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Sophie’s Citrus Savoy Cake with Apple Croquembouche

A classic sponge flavoured with orange and lemon zest and baked in a ring mould, then imaginatively decorated with small caramel-dipped choux buns filled with an apple-purée crème diplomat.

Serves: 12

Hands-on time: 3 hours

Baking time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Skill level: Challenging

To prepare the tin:

25g unsalted butter, melted 

30g caster sugar

For the sponge:

85g cornflour 

85g plain flour 

6 eggs, separated 

Large pinch of salt 

170g icing sugar, sifted 

finely grated zest of 1 large unwaxed orange 

finely grated zest of 1 large unwaxed lemon 

½ tsp yuzu powder (optional)


For the choux pastry:

65g unsalted butter, diced 

¼ tsp salt 

2 tsp caster sugar 

125g strong white bread flour, sifted 

3 eggs, beaten

For the crème diplomat:

200g green apple purée (from a pouch) 

35g caster sugar 

½ tsp vanilla bean paste 

2 egg yolks 

15g cornflour 

100ml double cream, well chilled

For the caramel:

230g caster sugar 

2 tbsp pearl sugar, for dipping 

2 tbsp freeze-dried strawberries, for dipping

You will also need:

20cm deep-fluted ring mould or bundt tin 

Large disposable piping bag 

Large baking sheet lined with baking paper 

Large piping bag fitted with a 3mm small round nozzle

Step 1 – Heat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/Gas 7. Prepare the cake mould: brush the inside of the mould all over thoroughly with melted butter. Sprinkle the sugar onto the melted butter to coat, then shake out the excess.  

Step 2 – Make the sponge. Sift the cornflour and flour into a small bowl and set aside. Put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the salt, then whisk until the egg white stands in stiff peaks. Carefully transfer to a clean bowl and set side. 

Step 3 – Whisk the egg yolks in the mixer, then add the icing sugar and whisk again until the mixture is thick and the whisk leaves a ribbon-like trail when lifted. Fold in both zests and the yuzu (if using).  

Step 4 – Gently fold in one third of the sifted flours, followed by one third of the whisked egg whites. Repeat twice more until thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared mould. 

Step 5 – Bake the sponge for 5 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 160°C/140°C fan/315°F/Gas 2–3 and bake for a further 30–35 minutes, until well risen, golden and a skewer inserted mid-way between the side and centre comes out clean. Leave to firm up for 5 minutes, then carefully unmould onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

Step 6 – Make the choux buns. Increase the oven temperature to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/Gas 6. Put the butter, salt and sugar into a medium pan with 125ml of water, over a low heat, and heat gently to melt the butter.  

Step 7 – Increase the heat and quickly bring the mixture to a boil, then tip in all the flour. Take the pan off the heat and beat furiously with a wooden spoon to a smooth, heavy dough.  

Step 8 – Put the pan back on a low heat and beat gently for 1 minute, until the dough forms a smooth, glossy ball. Tip the dough into a large heatproof bowl and cool until barely warm.  

Step 9 – Using an electric whisk, beat in the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition, to a shiny, smooth, pipeable paste. Transfer to the large disposable piping bag and snip the end to make a 2.5cm hole.  

Step 10 – Pipe mounds about 3cm across and 2.5cm high on the lined baking sheet, spacing them well apart. Aim for at least 36 buns, and ideally a few extra to allow for mistakes. Gently flatten any peaks with a wet finger.   

Step 11 – Bake the buns for 25 minutes, then reduce the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4. Open then quickly close the oven door to release the steam, then bake for a further 5 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden.  

Step 12 – Turn out the buns (so that they are upside down) onto a wire rack and immediately make a small hole in the flat base of each bun. Leave like this to cool. 

Step 13 – Make the crème diplomat. Heat the apple purée in a medium pan over a low heat with half the sugar and all the vanilla paste, until just hot.  

Step 14 – In a heatproof bowl, combine the remaining sugar with the egg yolks and cornflour to make a smooth, thick paste. Stir in the hot purée, then return the mixture to the pan.  

Step 15 – Stir over a medium–low heat until the mixture comes to the boil and is smooth and thick. Transfer to a clean heatproof bowl, leave to cool, then cover and chill thoroughly.  

Step 16 – Whip the chilled cream to soft peaks, then fold into the chilled apple mixture. Spoon into the large piping bag fitted with the small nozzle, and pipe into each choux bun through the hole in the base. Put the cooled sponge on a serving plate.

Step 17 – Make the caramel. Put the sugar and 4 tablespoons of water into a small, heavy-based pan over a low heat. Allow the sugar to melt, occasionally brushing down the sides, then bring it to the boil and cook (without stirring) until it starts to turn amber.  

Step 18 – Remove the pan from the heat and, working very quickly and carefully, lightly dip in the rounded top and sides of each bun using kitchen tongs (not your fingers!).  

Step 19 – Then (still using the tongs) position the flat base of each bun on the sides of the cake – starting from the base and building up two rings of buns that stick together at the sides. Dip every third or fourth bun in caramel and then into either the pearl sugar or the freeze-dried strawberries before attaching to the cake. Place the caramel back on the heat from time to time to keep it fluid. 

Step 20 – Use any remaining caramel to make angel hair for the top of the sponge: dip the tines of a fork in the caramel, lift the fork high up out of the pan to create long, fine strands of caramel, then flick the fork over the top of the cake. Serve as soon as possible.