel free to use this template from the book (right click on the image and print).
Even if you forgo the Marimekko exterior, I urge you to try the cake! The poppy seeds crackle between the teeth when you take a bite, and the orange filling perfectly complements the orange zest in the cake layers. It’s nice. I think you’ll agree.
If you’re new to covering cakes with rolled fondant, then you can find a good guide here. You can also find detailed instructions in the Sprinkle Bakes book. I’ve also done a good bit of explaining in the instructions below.
This cake was so much fun to make, and the bright orange flavor is a sure pick-me-up!
Orange Poppy Seed Marimekko Cake
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup full fat sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Zest of 2 oranges about 2 tablespoons
- 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 3 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
- 12 ounces chopped orange segments about 3 large oranges
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons orange extract
- Orange food color optional
Orange buttercream and fondant instructions
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 2 ½-3 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 teaspoons clear orange extract plus extra for painting
- Milk or heavy cream optional
- 1 lb white vanilla ready-made rolled fondant I like Satin Ice
- Vegetable shortening
- Red gel food color
- Black gel food color
- Orange gel food color
- Small artists’ brush
- Corn syrup
- Spray pans with flour-based baking spray, or grease and flour them.
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sugar, eggs, and oil. Add sour cream, vanilla, orange zest, and poppy seeds; mix until well combined.
- Sift in 3 cups of the flour, the salt and baking powder. Mix on low speed until just combined. Add the buttermilk and mix until incorporated. Sift in the remaining 1/2 cup of flour and mix until combined. Scrape down the bowl and beat again briefly.
- If making a triple layer cake, place two cups of batter in each 8-inch pan. If making a double layer cake, place 3 cups of batter in each 9-inch pan.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when pressed in their centers.
- Let the cakes cool in pans for 5 minutes, then turn them out onto wire racks to cool completely.
- In a small saucepan, bring the orange segments and water to a boil. Mash them as they cook with a potato masher or the back of a large spatula. Reduce heat. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Press oranges through a sieve; discard membranes and seeds and allow the mixture to cool. You should have 1 cup of cooked juice, if you’re short, fill the measure with prepared orange juice until it reaches 1 cup.
- Wash the pan for reuse. Combine the sugar and cornstarch in the pan; stir in the cooled orange juice mixture and whisk until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in the orange extract and orange food color, if using. Transfer the mixture to a separate bowl and let cool completely.
Make the buttercream
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the butter and confectioners’ sugar. Begin on low speed and then increase to high and beat for 3 minutes.
- Add orange extract and beat again for another minute. If you find the buttercream is too stiff, you may add milk or heavy cream 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture is spreading consistency.
Fill the cake layers
- Transfer 1/2 cup of the buttercream to a piping bag and pipe a circle of frosting around the outer edge of two cake layers. Fill the cakes with the orange filling. Stack the cake layers and cover the entire cake with a crumb coat of buttercream. Transfer the cake to the refrigerator and chill until the frosting is firm.
Cover the cakes with fondant
- Cover a work surface lightly with vegetable shortening. Cover with confectioners’ sugar instead if working in humid conditions. Knead the fondant well before using. Using a smooth rolling pin, roll 3/4 of the fondant in a circle twice the size of the cake (to 1/4″ thinness).
- Drape fondant over the cake and gently fit and smooth it over the edges. Trim the fondant with a small paring knife or pizza cutter (recommended!). Place the cake on a cake stand or serving tray.
Make the Unikko flower pattern
- Print the Marimekko template (see link in blog post) and cut out the flowers with scissors. Cut out the round flower centers and discard them. Place a little clear food color in a small dish and add red gel food color until a paint consistency is formed. Hold a flower template against the fondant and trace around it with a paint-loaded paintbrush. Take care not to smear the paint as you remove the template from the cake’s surface. Repeat until the sides of the cake are covered in flower outlines. You may choose to print additional flower templates if the ones you are using get too saturated with food color paint.
- Fill in the outlines with red food color paint. Tint a small piece of fondant bright orange using the orange gel food color. Roll the fondant flat and cut out round pieces using a small fondant cutter or bottle cap. Squeeze the fondant so that the shapes are irregular. Paint a small black oval in the centers of the orange rounds using the black food color (dilute in a small amount of orange extract as before).
- Attach the flower centers with a dot of corn syrup. Allow the cake to stand until dry at room temperature before serving.
- Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.