Molehill Cake

Molehill Cakes
Wotchers!

It’s been a while since I posted a cake recipe, so I thought I’d cheer up the chilly weather with a cakey treat.

And it’s fabulous!

I was initially a little conflicted about this cake: on the one hand it tastes amazing, but then it also falls into the category of my pet hate of ‘food looking like something that isn’t food’, even though it is achieved almost by accident. In the end the ease of baking/construction, coupled with the amazing flavours persuaded me to bend my own rules and I hope you’ll be as delighted with the result as I am.

It’s very straightforward, based on a chocolate sponge, and takes almost zero skill to put together. Huzzah!

I found it on a Romanian version of Pinterest, and it appears to be something Romanians can create from a Dr Oetker box cake mix.

However, there’s no need to resort to box cake mixes, no matter how convenient they might be. Hands up anyone who has eaten one and thought “Oh my! This tastes so convenient!”.

Quite.

So this is a hand-made version, which is only marginally less convenient but with added fresh, natural ingredients. I call it the very best kind of clean eating. I might start a food trend…..

ANYHOO….

Requiring just 2 bowls – one if you rinse it out after mixing the cake – it also requires practically zero washing up! Bonus!

The cake is my go-to, one-bowl chocolate yogurt cake, so easy you could mix it with just a spoon – although I recommend a balloon whisk. Once baked and cooled, the cake is hollowed out and the bottom filled with whole (or as whole as possible) bananas, then a creamy filling mounded on top. The cake that was hollowed out, plus any excess you cut off to level the top, are blitzed to crumbs and patted onto the mound of cream and voila! Something that resembles a molehill but with a much more appetising taste!

You can make one large cake, or, as I managed, one large and several small, individually-sized versions.

The filling can be as simple as sweetened, whipped cream, a custardy diplomat cream (crème patissière + gelatine + whipped cream) or, my favourite, a combination of cream cheese, crème fraiche and double cream, whipped to firmness with a little vanilla paste and icing sugar.

Also optional is whether or not to include some chocolate in your creamy filling. My daughter voted for chocolate chips in an earlier version (she also preferred diplomat cream), however I went for hand-chopped chocolate. Other options might be pure chocolate sprinkles or indeed none at all.

The comforting combination of the richness of the chocolate sponge, the freshness and sweetness of the banana, the creamy topping and the novelty of the overall appearance have immediately shot this cake into my top five list. In fact, the only downside of this cake is the time spent waiting for the cooked cake to cool down before you can fill it!

Mini Molehill Cakes

Molehill Cake

Chocolate Sponge Cake

150ml vegetable oil
150ml plain yoghurt
60ml golden syrup
170g caster sugar
3 large eggs
225g plain flour
50g cocoa
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C, 140°C Fan.
  • Line the bottom and sides of a deep 20cm cake tin with baking parchment.
  • Put oil, yoghurt, syrup, caster sugar and eggs in a bowl and whisk together until well mixed.
  • Sift flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt into the bowl. Mix well.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
  • Bake in the oven for 60-75 minutes, until the cake has shrunk away from the sides, no bubbling sounds can be heard and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Yes, it does seem a long time, but the low temperature means it really needs the full allowance. The result is a beautifully-textured cake that actually improves on keeping, if you want to make it ahead. Additionally, the low-and-slow cooking means it is invariably gently and perfectly rounded on top and without any cracks.
  • Cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Filling

300g cream cheese at room temperature
300ml low-fat creme fraîche
1-2tsp vanilla paste
2-3tbs icing sugar
300ml double cream
100g good quality chocolate – white, milk or plain – chopped fine

  • Mix the cream cheese, vanilla paste and creme fraîche thoroughly.
  • Add icing sugar to taste.
  • Add the double cream and whisk until firm.
  • Stir through the chopped chocolate.
  • Cover with plastic and chill until required.

To Assemble

cooled cake
4-5 bananas
cream filling

  • Cut the cake horizontally at a height of 4cm. If the cake has risen a lot, you might be able to cut it in half and make 2 large molehill cakes. Alternatively, you can cut out circles of sponge from either one or both halves using a baking ring to make individual-sized portions.
  • Cut a circle 2cm deep around the edge of the cake, 2cm from the edge.
  • Hollow out the middle of the cake so that the remaining sponge resembles a tart case. Be careful not to cut through the bottom of the cake. Reserve the cake scraps.
  • Lay whole bananas in the hollow, making sure they cover the whole of the bottom of the cake.
  • Pile the cream filling on top, using a palette knife to shape it into a tall mound.
  • Blitz the cake scraps to crumb and press lightly onto the sides of the cream until completely covered.
  • You can serve the cake immediately, but it does benefit from being wrapped in foil and thoroughly chilled in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Overnight is ideal.
  • Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.

Valentine Hearts

Heart Pies
Wotchers!

If you fancy making a romantic effort for your nearest and dearest, you could spoil them with a fancy-schmancy, gourmet meal, and spend the next three days shopping/chopping/baking/caking/slaving.

Or you could buy a roll of puff pastry and check out some other Valentines Breakfast or dessert ideas from a few years ago.

Or you could make these pastry hearts, using a recipe you already know and love, and a filling you know s/he loves. They are neither complicated nor elaborate, but last time I checked, stress in the kitchen was not an aphrodisiac.

The pastry is a regular sweet shortcrust, with a little food colouring added to the iced water used to mix it together – a shade a little lighter than red wine in the water makes for this lovely pastel pink once mixed. If inclined, you could even make 2 or 3 batches, each of a different shade of red/pink for an eye-catching jumble of hearts.

I chose a filling of vanilla pastry cream, made with real vanilla bean and firmed up with a little gelatin for ease of piping. If your loved one has a favourite sandwich filling then go with that – Nutella, peanut butter, banana, Banoffi-pie caramel, slices of apple, all of the above….

Don’t limit it to sweet flavours. If your Valentine has a savoury tooth,  fill his/her hearts with sausage, cheese, omelette, bacon, all of the above…

Pastry Hearts

1 x batch of shortcrust pastry, sweet or savoury, mixed with red-coloured water, chilled for 1 hour – here, or for unsweetened here or for savoury, here
suitable fillings, sweet or savoury

  • Divide the chilled pastry in half. Roll out each half thinly (2-3mm) and cut into twice as many squares as you require of around 10cm in size.
  • Turn half of the squares so that one corner is pointing toward you and pipe/arrange your filling in heart shapes onto the pastry. Be sure to pile up the filling quite well, in order to give substance to your ‘hearts’.
  • Using a pastry brush and water, dampen the edges of the pastry around the filling.
  • Lay a second piece of pastry over the top and smooth it down and around your filling, making sure its fully enclosed. Try to make sure there’s no air trapped inside, as this may cause your pastry to burst during cooking.
  • Using a sharp knife, trim the excess pastry, leaving a border of 1cm around each heart.
  • Transfer the pastry hearts to a baking sheet lined with parchment. I didn’t poke holes in the pastry, but I did get a bit of the filling oozing out on one or two. To avoid this, you could poke some vent holes in the tops in a decorative pattern.
  • Chill in the fridge while the oven heats up.
  • Heat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Add a glaze if liked – milk and caster sugar for sweet, egg-white for savoury. I did experiment with both of these, but decided the unglazed puffs were more visually striking.
  • Bake for 11-12 minutes, turning the baking sheet around half-way through.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
  • If sweet, dust lightly with icing sugar to serve.

Lace Biscuits

lace biscuits

Wotchers!

As you will no doubt have noticed, it is Seville orange season, and whilst I am an ardent marmalade maker, I’m also aware that not everyone else is so here is a recipe you can still enjoy their bitter-sweet flavours in less demanding ways.

These lace biscuits are fantastically light and delicate and make a great ‘barely there’ treat. They can also, whilst still warm from the oven, be manipulated into various three-dimensional shapes and forms, which they will hold once cooled. This makes them great for garnishes and flourishes to finish off a special cake or dessert. You can bake circle of batter and make regular, circle-shaped biscuits, or you can pipe/spread the mixture into more organic shapes. They can be draped over rolling pins, crumpled foil, or handles of wooden spoons; pressed into mini muffin tins or over the outsides of cupcake tins to form cups or baskets. You can see a few suggestions in the photograph below.

Lace Biscuit Shapes

You can, of course, make these with other citrus fruits apart from Seville oranges.

You can mix and bake this recipe immediately, but for ease of piping, it is better to chill it in the fridge overnight.

For best results you will need a Silpat silicon mat or similar.

These biscuits will lose their crispness if left uncovered, so be sure to store them in an airtight container.

Lace Biscuits

115g caster sugar
45g plain flour
zest and juice of 1 Seville orange
56g unsalted butter

  • Mix the sugar and flour.
  • Melt the butter, then mix with the orange juice and zest.
  • Pour the butter mixture into the flour and sugar and whisk together until smooth.
  • Cover and chill overnight in the fridge.

When ready to bake:

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Spoon the mixture into a piping bag.
  • Pipe the mixture onto your Silpat mat. Make a test batch first, in order to see how much the mixture spreads. As a general rule, a blob of mixture the size of a 10p piece (2cm) should spread to about 5cm in the oven. If your mixture doesn’t spread as much, or isn’t as lacy as you’d like, you can smooth the batter out a little with the back of a spoon.
  • I recommend baking no more than 6 biscuits at a time, which will mean there’s no rush once baked to get them all moulded/folded before they cool.
  • Have ready any utensils/moulds you wish to use to shape the biscuits when they come out of the oven.  If you’re making flat biscuits, they can cool on the mat until firm enough to move to a wire rack.
  • Bake each batch until the edges have turned brown and the middles have just started to colour, as per the above photograph. Allow your test batch to cool to check they crisp up to your satisfaction. If the middles are too pale, then they won’t be crisp once cooled. As a guide, I found that 6 minutes was ideal for my oven/batter. If your orange was either very juicy, or not very juicy, your batter might need a little longer/less.
  • When baked, allow to cool on the mat for about 30 seconds before trying to move them. Too soon and you run the risk of them tearing.
  • When cooled, store in an airtight container.

In case you missed it:

This week on DejaFood.uk: Award-winning marmalade!


Snow Crisp

Snow Crisp

Snow Crisp – dusted with milk powder(L), showing the jewel-like sides of each portion (R)

Wotchers!

Something a little different today, with a recipe that is simple, quick, delicious and easily made gluten-free.

I came across it whilst browsing Chinese language food blogs (see the lengths I go to, to bring you the cutting edge of fashionable recipes??). Anyhoo – this recipe seems to be riding a sizeable wave of popularity, which is understandable for all of the reasons I started with, plus the ease with which it can be customised. I’ve ‘interpreted’ the Chinese name to the most suitable translation, the variations I came across whilst researching being many and varied, e.g. Snowflake Cakes, Snow Puff Pastry, Snow Q Cake, Snowflake Crisp, Dry Snow Cake and my favourites – Reticulated Red Snowflake Pastry, Swept Eat Snowflake Crisp Circle & Delicious Non-Stick Tooth Nougat Failure.

Mmm.

It is like a cross between Chocolate Salami and nougat –  fruit and nuts are mixed into melted marshmallows, with the addition of crisp biscuit pieces for added texture. The biscuits also ‘lighten the bite’ and prevent it from being either too sweet or too cloying. Once formed into a slab, it is dusted with dried milk powder to give it a wintery effect.

I would recommend having some latex gloves on hand, no pun intended, to help with shaping the warm mass, but it is also possible to make-do without.

When your block has set firmly, you can slice it into serving portions and dust all cut surfaces with milk powder if liked, but I must confess to preferring to see the contrast between the powdery top/bottom and the crisp and sharply delineated sides showing the embedded jewels of fruit and nut. You can even omit the milk powder altogether, or substitute with desiccated coconut, but I would recommend at least trying it to begin with – maybe cut off a slice or two and just dust those.

Chocolate Snow Crisp

Chocolate Snow Crisp – dusted with cocoa

In terms of variations, the most popular I have found are chocolate (cocoa) and matcha. Being in powder form, they are easy both to add to the melted marshmallows and use for dusting – although changing the overall colour means you do lose the whole ‘snow’ theme somewhat. That said, it does allow you to use non-white marshmallow, if packs of all-white are difficult to find.

Fruits and nuts are entirely to your taste, but bright colours and whole nuts make for attractive shapes when cut through. If you make your own candied peel – and as readers of this blog you all do, obvs (no pressure 😉 ) – it can be substituted for some or all of the dried fruit, and a mix of seeds can replace the nuts.

The quantities given are sufficient for a block of about 20cm square – you can, of course, shape it however you prefer. They are also easy to remember, as I have made them proportional, and thus fairly straightforward to scale up or down, as required.

The biscuits you require should be crisp and dry. In the UK, Rich Tea biscuits or Arrowroot are ideal (regular or gluten-free), although you will have to break them into quarters for ease of shaping. If you’re a fan of the pairing of salty and sweet, you could even substitute Ritz crackers – the mini ones being perfectly sized to leave whole. Crisp and salty pretzels are a further option.

Snow Crisp

50g unsalted butter
200g white marshmallows
50g dried milk powder
50g dried fruit – cranberries & orange peel/blueberries/apricots
50g mixed nuts – pistachios & walnuts/almonds/cashews
200g crisp biscuits – Rich Tea/Arrowroot/gluren-free/Ritz, broken into quarters if large

Extra milk powder for dusting

  • Put the fruit, nuts and biscuits in a pile on a silicone mat.
  • Melt the butter in a non-stick pan over a very low heat.
  • Add the marshmallows and stir gently while they melt. This will take some time. Do not be tempted to turn the heat up, as they will quickly start to turn brown and caramelise.
  • When the marshmallows have melted, add the milk powder and stir until fully combined.
  • Pour the marshmallow mixture onto the fruits and biscuits.
  • Put on your plastic gloves and thoroughly mix everything together. Use a series  of gentle lifting and folding motions. You want the marshmallow to coat everything and hold together, without crushing the biscuits into dust.
  • Once the mixture is holding together in a mass, you can use a non-stick tin to help mould it into a rectangle. Press the mass into a corner of the tin to help form two square edges, then turn it around and repeat, pressing it gently by firmly into the sides.
  • When you’re happy with the dimensions of your slab, wrap it in plastic and put into the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes.
  • When the slab has firmed up, dust with more of the milk powder, making sure the whole surface is covered. Turn the slab over and repeat.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut the slab into serving sized pieces – about the size of a matchbox is good – it’s allows the edges to be seen and admired, and cn be eaten in just 2 bites.
  • Store in an airtight box.

Variations

  • Chocolate: Add 15-20g cocoa to the pan together with the milk powder, dust with cocoa.
  • Matcha: Add 15-20g matcha powder to the pan together with the milk powder, dust with a mixture of matcha and milk powder, or just matcha.
  • Fruit variations: Add 15-20g freeze-dried fruit powders (available here) to the pan together with the milk powder, use whole dried fruit in the filling and dust with extra fruit powder.
  • Coffee: Add 15-20g espresso coffee powder to the pan together with the milk powder, dust with a mixture of coffee & milk powder.
  • Oats: Replace half of the biscuits with toasted, rolled oats.

Leek and Potato Soup

Leek & Potato Soup
Wotchers!

Who doesn’t love soup? Especially during the colder months. Sure, some of them, thick and hearty after hours of gentle simmering, can be a meal in a bowl.

But not all of them need take such extended preparation. Leek and potato soup is wonderfully comforting on a cold day, and only takes about 30 minutes to make from scratch, using simple ingredients that take little time to prepare. This one recipe can also be served in a variety of ways depending on whether you want a quick warming mug for lunch, or serve a striking and surprisingly economical special occasion starter.

Variations

Texture: Use of floury potatoes means this soup will puree to a wonderfully smooth and velvety texture. Nevertheless, I do like to have a little texture for visual as well as gustatory variety, so I hold back some of the cooked, cubed potato to add as a garnish.

Flavour: The soup is only simmered for a brief 20 minutes and this mellows the flavour of the leek. To lift the flavour, I like to briefly cook a little chopped leek in sme butter and then either stir into the whole just before serving, or just spoon over the top of the cubed potatoes.

Visual Appeal: The photographs don’t really reflect it, but this soup is a beautifully pale green colour. It really makes the buttered leeks (if you’re using them) pop. If you aren’t inclined to ‘faff’ buttering some leeks, you could always snip a few dark green chives into the bowls to serve.

Garnish: Grated cheese and/or bacon bits are especially fine.

My daughter recently declared this her favourite soup, even ahead of tomato soup. She likes it best with a melty cheese toastie cut into fingers to dip in. This is her helpfully holding a spoonful of delicious soup garnished with potato cubes and buttered leeks. Unfortunately, what she’s not so keen on is any of the things I thought added so much to the presentation, i.e. the aforementioned buttered leeks and potato cubes. So after this picture was taken, I just put everything back into the blender and whizzed it smooth and she was happy. The buttered leeks still add their pop of flavour, just with none of that pesky texture.

Leek and Potato Soup

2 tbs butter
1 large leek or 2 medium
450g potatoes – floury type (Maris Piper or similar)
350ml milk
350ml water
4 level tsp vegetable bouillon powder
salt and ground white pepper to taste

2tbs butter for buttered leeks, if using

  • Peel and dice potatoes into cubes – about 1.5cm.
  • Remove the outer leaves of the leek and shred finely using a mandolin or with a sharp knife. If you’re going to butter some of the leeeks, set aside 4-5 spoonfuls.
  • Melt the first lot of butter in saucepan and add the potato cubes and leek.
  • Stir over medium heat until the until leeks soften.
  • Add the milk, water and bouillon.
  • Cover and simmer gently until the potatoes are cooked (20 mins-ish).
  • While the soup is cooking, melt the remaining butter in a pan and cook the remaining leeks.
  • When the potatoes are cooked, remove about a cupful and keep warm. Puree the remainder, either using a stick blender or liquidiser.
  • Return to the pan and taste. Season using ground white pepper and salt.
  • Heat well before serving, but don’t let it boil.
  • NB You may need to thin the pureed soup if the potatoes are especially starchy. It should have the consistency of double cream/custard.
  • Add the potato cubes and buttered leeks to serve.

 


More Fudge

Mince Pie Fudge
Wotchers!

Well, the festive season is rapidly approaching and it’s high time I came up with some suitably-themed posts!

So here are a couple of recipes for making treats that are perfect to give as gifts, as well as keeping all to yourself. NB For the best possible texture to your finished fudge, a sugar thermometer or therma-pen is necessary.

See also: Sea-Foam Fudge

Mince Pie Fudge

I love the intense fruits/spicy/boozy/citrus flavour of mincemeat, especially since I started making the vegetarian/vegan/fat-free/no-added-sugar mincemeat inspired by a recipe from Hannah Glasse. However much I love the flaky, buttery-ness of a puff pastry mince pie – FYI, it’s a LOT – sometimes, I just want to enjoy the filling.

Since it would be undignified to spoon it straight from the jar – *poker face* not that I’d ever do that – I thought that making it into fudge would be an ideal way for a handy-sized hit of festive cheer.

This recipe is a variation of the only fudge recipe you’ll ever need – and an adaption of the aforementioned mincemeat recipe. There is less liquid and more spices, in order for their flavours to survive being added to the hot fudge mixture.

For the mincemeat
90g mixed candied peel, diced small
130g of flaked or slivered almonds and pistachios
150g mixed raisins, sultanas, cranberries and chopped apricots
2tbs sherry
1tbs brandy
juice & grated rind of an orange
juice & grated rind of a lemon
½tsp ground ginger
½tsp grated nutmeg,
½tsp ground cinnamon
½tsp ground mixed spice
¼tsp ground cloves

  • Put the sherry, brandy, lemon and orange juice, dried fruits and spices into a small pan.
  • Stir gently to combine and set pan over the lowest possible heat.
  • Cover and let the mixture stew gently until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  • The mixture should be moist, but with no liquid visible in the bottom.
  • Mix the zests, nuts and candied peel and set aside.

For the fudge
1 x 397ml tin of sweetened, condensed milk
150ml milk
125g butter
450g Demerera sugar

  • Line a rectangular baking pan with parchment. Personally, I use a pan 30cm by 24cm
  • Put all of the ingredients into a pan and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Bring to the boil and stir continuously until it registers between 118°C and 120°C on a thermometer dipped into the centre of the pan. Make sure the tip of the thermometer doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan, as this will be much hotter and the thermometer will thus give a false reading.
  • When your fudge reaches temperature, remove from the heat and allow the bubbles to settle. Pour into your stand mixer and use the beating paddle (not the whisk) to beat slowly for at least five minutes, to cool the fudge.
  • When the mixture has cooled and thickened, add the  soaked fruit, nuts and peel and stir to combine.
  • When it is thick and still just pourable, tip it into your parchment-lined tin and smooth over.
  • Leave to cool completely.
  • When cold, cut into cubes with a sharp knife and store in an airtight box.

Creamy Vanilla Fudge

Creamy Vanilla Fudge

The sweetened, condensed milk recipe above can satisfy 99% of your fudge-related requirements: the texture is excellent, it is easily flavoured with a range of simple additions, and even ‘plain’ is delicious.

However, everything can be improved on, if your palate is demanding enough, and so if plain and unadorned pure flavours are your thing, then this is the recipe for you. If the above recipe is the regular champagne of fudge recipes, then this recipe is vintage. I have adapted it from a recipe published online by Nick Dudley-Jones, reducing the sugar slightly and merely adding detail where his recipe was more free-spirited.

The quality of the ingredients is what sets this recipe aside, so be sure to use the very best you can get your hands on and you will reap your just rewards.

600g caster sugar
500ml double cream
50g unsalted butter
10g liquid glucose
1 vanilla pod or 1-2tsp good quality vanilla paste
75g good quality white chocolate – chopped

  • Line a rectangular,  30cm by 24cm baking pan with parchment.
  • Put the sugar, cream, butter and glucose into a thick-bottomed pan.
  • Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds.
  • Put the seeds and the pod into the pan with the rest of the ingredients.
  • Heat the ingredients gently until the sugar has fully dissolved.
  • Raise the heat and bring to a rolling boil, stirring all the time.
  • Continue stirring and cook until the mixture reaches 118-120°C.
  • Remove from the heat.
  • When the bubbles have subsided, fish out the vanilla pod.
  • Pour the fudge into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat slowly for 5 minutes to cool and grain the mixture.
  • After 5 minutes, slowly add in the chopped chocolate, pausing between each addition until it has melted.
  • Continue to beat the mixture slowly until it thickens. This will take a further 7-10 minutes. The texture should be similar to marshmallow fluff/putty/uncooked sponge cake mixture (pick whichever of those analogies is most recognisable to you).
  • Spoon/pour the mixture into your parchment-lined tin and smooth over.
  • Set aside and allow to cool at room temperature for 3-4 hours.
  • Chill if liked for extra firmness and to achieve razor-clean cuts when dividing it up.
  • Cut into cubes with a sharp knife and store in an airtight box.
  • If you can exercise the self-control, the flavour of this fudge is best if first allowed to mature for 24 hours, which gives the flecks of vanilla seeds time to release their aromas.

Meringue Cake

Meringue Cake

Wotchers!

I wasn’t sure whether to put this up as a recipe as it seems a little ordinary, but then again, not everything in life has to be complicated. Especially if it is delicious. As this undoubtedly is.

This actually started out as a cake of a much different pedigree, and I’m going to show you the recipe that initially caught my eye: A version of the famous Kiev Cake. I’m not going to steal the author’s content, so you will have to click on the link to see all the stunning photographs. And they really are spectacular. AND the author has included step-by-step photos. I even made the cake as described. I just didn’t like it.

My reasons, which I freely admit are entirely subject to my own fickle tastes, were that it was too sweet, I found the nuts unnecessary and the sponge cake itself was too dry, even with the soaking syrup. If you have a sweet tooth and a love of nuts, you will adore the Kiev cake and the linked recipe is certainly a stunner, it was just not for me.

However, I thought the general idea had merit and so went through the creation of several versions, trying to refine the flavours and textures. In the end, the simplest idea was the best: sponge, cream, fruit, meringue.

Essentially, this is a Victoria Sponge filled with Eton Mess, but it is also extremely versatile in that this basic idea can be used and re-used in a multitude of ways, by simply varying the flavours of the cake and the fruit. In the summer months, it can take advantage of the range of fresh soft fruits and berries available either in the shops or to pick yourself. In the colder months, it can be whipped up using fruit tinned in either light syrup or fruit juice. In fact, a store-cupboard with a tin of fruit and a pack of meringue nests and a pot of cream in the fridge renders this cake a treat that can be enjoyed in about an hour from start to finish.

Hang on a minute, I hear you say – an hour? To make and cook a whole cake? Why yes – because it doesn’t HAVE to be a large cake – see below.

Mini Meringue Cakes

Vwa – as they say – la!

The perfect combination of soft sponge, crunchy meringue, sweet-sharp fruit and fresh, billowy cream.

NB If you’re using fresh fruit, then you will need a little preparation in order to bring out their best flavour and also avoid the tricksy problem of juice. See recipe instructions below.

Meringue Cake

Much of this recipe depends on the size of cake you want to make. Choose quantities accordingly. The amounts given are for a medium-sized single cake.

Victoria Sponge

170g unsalted butter, softened
170g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract/paste
200g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
milk

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan.
  • Grease and line your tin with parchment paper.
  • Beat the butter until light and fluffy.
  • Add the sugar and beat for 5 minutes.
  • Add the eggs one by one, whisking thoroughly before adding the next.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder together, then add to the other ingredients, mixing only enough to combine.
  • Stir through milk until the mixture achieves a dropping consistency.
  • Pour mixture into the prepared tin and smooth over.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes until risen and golden, and beginning to shrink away from the sides of the tin.
  • Allow to cool in the tin for 10m minutes before removing and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Fruit

You can choose almost any fruit that takes your fancy, in whatever quantities you like, because any extra can be served alongside your cake as an added bonus.

Tinned fruit can be found in both juice and syrup. Both are fine and have the advantage of no juice problem, once drained. If your meringue/cream/fruit mixture needs a little sweetening, or it’s a bit stiff, you can add a little juice/syrup rather than raw sugar.

Fresh fruit is equally delicious, but requires you to address the problem of juice. This isn’t such a problem for small berries that you can tumble into your filling whole (blueberries, raspberries, etc), but for fruit which requires slicing (strawberries, peaches, apricots, nectarines, mango, etc.) the juice problem will become apparent as soon as it is cut. If you add chopped fruit directly into the meringue/cream mix, the juice will start to seep into the cream and will eventually turn your filling runny and unstable. Aside from the natural ooziness, the sugar in the meringue will actively draw more juice from the fruit, so in order to prevent this, you need to draw out the juice before mixing it into your filling. This is easily done by first preparing the fruit in small, bite-sized pieces, then sprinkling over 3-4 tablespoons of sugar and gently mixing. Set the fruit aside for 1-2 hours, and you will find that the drawn juice has created a delicious syrup and the fruit has softened and sweetened indulgently. Drain the fruit thoroughly from the syrup before adding to the meringue and cream. Use the syrup to sweeten the mixture, or soak the cake, or not at all.

Meringue

If you have egg-whites to spare, then you can always whip up a batch of meringues yourself, but I’ve found that the extended shelf-life of ready-made meringues make for a great store-cupboard stand-by. I’ve used both meringue nests and tub of meringue ‘kisses’ and, provided you don’t assemble the cake too far in advance, they both provide the sweet, textured crunch the filling requires. In terms of quantities, it is very much to your own personal tastes, but as a rough guide I would suggest 4 meringue nests or 1/2 a tub of meringue kisses for a cake serving 6-8 people.

Cream

You can use double or whipping cream, however I find that double cream whips up firmer and adds just the right amount of stability to get a good,clean slice when serving. 300ml is probably sufficient, but whisk up more if you think it might be required.

To assemble the cake

  • Drain the (tinned or fresh) fruit from the syrup.
  • Slice the cake horizontally.
  • Soak the cut surfaces with syrup from the fruit (optional).
  • Whip the cream.
  • Add the fruit and crumbled meringues to the cream and fold in.
  • Taste and add more fruit syrup if required.
  • Spread over the bottom half of the cake and add the top layer of cake.
  • Dust lightly with icing sugar and serve.