Tropical paradise in a bite! This passion fruit cake has three layers of vanilla cake soaked in passion fruit juice, two layers of passion fruit curd, and it is frosted with vanilla Swiss buttercream.
I’ve been craving a vacation. A tropical vacation, preferably beachside, with a fruity cocktail in one hand and a good summer read in the other hand. Perhaps, next year.
In the meantime, I can pretend I’m on vacay while enjoying a slice of this bright and tropical cake!
Vanilla Layer Cake with Passion Fruit Curd Filling
This passion fruit cake is suitable any time of year! It’s great for birthdays, Easter, Mother’s Day, and more.
Passion fruit is cultivated in Hawaii, California, Florida, New Zealand, and Australia. Best of all, it is available year-round.
If you are unable to procure fresh fruit, frozen passion fruit works just fine!
Passion fruit is native to Brazil, where it is called granadilla. The name “passion fruit” was given by early European missionaries that likened passion fruit blooms (flowers) to symbols of the crucifixion or Passion of the Christ.
The interior of passion fruit contains slippery pulp with crunchy edible seeds. I used it to garnish the top of the cake, as photographed above.
Passion Fruit Cake Components
- Vanilla Cake
- Passion Fruit Syrup (optional, but highly recommended!)
- Passion Fruit Curd (homemade or store-bought)
- Swiss Buttercream
- three 8-inch round cake pans
- piping bag fitted with a small round tip (such as wilton #12)
- mini offset spatula or offset spatula
- rotating cake turntable
The baked cake should separate from the pan like the photo above.
Recipe may be baked in three 6-inch round cake pans, as well. Increase baking time by 5-8 minutes to accommodate for the thicker cake layer.
Use a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer to mix together cake batter.
Passion Fruit Syrup:
This part is optional, but highly recommended! It ensure the cake remains moist. Most of all, it heightens the fresh bright flavor of passion fruit.
Soak the vanilla cake layers with passion fruit syrup. The syrup is a mixture of simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar) and strained passion fruit pulp.
Passion Fruit Curd
This cake recipe uses homemade passion fruit curd. The curd is a little sweet, a little tart, but oh so luscious and creamy.
It is quite easy to make and comes together in minutes. Use fresh or frozen passion fruit.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Swiss buttercream is made by mixing softened butter into Swiss meringue.
There are three ways to make meringue: French, Swiss, and Italian. French is the most common and popular method.
French meringue is made by simply whipping egg whites and sugar together.
Swiss meringue is cooked. Egg whites and sugar are melted together over a double boiler to 120-160 degrees F. Then, the mixture is whipped to the desired texture.
Swiss meringue buttercream is light, silky, and airy. Perfect for this passion fruit cake.
Make Swiss Buttercream in Advance!
How to assemble and fill layer cake
- Place cake layer on cake turn table or serving plater. Brush top of cake with passion fruit syrup.
- Spread thin layer of buttercream over surface of cake.
- Use a piping bag fitted with a plain round tip (wilton #12) to create buttercream border along the perimeter of cake layer.
- Spread passion fruit curd within buttercream border.
- Place next cake layer on top of curd and buttercream.
- Repeat within remaining cake layers. Lightly coat cake with buttercream to create a crumb coat.
Use remaining buttercream to apply thicker buttercream coating along exterior. Or, use buttercream to pipe border or decor along the perimeter of cake top. (I used Wilton #352 to pipe this leaf border.)
Spoon passion fruit pulp and seeds over the top of assembled cake before serving.
Cake Serving Suggestions
Use a sharp knife to slice cake into desired portions. Wipe knife clean after each slice.
An 8-inch round cake can easily serve 12-14 wedge slices.
To serve more people, slice into wedding cake or “event style” slices and serve up to 24 people.
This method from Wilton slices an 8-inch cake to serve 30-33 people.
How does this cake taste? Is it very sweet?
This cake is slightly sweet, a little tangy, and tropical in flavor!
Much of the sweetness comes from the cake layers. The buttercream is light and creamy, but not very sweet. The passion fruit curd has more tang than sweetness.
I highly recommend using the passion fruit syrup to heighten the passion fruit flavors of the cake.
Storage and Leftovers:
Store uncut assembled cake in the fridge until ready to serve.
Cover exposed sliced cake with plastic wrap, wax paper, or parchment paper to prevent cake from drying out.
Place cake slices in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Break Down Cake Making Over Several Days
Day 1: Make the passion fruit curd. Keep in the fridge until ready to use.
Day 2: Make the cake batter. Bake off cake. Cool to room temperature. Wrap in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature overnight (up to two days).
Day 3: Make buttercream. Immediately use to fill and assemble cake. Or, store buttercream in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.
Optional Day 4: Take buttercream out of the fridge. Let sit at room temperature for several hours until softened. Revitalize buttercream using a sturdy whisk or beat with paddle attachment in stand mixer until smooth, light, and fluffy. Assemble cake as directed in instructions.
Passion Fruit Layer Cake
- three 8-inch round cake pans
- rotating cake stand (or cake turntable)
- stand mixer with paddle and whisk attachment
- piping bag with small round tip
- offset spatula
- digital kitchen thermometer
- 2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour (295 g)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup unsalted butter (170 g)
- 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar (250 g)
- 3 large eggs, room temp
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- ⅓ cup sour cream (75 g)
- ⅔ cup whole milk (150 g)
- ⅔ cup homemade passion fruit curd, or store-bought*
Passion Fruit Syrup:
- 2 Tbsp strained passion fruit pulp or passion fruit puree
- 1 Tbsp simple syrup *
- ¾ cup egg whites (210 g), about 6 large eggs
- 1 ½ cup granulated sugar (300 g)
- 2 cup unsalted butter (452 g), sliced into tablespoons, softened
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans and line bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using an electric hand mixer), cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs and mix on medium speed until well incorporated. Add vanilla and sour cream and mix until combined. Scrape down bowl as needed to ensure thorough mixing.
- Add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with milk. Begin and finish with flour mixture. Mix until just combined and there are no longer any dry streaks of flour.*
- Divide batter evenly among the three prepared cake pans. Level batter using a mini offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake for 28-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool cakes in pan for 5 minutes. Then, run a mini offset spatula around the cake and unmold. Cool cake to room temperature on wire rack.
Passion Fruit Syrup:
- Mix together passion fruit pulp and simple syrup. Set aside until ready to use.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together egg whites and sugar. Place over a pot of simmering water to create a bain-marie or double boiler. Make sure the simmering water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Whisk mixture until it reaches a temperature of 160°F.*Alternatively, if you don't have a thermometer, heat the mixture until all the sugar has melted. Test this by dipping your pointer finger into the mixture and rubbing it against your thumb. The mixture should feel smooth. You should not be able to feel the granules of sugar.
- Return bowl to stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, beat mixture at medium speed until it has cooled to room temperature (about 75-80°F) and meringue has started to form.
- Reduce to low speed. Add butter one tablespoon at a time. Add salt. Increase speed to medium-high and continue to beat until buttercream is light and fluffy.
- Fit a piping bag (decorating bag) with a small round tip (wilton #12). Fill bag with about ½ cup of buttercream. Set aside.
- Level cake layers as necessary. Place one cake layer on serving platter or cake turntable. Brush or drizzle passion fruit syrup over cake. Spread a thin layer of buttercream (about 6 Tbsp) over cake layer using a small offset spatula.
- Use the filled piping bag, pipe a double border of buttercream along the perimeter of cake round. This will serve as barrier when curd is added.
- Add ⅓ cup of passion fruit curd to center of cake. Spread to fill within the buttercream boundaries. Place second cake layer on top. Repeat soaking cake, adding buttercream, and curd.
- Place final third layer on top. Soak cake layer with syrup. Spread buttercream all around the cake to create a "crumb coat" layer to seal in any crumbs. Chill cake in the fridge for 20 minutes to set frosting.
- If desired, coat chilled cake with additional buttercream. Use a small leaf piping tip (wilton #352) to pipe decorative border on top of cake.
- Keep cake chilled until ready to serve. Rest cake at room temperature for about 30 minutes before slicing and serving to soften buttercream frosting.
- Homemade passion fruit curd is easy to make. However, if you prefer store bought passion fruit curd, I recommend these brands: Rare Bird Preserves, Tutu’s Pantry, and Tiptree.
- Fresh passion fruit is available year round. If you cannot find any in stores, I recommend purchasing them from Rincon Tropics.
- Be careful not to overmix cake once flour as been added. Overmixing will lead to a tough cake.