For the series finale of this double-decker vintage Italian Lovesong Cake, we come to the highly unusual and ever-so-fascinating Hibiscus Vanilla Custard that crowns the Italian Sour Cream Cheesecake that is wrapped in a homemade cookie crumb crust — that sits atop a vintage Boiled Milk Cake frosted with White Chocolate & Cream Cheese Frosting.
First, we’ll make a wonderful dark sweet syrup from organic dried Hibiscus flower petals. The end-result resembles a richer-than-cranberry-juice syrup and darker-than-pomegranate-berry flavor powered up with just a kick of tartness mixed in with it’s sweetness.
You’ll only need a bit of the syrup for this recipe but the balance of the syrup stores in your fridge for a good long time and you can use it for a gazillion things other than our cake-topping custard. For example, aside from Hibiscus tea, you might try it in a fabuloso Hibiscus Martini, a sweet-tangy Hibiscus Lemonade AND homemade Hibiscus Ginger-ale. The Hibiscus Vanilla Custard recipe also doubles for homemade Hibiscus ice cream — by just throwing the custard recipe below into an ice cream machine for 20 minutes.
I mean, who could ask for more versatility from a simple flower petal? Actually, technically these are the dried calyx of Hibiscus sabdariffa, and not the dried flower or petals, but I’ll refer to them improperly 🙂 I purchased my stash of dried petals from a Whole Foods Market near my house, so it seems Hibiscus is becoming quite trendy nowadays and, therefore, more accessible, but you may also purchase these dried organic flowers from tea houses and specialty foods stores in most urban areas and online. I recommend a high-quality organic flower for best results.
After we double-deck the Boiled Milk Cake with the Italian Cheesecake that is wrapped in homemade cookie crumb crust, we’ll dollop the custard on top of the Italian Lovesong Cake and place a couple of dried flower petals at center top stage to serve it grand style.
Slow Cooking Warning: The Hibiscus syrup requires that the Hibiscus petals stew, cook and strain in various stages and are then refrigerated so be sure and prepare in advance for the recipe by setting aside enough of your time to have fun with this kitchen craft. The Hibiscus Vanilla Custard is slow-cooked and requires refrigeration before use. The rewards are in the pleasure of slow cooking itself and knowing that your precious gift of time brings a fine tradition of the kitchen arts back to life.
Tools needed for Hibiscus Syrup:
Medium heavy pot
Measuring cups and spoons
Fine mesh strainer (or sieve with paper heavy paper towels for straining seeds and stems)
Storage jar or container with lid or tight-fitting cover
Ingredients for Hibiscus Syrup:
1 c dried organic hibiscus flowers (about 1 c, about 40 dried buds — I counted them)
2 c water
2 c sugar
1 t real maple syrup
1 t vanilla extract, fine quality
1 t clover honey (or similar honey)
Directions for Hibiscus Syrup (overnight recipe):
Boil in medium pot:
2 c water
1 c dried hibiscus buds (gently packed)
Turn off heat, leaving the pot on the burner, and let the flowers steep for 10 minutes, drain and toss the water, using a colander or sieve to preserve the flowers.
Return the drained flowers to the pot and add:
2 c fresh water
Bring liquid to just below a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer and stir in:
2 c sugar
Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.
Remove from heat, strain through sieve to make sure that no trace of stem or petal remains, then strain again through a cheesecloth (or, as I did, poured slowly in portions through a strong paper towel welled into a strainer and squeezed to drain).
Return strained syrup to a medium pot and bring to a boil on medium heat for 8 minutes. Remove from heat, cool to room temperature, strain through fine strainer or cheesecloth (again, this time just for good measure to ensure perfectly smooth syrup).
Cool the syrup down by letting it sit on the counter with a few stirs for a few minutes.
Stir into room temperature hibiscus sauce:
1 t pure vanilla extract, fine quality
1 t clover honey
Pour into a new or sterilized jar or other clean container, letting it come to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate 8 to 12 hours before using.
Syrup will keep refrigerated for months.
Hibiscus Vanilla Custard:
Tools Need for Hibiscus Vanilla Custard:
Small bowls or cups (for separating eggs)
Measuring Cups and Spoons
Storage Container (for refrigerating the custard)
Directions for Making Hibiscus Vanilla Custard:
You may also use this recipe as a stove-top cooked vanilla custard free of hibiscus by just leaving out anything pink in the recipe, like the Hibiscus syrup. 🙂
Bring to just-boiling in a medium pot with the following ingredients:
1 c heavy whipping cream
2 c milk (2% is fine)
1/2 c sugar
4 T cornstarch, sifted
1/2 t salt
4 egg yolks, blended
Reduce to medium heat and whisk almost constantly until thickened.
Remove from heat and whisk in:
2 T unsalted butter
2 t vanilla extract, fine quality
2 T hibiscus syrup (see recipe above)
2 drops of organic red food coloring (optional)
Refrigerate in a bowl covered with plastic wrap that touches the top of the pudding until chilled (about 3 hours to overnight).
Dollop on top of the center of the Italian Lovesong Cake and you’ll have yourself an amazing vintage cake for a very special occasion with lots of textures and unique flavors to delight your guests.
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- Italian Sour Cream Cheesecake for the Italian Lovesong Cake (bakethiscake.com)
- Ladyfinger Cookie Crumb Crust for the Italian Lovesong Cake (bakethiscake.com)
- Boiled Milk Cake for The Italian Lovesong Cake (bakethiscake.com)
- Cherry Hill Roulade (bakethiscake.com)