This Watermelon Cake is the perfect summer dessert! The Cream Cheese Frosting is not only easy and tasty - it dresses it up to 'occasion-worthy' status!
What is not to love here folks??? Let me count up bonus points for this guilt free, delicious dessert!
- low calorie
- low fat- use light cream cheese and each serving only needs a wee bit
- low sodium
- make ahead
- you can take advantage of any fresh fruit in season
- stunning presentation
Convinced to try this? I can tell you this is going to be my go-to summer dessert this year and ongoing. I am obviously not the first person to make a watermelon cake. In fact, I am kinda late to the party on this. I always thought they were pretty but it was the idea of adding the touch of frosting that pushed me off the fence on this one.
In the vein of full disclosure - the only potential down-side is - this puppy is not very amenable to transporting. I tried- it wasn't pretty despite my best efforts.
You need a really big container and just the right platter that will fit in it. I used that big, old Tupperware cake and pie stacker container. The first platter was too big so I had to use a HUGE spatula and move it to smaller serving platter. I managed to keep the cake layers intact thanks to the bamboo skewers I had used to anchor the top layer. Sad to say (not surprisingly) the frosting around the bottom edge and the additional fruit (that I had so carefully distributed to ensure a consistent variety of fruit and colour around the base) were casualties somewhat of that operation.
But I am a determined thing if nothing else. I got it, platter and all onto the Tupperware carrying base and tried to make the base presentable again. I was lucky that the top of the container only pushed down on the top fruit layer a weeeeee, little bit ...
Encouraged at this point- I thought I had the tough part figured out. I have a great round cooler with flexible sides that would be perfect to carry it in. I put a large plastic ice pack on the bottom. So far so good.
I managed to squeeeeeeze that Tupperware into the cooler. It was tight but I thought I had managed.
Turns out that un-sqeeeeeeezing that container OUT of the cooler was harder than getting it in. And.... that ice pack was just a weeeee bit rocky.
So when I unveiled my chef d'oeuvre.... the top layer was almost okay... the waterfall of fruit that I had secured with toothpicks was okay. But the frosting on the bottom layer had slid off to one side. There was very little discernable piping left to be seen- but the mess of additional fruit around the base was nicely 'sauced' with it.....
Nevertheless.... it was still chilled and it still tasted absolutely out of this world. It also gave us a rather good chuckle because it was so far past the 'perfection' it had started out as!!
So.. I can say with authority - unless you have some super duper serving/carrying equipment and a means to keep it cool and motionless during transport you are better to serve it at home.
Did I mention I am a determined thing though? I think you could still prepare the watermelon layers and secure them with skewers for 'survivable' transport. If you clean and prepare the additional fruit (plus toothpicks for the waterfall) and carry it along separately; and you prepare the frosting ahead... you might be able to assemble it on-site and serve it in its glory after all. I think it would take about 15 minutes to assemble from that point.
And if you forgo or reduce the waterfall effect it would be even easier. (remember though.. the waterfall survived the trip because it was secured with toothpicks). Hope springs eternal with me.....
Having said all that, here is what I learned.....
Chef's Tips for Watermelon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Make sure you buy a SEEDLESS watermelon. Check for a slight yellowish-ness on one side. This means the melon was allowed to ripen in the field and will have better flavour.
- The size of your finished cake should match the amount of storage space you have in your fridge, especially the height.
- You are going to cut off the 2 rounded ends so you have two flat ends to work with for your layers.
- You are going to have some good watermelon pieces left over from the rounded ends and after you trim the layers in to rounds. You will also have some frosting left over-depending on how much you are able to pipe around. (I used them up in a bowl for breakfast!)
- Choose your watermelon size carefully. Mine was small- about 9" long from end to end.
- Your serving platter is going to determine the width of your layers so plan accordingly. The amount of fruit you distribute at the base is flexible.
- Find 2 bowls, or plates or any discs that are going to be the size of your layers. Mine were about 5 ½" for the bottom and just under 4" for the top layers. If my base had been a bit bigger, to allow me more differential between the top and bottom layers, I would have piped the frosting on the outer edge of the bottom layer and put some of the smaller berries on the 'ledge' of the bottom layer. The piped frosting will corral the fruit so it doesn't roll off.
- The watermelon for my base and top layer were about 3 ½ " high. The fruit on the top added about another 1/12" - 2" to the overall height.
- Use 3 bamboo skewers as posts to anchor the top layer to the bottom. I broke mine off so they were about 3" long. Toothpicks might work if your finished cake will be very stable and not moved much.
- I used toothpicks to secure the cherries blackberries and raspberries down the side of the cake to make the waterfall effect. If you add fruit to the 'ledge' on the bottom layer then the waterfall is probably not needed at all.
- Overall the dimensions, the variety of fruits and the placements are all flexible. The most important are the height and width constraints for your serving platter and fridge space.
Make Ahead Tips
If you plan to serve it at home or at the cottage here are some suggestions to manage the process:
- Watermelon stores nicely at room temperature so you can purchase your ingredients a few days ahead. The other fruit for garnishing will be best stored in the fridge.
- You can cut the watermelon up the day before or early in the day. It doesn't take much fridge (or cooler) space to store the 2 tiers. You can serve or store the excess bits as you like.
- You can make the frosting the day ahead and refrigerate.
- Clean and prep the fruits for garnish the day before or early in the day.
- For assembly- if you can manage to refrigerate or keep the finished cake cool you can assemble hours ahead. The frosting is the most critical component regarding refrigeration. You could assemble the cake tiers and fruit garnishes ahead. They will withstand a couple of hours at room temperature. You can then either frost it just before serving or just top the slice with a generous spoonful of the frosting when serving.
Watermelon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 3 skewers
- 1 whole seedless watermelon 9-12" long and roundish
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 cup whipping cream cold
- 3 Tbsps icing sugar
- pinch Cream of Tartar optional
- 4 oz light cream cheese room temperature
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups various fresh fruits I used cherries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries See Note 1
- Cut the ends off the watermelon so you have a flat base to work on.
- Choose 2 plates, bowls or discs that you can use as a templates to cut the watermelon circles. I used a bowl with a 5 ½" mouth and another with a 4" mouth. Use any size that fits on your serving platter and allow for a 1 ½ - 2" difference between the width of the 2 layers.
- Cut the watermelon horizontally in to two pieces about 3 ½" deep each. Heights can vary.
- Ensure that your templates fit well within the pink flesh area of the watermelon. Using the widest template cut straight down to remove the extra watermelon and rind. Repeat with the smaller disc. Ensure no white part of the rind is on the edge of your watermelon tiers.
- You may need to trim the two wedges to make sure they are perfectly flat. Trim as necessary to ensure your wedges are perfectly round.
- Transfer and center the watermelon base on to the serving platter you plan to use.
- Break the skewers if necessary so you have three 3-4" 'posts'. Position them vertically around the center. (About 2" from the center). Leave about half of the skewer sticking out of the bottom layer.
- Center the top watermelon tier over the first and press down gently onto the skewer 'posts'.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Whip the whipping cream in a bowl until it starts to thicken. Add the sugar gradually and whip to medium stiff peaks.
- In a separate bowl whip the cream cheese and vanilla until evenly mixed and soft.
- Add about a ¼ cup of the whipped cream and beat in to the cream cheese mixture. Gradually add the remaining whipped cream until just evenly incorporated. Do not over-beat and deflate the whipped cream.
- To pipe the cream cheese, choose a piping tip and position it in a pastry bag or Zip Lock bag with a corner snipped off with frosting. Fill the bag with with frosting. Pipe a decorative line or florettes around the outer edge of each watermelon tier and around the base. You may have frosting left over. If so, save it to go with the excess watermelon pieces you have cut away.
Prepare Fruit Garnish
- Rinse fruit and allow to drain/dry a bit. Pit cherries if using or destem fruit as necessary. Depending on the fruit you choose you may need to chop it into uniform pieces to match the other fruits.
- Insert a toothpick into some of the larger fruits and stick them into the side of the watermelon tiers to form a cascade down the tiers. Ensure the ends of the toothpicks do not peak out of the fruit.
- Fill the top tier inside the piped edge with fruit. Sprinkle extra fruit around the base ensuring the different varieties are evenly distributed around.
- Refrigerated until ready to serve.
- Cut straight down through the 2 tiers into 6 wedges. You may need to position your cuts to avoid the bamboo posts. Advise guests to remove the toothpicks from the side cascade of fruit if they get the 'waterfall' in their piece. (Or you remove them as you serve)
- Spoon additional fruit from base onto each piece.
- It is best eaten the day of but any leftovers can be refrigerated. (The watermelon will release some water by day 2 that will thin the frosting and possible pool under the additional fruit.)