The recipe I have for you this week is more a set of guidelines that can be adapted to whatever takes your fancy or whatever you have to hand in the cupboards.
These individual cakes were inspired by a picture I saw of a Swiss cake, the Zuger Kirchetorte, which looked delightfully neat and elegant, as one might expect of the Swiss. I tried several recipes, but became increasingly frustrated by my own ham-fistedness in reproducing the elegance: the sponge was too thick, or the meringue too thin, or too soft or too fragile. In addition, it had a LOT of alcohol in it, which is nice for a special occasion but a bit much during daylight hours.
So I abandoned that idea for something smaller, which owes its composition to the Zuger Kirchetorte, but is also much more adaptable: you can dress it up or down, depending on whatever is to hand, even improvise with ready-made components if time or patience is short.
Essentially, these individually-sized cakes are sandwiches, with a dacquoise (hazelnut meringue) as the ‘bread’ and sponge cake as the ‘filling’, all stuck together and decorated with the sandwich ‘glue’ of your choice. The look substantial, but are very light to eat.
The possibilities for variation are endless:
- Meringue: I’ve used a hazelnut dacquoise but you could swap those out for pistachios, almonds, walnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts. You could even use plain meringue, or meringue shells from the supermarket. Alongside this, you can choose to flavour the meringues by adding in freeze-dried fruit powder to complement your other ingredients.
- Sponge: literally any sponge will do, plain vanilla, rich madeira, moist almond, fatless, genoise, joconde, flavoured however you like.
- Syrup: to make your sponge luscious and tender, you can soak it in a syrup of some kind. If you don’t want to have too many flavours, then a simple sugar syrup of half sugar, half water is fine. Or you can add flavouring to the syrup such as coffee, tea infusions, fruit juices, spirits such as Kirch, Maraschino, Disaronno, mead, madeira, rum, brandy, etc.
- Filling: I’ve used a dark chocolate ganache, to be honest, because I had some in the fridge left over from something else, but milk, white and caramelised are all good choices too, as are all flavours of buttercream. For simplicity, you can also use chocolate hazelnut spread, peanut butter (smooth or crunchy), spekuloos spread, even thick, smooth jams or fruit spreads.
- Garnish: for the outsides of the cake, something that will stick on easily and match your other flavour choices. I chose nibbed and toasted hazelnuts, because I used them in the dacquoise, but you could use flaked or slivered nuts, feuilletine, crumbled biscuits, freeze-dried fruit, chocolate sprinkles, meringue crumbs, chocolate shards.
I used baking rings made from small tinned food tins (5cm diameter tins from mushy peas, in case you’re wondering) opened at both ends, but these quantities will also make one large, 24cm cake if you prefer.
Dacquoise Sandwich Cakes
Makes 8 individual sandwiches or 1 large 24cm cake.
For the Sponge
You can choose your own favourite sponge recipe if preferred. This fatless sponge recipe also happens to be gluten-free.
2 large eggs
60 g of caster sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp hot water
50 g Green & Black’s cocoa
30 g of cornflour
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Grease and line your tin(s) with baking parchment. Butter the parchment.
- Sift the cocoa and cornflour together.
- Whisk the eggs, sugar, water and salt together over a saucepan of hot water for 3-4 minutes, until light and frothy.
- Remove from the heat and whisk until billowy and increased in volume (about 5 minutes).
- Gradually fold in half the cocoa and cornflour, then add the remainder and fold in.
- Transfer to your tin(s), filling each about half-way.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes (20-25 minutes for a large cake) until firm and springy and slightly shrunk from the sides.
- Cool on a wire rack.
For the Dacquoise
You can grind the hazelnuts finer, but I like the texture the slightly larger pieces give.
2 large eggwhites (80ml)
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbs cornflour
60 g chopped, toasted hazelnuts
- Turn the oven to 120°C, 100°C Fan.
- Draw 16 circles using your baking rings as a guide onto a sheet of parchment, 2 for each sandwich.
- Turn the paper over and lay onto a baking sheet.
- Whisk the egg-whites to soft peaks, then sprinkle in the caster sugar and whisk until the meringue is firm and glossy.
- Sift the icing sugar and cornflour together and fold into the meringue.
- Sprinkle in the nuts and briefly mix.
- Spoon the dacquoise onto the prepared baking parchment and spread into the marked circles. Make sure it at least reaches the edges of the circles. It doesn’t have to be too accurate, as they can be trimmed after baking. Smooth over.
- Bake for 1 hour.
- Switch off the oven and allow the meringues to cool in the oven for 15 minutes, then prop the oven door open and allow to cool completely.
- When cold, remove from the parchment and store in a ziplock bag until required.
For the Ganache
300g plain dark chocolate
150ml double cream
- Chop the chocolate into small pieces.
- Pour the cream into a small pan and bring to a boil.
- Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and set aside for 5 minutes.
- Stir gently with a whisk until the chocolate is fully melted and the ganache smooth and glossy.
For the syrup
50g caster sugar
flavouring to suit
- Put the sugar and water into a small pan and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved.
- Add any flavouring to taste.
- Select the eight meringues with the smoothest bases and set aside. These will be used for the top of the sandwiches, for a neat finish.
- Put the remaining meringues on a tray and spoon over a layer of ganache.
- Trim the cakes level and set onto the ganache.
- Soak with the sugar syrup. It’s almost impossible to use too little. You can see from the photograph the syrup I used only soaked a little way into the sponge, so more is better.
- Add a second layer of ganache.
- Add the remaining meringues, turning them upside down, so that the smooth bases are uppermost.
- Sprinkle your decor into a tray.
- Spread the remaining ganache in a smooth layer around the sides of the sandwiches then roll in your chosen decoration. Set aside. If you’ve made one large cake, then hold your cake on one hand and lift up handfuls of your decoration and press into the sides.
- When all the sandwiches are coated, transfer to a dish and cover with clingfilm. This will keep the meringues from absorbing too much moisture.
- Chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours to firm up.
- When ready to serve, dust the tops liberally with icing sugar and use a hot skewer to caramelise the sugar in an abstract design.
I’ve had several requests for the recipe for my showstopper from the Christmas Bake Off episode shown on Christmas Day.
Whilst I could just copy/paste from the document I submitted to the production company, it would make this post enormous and you’d be scrolling for days. In addition, it would take a full four hours of constant making/baking and multitasking in order to replicate the cake in its entirety. I suggest cherry-picking your favourite and having something a lot less stressful in a pleasingly short amount of time.
Instead, I’ll reveal the full extent of my CREATIVITY and CUNNING by pointing out – that the majority of the showstopper can be assembled from recipes already on the blog. Much in the same way as <insert trademarked brand of interlocking toy bricks here>, I took bits from here and there and used them to create the various components of the finished recipe.
The reasons were numerous:
- requirements of the brief (numerous)
- limited planning time (3 weeks)
- strictness of guidelines (extreme)
- decoration exclusions (numerous)
- time limit (4 hours)
But mostly to demonstrate that it is possible to rearrange favourite recipes that you already know how to make into something new and exciting and delicious. So I made a whole bunch of things and then put them together into one cake.
Below is the running order of things I had to make and where I got the original idea.
My Christmas Cakey-Bakey Make Order
- Chocolate Joconde – used a double quantity of this recipe, but with 80g cocoa and no flour, making it both really chocolate-y and gluten-free
- Spice Joconde – a double quantity of the same joconde recipe, but with 225g dark muscovado sugar instead of the icing sugar and just 70g plain flour plus 2tsp each of ginger, allspice, mixed spice.
- Spekulaas crumb – made using this recipe not formed into biscuits. Bake the crumb for 8-10 minutes until crisp.
- Lemon curd & Seville Orange curd – 2 batches using the Honey Curd recipe, the lemon batch made with lemon-blossom honey, orange batch made with orange-blossom honey and the zest and juice of 2 Seville oranges.
- Vanilla Cream x 2 & Spekulaas cream – using the cream filling from this recipe, scaling up each batch by multiplying the recipe by 1.5 (so 300ml of creams, etc) and swapping the extract for 2 vanilla beans. For the spekulaas cream I omitted the vanilla/sugar and added 300g of spekulaas biscuit crumbs.
- Fill cakes, cover with cling film & chill until required. So few words describing such a major part of the process! OK, here we go:
- For the chocolate cake
- Cut three evenly-sized pieces from the two joconde sponges.
- Place one piece on a board and spread with a thin layer of vanilla cream. This will both keep the sponge moist and prevent the curd from soaking into the cake.
- Spread a second piece of sponge with a thin layer of vanilla cream.
- Put the rest of the vanilla cream into a piping bag fitted with a plain 1 or 2cm tip and pipe dots of cream around the outside edge of the cake both to give a neat appearance and to prevent the curd from leaking out.
- Pour half the Seville orange honey curd onto the middle of the cake and spread evenly.
- To prevent the next layer from ‘sagging’ in the middle, pipe a line of vanilla cream from left to right and from top to bottom, dividing the layer into quarters.
- Add the next layer of sponge using the piece of cake spread with vanilla cream. Repeat the piping around the edge and spread the remaining curd.
- Lay the remaining piece of cake on top and press gently.
- Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge (although I used the freezer due to the time limit) until required.
- For the spice cake
- As above, using the spice joconde cake, vanilla cream and lemon honey curd.
- For the spekulaas cake
- I’ve had a lot of enquiries asking for the recipe for the spekulaas cake. But here’s the thing. I didn’t make a spekulaas cake. I used 2 layers of chocolate joconde and 2 layers of spice cake, sandwiched with spekulaas crumb cream and crunchy Lotus Biscoff spread. The flavours go well together individually (chocolate/spekulaas/Biscoff, spice cake/spekulaas/Biscoff) as well as all together (chocolate/spice cake/spekulaas/Biscoff). So you could use any of these combinations to make your own version.
- Spread one piece of cake with the spekulaas cream and as with the other tiers, pipe dots of the cream around the edges.
- Zap some of the Biscoff spread briefly in the microwave, until it softens enough to pour, and use as per the fruit curd in the other tiers. Use as little or as much as you like.
- Repeat the layering as required.
- For the chocolate cake
My decoration requests were vetoed so many times, I ended up opting for a variation of something I’d seen on-line. I used strips of lace of different patterns – one was even of Christmas puddings! – and laid them over the top of the cakes, then dusted liberally with icing sugar. Due to the long interval between the end of the challenge and the judging, the icing sugar was starting to dissolve, as you can see on the photo. If you leave this until just before serving, your decoration will be crisp and clear and will wow your guests.
I’ll keep the details of the other decorations (chocolate Christmas trees & chocolate choux Christmas puddings) for another time, because there’s more than enough here to keep you out of mischief for the moment.
Have fun! 😀
I’m back from holidays and summer is over. Two completely unrelated events, I hasten to add – I am NOT responsible for the damp, muggy, drizzly weather mumbling around lately.
But the weather might have something to do with my choice of recipe this week.
As always, I return from France inspired and enthused by the food and produce and having snapped up a few books on patisserie and regional food, I was all prepared for a mammoth, cream-filled bake-a-thon. I even brought back some glorious Normandy butter to use in artery-hardening quantities.
But instead of all the frills and froth of French patisserie, it turned out that what I actually wanted was a teatime treat in the form of this fruity loaf, faithfully retrieved from a yellowing farmhouse baking book of Yore™. Mostly.
Because when I decamped to the kitchen I found that I was the proud possessor of just a single egg and the recipe called for two. I didn’t feel incined to make a trip out just for eggs, so I turned to the web to refresh my memory on apples and egg substitutes.Sure enough, about 60ml of apple puree works a treat, and one eating apple makes almost exactly 60ml of puree.
This recipe has dates and walnuts, which make for a delicious tea loaf, but can also make it a little dry, almost dusty, especially if the walnuts arent in their first flush of youth. Deliciously, the inclusion of mashed bananas helps with the moistness and the apple sauce really brightens the flavour with its freshness. Neither flavour dominates, making the loaf wonderfully flavoursome. Finally, it is brought to a rich, batter consistency by a splash-ette of lager – and indeed, Lager Loaf was the original recipe title – but that sounds too much like Lager Lout to my ears – which is far from tasty – so I feel justified in renaming it.
And it is a distinct improvement to eat spread with butter, with a cup of something hot.
Fruitbowl Tea Bread
You don’t HAVE to make this with the apple – if you have the eggs, just use two and no apple.
85g unsalted butter
1tbs golden syrup
85g soft brown or light muscovado sugar
1 sharp eating apple, e.g. Jazz or Braeburn
1 large egg
280g self-raising flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
2 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
125g chopped dates
50g walnuts, roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Grease and line a 1kg loaf tin with parchment paper. Tear off a second piece of parchment and make a fold down the middle. This piece will be used during the baking.
- Peel and core the apple, then grate finely into a small saucepan. Cover with a lid and heat gently until the apple has broken down into a puree. Sieve to remove any lumps. If you’re impatient, whizz it in a small food processor.
- Gently warm the butter, syrup and sugar either in a pan or using the microwave, until melted.
- Add the lager and apple puree, then whisk in the egg.
- Mash the bananas. Make sure your dates and walnuts are also chopped and ready.
- Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar into a bowl.
- Add the liquid mixture and stir thoroughly.
- Quickly fold through the bananas, dates and nuts and pour into the prepared tin.
- Place into the oven and prop the second piece of parchment over the tin with the fold at the top, rather like a tent. This will prevent the top of the loaf from becoming too dark during baking.
- Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the ‘tent’ and bake for a further 15-20 minutes.
- Be sure to test the cake for done-ness using a cocktail stick/skewer/cake tester before removing from the oven – the moisture in the bananas and apple will make it very moist, so be sure it’s baked all the way through, especially towards the bottom.
- Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Serve sliced and buttered, and store in an airtight container.
A bumper-fun pack of recipes for you as I bid a brief farewell for the summer – there’s too many weeds in the garden and the fruit bushes are burgeoning! I’d hate you to get bored while I’m away, so I’ve prepared a few things for you to play with in the interim.
I don’t think I’ve done drinks on the blog before, but I’ve got a trio of delicious variations on lemonade, originating in the 17th century manuscript books at the Wellcome Library. They are each wonderfully thirst-quenching and will make for a delicious treat to have in the fridge.
There’s also a sweet treat in the form of shortcake: made with the odd-looking but fantastically-flavoured flat peaches and nectarines, available just now in the supermarkets and in abundance in France where we spend summer holidays – can hardly wait! It is served with Standby Cream, made from evaporated milk and lemon juice. Obviously, cream would be first choice, but if you’re out or the cream you have has unexpectedly turned, then it’s handy to have up your sleeve – and in your cupboard. I found the recipe in an old Whitworth’s leaflet from the 1940s.
Sidebar: I cannot stress highly enough the wonderful recipes that are to be found in various vintage cooking and baking leaflets. Not all will be gems, I grant you – a prime example being Fanny Cradock’s Banana Candles – but it is worth browsing through them, however dull they appear from the cover, with the aim of spotting something delightful.
And finally, for the adventurous, an unusual dessert in the form of a gloriously vibrant beetroot tart: given an official Thumb’s Up™ by my daughter.
Mrs Yorke’s Lemonade – the best that can be made
From the recipe book of Mary Rooke, 1770s.
225g granulated sugar
225ml fresh lemon juice (from 4 juicy lemons – have 5, just in case)
Thin strips of peel from 4 lemons
900ml boiling water
450ml boiling milk
- Put the sugar, lemon juice, thinly peeled lemon peel into a bowl.
- Pour over the boiling water and stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Cover with plastic and allow to cool.
- When cold, pour in the boiling milk. NB The lemon juice will cause the milk to curdle. DON’T PANIC – THIS IS FINE.
- Cover with plastic and allow to cool, then chill overnight in the fridge.
- Strain the solids out by passing the lemonade through a fine-mesh sieve.
- Strain the lemonade finely by passing it through a jelly bag, or a double layer of muslin. Be sure to scald the muslin first by pouring boiling water over it, then squeeze out the excess moisture.
- To have your lemonade especially clear, rinse the muslin thoroughly and double the layers to 4 and pass the lemonade through it again. This will take longer than the first time, due to the greater number of layers of material.
- Taste and add more sugar if liked. For adults only, you can add 225ml of white wine. Choose one with light, citrus flavours.
- Chill thoroughly.
- Serve over ice.
Cool Summer Drink
Anon., 17th century
This is a very refreshing drink similar to an Indian lassi. The milk will tend to separate slightly, so blending the drink just before serving helps combat this.
½ tsp rosewater – I use Nielsen Massey
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 nutmeg, grated
1 sprig rosemary
1 tbs granulated sugar
Slices of lemon and sprigs of rosemary to serve
- Bruise the rosemary to release its flavour by gently tapping the leaves with a rolling-pin.
- Put all of the ingredients into a jug.
- Cover with plastic and allow to infuse for 2 hours in the fridge.
- Remove the rosemary and strain the drink by passing it through a fine-mesh sieve, which will catch any rosemary leaves that might have fallen from the stem.
- Using a stick blender or liquidiser, thoroughly mix the drink to an even consistency.
- Serve at once.
Anon., 17th century
600ml light and fresh German white wine – Liebfraumilch or Reisling
225g granulated sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
juice of 1 orange
5cm stick of cinnamon
1/4 nutmeg in 1 piece
thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, sliced thinly
- Put all of the ingredients into a pan over a low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
- Bring to the boil, cover and remove from the heat.
- Allow to steep until cold.
- Strain to remove solids and chill in the fridge until required.
- Serve over ice.
Flat Peach & Nectarine Shortcake
Flat peaches and nectarines are, almost without fail, sweet and juicy, and their flattened shape makes them much easier to eat in public and still retain some dignity. Their shape also make for perfectly sized slices for these shortcakes. These quantities will make 2 shortcakes, each of which will serve 4-6 people. If this is too large for your needs, use just half the fruit and freeze the unfilled second shortcake until wanted. The cream will not hold it’s shape indefinitely, so it is very much a whisk and serve at once ingredient.
8 flat peaches or nectarines or a mixture of the two
2-3 tbs caster sugar
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
30g caster sugar
milk to mix
200ml chilled evaporated milk
3tbs icing sugar
strained juice of 1 lemon
- Peel the fruit:
- Fill a pan of water and bring it to the boil.
- Gently drop the fruit into the hot water for 1 minute.
- Remove the fruit and place immediately in cold, preferably iced, water for 1 minute.
- Using a sharp knife, lift the skin away from the flesh and peel. The skin will come away easily.
- Slice the fruit. Discard the stones.
- Put the fruit into a bowl and sprinkle with 2-3tbs of caster sugar.
- Toss gently, and cover with plastic. Set aside for 1 hour while the shortcake is made.
- Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan.
- Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
- Put the flour, baking powder, salt, butter, sugar into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Tip the mixture into a large bowl.
- Using a round-ended knife, gradually stir in the milk until the mixture comes together into a soft dough.
- Tip the dough on to a floured surface and divide roughly in half.
- Pat each piece of dough into a circle about 15cm in diameter.
- Place dough circles onto the prepared baking sheet and brush with milk.
- Bake for 15 minutes until risen and golden.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- Put the evaporated milk and icing sugar into a bowl and whisk vigorously until light, frothy and doubled in size.
- Still whisking, add the lemon juice.
- The mixture will thicken immediately to a serving consistency.
- Cut each shortcake horizontally through the centre.
- Spoon a layer of fruit over the shortcake together with 1-2 spoonfuls of juice that will have formed.
- Top the fruit with the cream.
- Lay the top of the shortcake onto the cream and dust all with icing sugar.
The Shrewsbury Pudding Tart
Georgiana Hill, 1862
I’ve tweaked this recipe slightly and baked it in a pastry case, for ease of serving. The original method was for a buttered-and-breadcrumbed bowl. The cooking times are roughly the same. The flavour is very light and delicate, the lemon counteracting a lot of the beetroot’s sweetness.
1 x 24cm blind-baked pastry shell
225g cooked beetroot
115g unsalted butter – melted
150g icing sugar
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 2 lemons
3 large eggs
150-200g fresh white breadcrumbs
- Preheat the oven to 150°C, 130°C Fan.
- Puree the beetroot until smooth.
- Add the butter, sugar, lemon, eggs and brandy and whisk thoroughly.
- Add in the breadcrumbs BUT not all at once. You want them to absorb a lot of the moisture in the filling, which will vary depending on the freshness of the eggs and the moisture in the beetroot. You might not need all of them. The texture should be similar to a sponge cake mix, but still pourable.
- Add the filling to the pie shell and place the tin on a baking sheet.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until the filling has set. Turn the baking sheet around after 15 minutes to ensure even baking.
- Cool on a wire rack.
It’s a deliberate follow-on cake from last week’s triple stack of deliciousness in order to give you something to use up the rest of the prunes you rushed out to buy for one of the cake layers. You DID rush out and buy prunes, didn’t you? To make the cake? Hello??
This cake is also related to the Cream Cakes recipe in that it contains no butter, but instead substitutes a tin of sweetened condensed milk instead of the previous double cream, making it a fantastic store-cupboard cake. As you can see from the top picture, it’s a very light and pale sponge, which is perfect for absorbing moisture from its sweetened creme fraiche filling/coating.
Soak the prunes in warm water to make them really soft and unctuous – you can even add a little splash of booze if liked.
Allow the filled cake to mature overnight – the cake becomes melt-in-the-mouth soft and the cream sets like cheesecake – and enjoy
for breakfast with a mug of sherry tea.
Condensed Milk Cake
50ml rum/Madeira/mead/sherry/Marsala, etc. (optional)
2 large eggs
1 x 397ml tin of sweetened condensed milk
150g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
600ml reduced-fat crème fraiche
50-100g icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
- Put the prunes into a small pan and cover with cold water. Add alcohol if liked.
- Bring the pan to a simmer, then turn off the heat and allow the fruit to steep.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan.
- Grease and line a tall, 20cm cake tin with parchment.
- Whisk together the eggs and condensed milk until pale and frothy.
- Sift the baking powder and flour together, then whisk into the egg mixture.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake is risen, slightly shrunken from the sides of the tin and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out free of liquid cake mix.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- Using a balloon whisk, gently mix the icing sugar and vanilla into the crème fraiche. Don’t over-stir, as it will make the cream more liquid.
- Drain the prunes. Sort out 8-10 of the best-looking fruits to decorate the top of the cake. Cut the rest into quarters and divide into three portions.
- Cut the cooled cake into four layers.
- Put the bottom cake layer onto a serving plate and cover with a generous 2cm layer of the sweetened crème fraiche.
- Sprinkle over one of the portions of prunes.
- Repeat with the other layers and finish by coating the whole cake with the remaining cream.
- Arrange the reserved prunes over the top.
- Cover lightly with cling film and allow to mature overnight in the fridge.
- Let the cake return to room temperature before serving. Cover any unevenness in the cream coating with judicial employment of lightly-dusted cocoa powder.
Haven’t done one of these in ages – cake! An actual cake! And not a whiff of yeast to be had – yes, I’m well aware not everyone shares my current obsession andit has been a bit yeast-heavy so far this year.
So here’s a cake with a difference. Well, several differences, actually: the flavourings of the layers, the ingredients in said layers, the unusual cream sandwiching everything together…..
This recipe is adapted from something I found on a Russian message board. It’s a distant relation of the Russian Honey Cake in that it requires time to allow the cakes to soften to a delicate crumb, but since they are cake-y to start with, as opposed to biscuit-y, the whole thing ends up beautfully light.
I’ve found versions of this cake listed under a variety of names, but I’ve opted for Diplomacy Cake because the three similar-yet-different cake layers all work wonderfully well together, whilst remaining distinctively separate – which seems to me to be the very epitome of diplomacy!
The three cake layer flavourings are a little different to those we’re used to in the UK – poppyseed and walnut, prunes and chocolate chips and rich raisin. In addition, the cakes are moistened with a suitably boozy syrup before being sandwiched together with a home-made cream mixture ‘stabilised’ with gelatine. This allows the cream to retain it’s volume and become mousse-like as the moisture is absorbed into the cake layers. It is the home-made (and much nicer) equivalent of Cool Whip.
This cake is great to make ahead, if you’ve got a special event coming up, or even if you just feel like an indulgent weekend without having to spend the preceding hours making it: make it Friday night, eat for breakfast Saturday!
A word or two about the ingredients…
- Potato starch is gluten free and makes for a very light cake. You could substitute rice flour or even use 100% wheat flour. NB Dried potato is NOT the same thing at all.
- Citric acid, together with the bicarbonate of soda, reacts with the dairy to raise the cake. You can substitute with ordinary baking powder. Citric acid is available at pharmacies. You will probably be asked why you need it. It’s simplest to say you’re making lemonade.
- I’ve replaced the original sour cream with reduced-fat creme-fraiche. Feel free to reinstate it for a much more decadent cake experience.
- I used mead as the alcohol base – use whatever your favorite tipple is.
These quantities are for one cake layer. You need three layers altogether. The different flavourings are listed below the main cake recipe.
1 large egg
100g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
100g reduced fat creme fraiche
90g plain flour
35g potato starch
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp citric acid
- 50g chopped walnuts, plus 4-8tbs poppy seeds – depending how seedy you want it
- 75g ready-to-eat prunes, chopped, plus 75g chocolate chips
- 150g raisins
- Grease and line a 24cm diameter spring-form tin with baking parchment.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan.
- Whisk together the egg, sugar and vanilla until light and foamy.
- Mix in the creme fraiche.
- Sift the flours with the bicarb and citric acid.
- Gently combine the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. NB Using a balloon whisk will achieve this much more easily than folding-in with a spatula.
- Stir through the nuts and seeds/fruits.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth out evenly.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. It will be a shallow cake, no more than 3cm in height.
- Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
- Repeat twice more until all three layers have been baked.
50g caster sugar
50ml mead, rum, Baileys, whiskey, madeira, etc
- Mix the sugar and water in a pan over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
- Remove from the heat and add the alcohol.
- Set aside.
5 sheets gelatine
700g reduced-fat creme-fraiche
200g caster sugar
500g double cream
100g icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
60ml mead, rum, Baileys, whiskey, madeira, etc
- Soak the sheets of gelatine in cold water until bloomed.
- Mix the caster sugar into the creme-fraiche until just combined.
- Add the icing sugar, vanilla and alcohol to the double cream and whisk until thickened.
- Melt the bloomed gelatine in a small pan over a low heat. Add a little water or more alcohol to dilute.
- Mix the two creams thoroughly and then whisk in the gelatine. It will make for a soft cream that holds its shape when piped.
To assemble the cake:
I didn’t trim the layers to an even height, because I would probably have ended up throwing the trimmings away (and I hate waste), but you could easily trim them for a more delicate overall appearance, as well as making them more open to absorbing the soaking syrup.
- Lay the poppy seed and walnut layer onto a serving plate and brush over 100ml of the soaking syrup.
- Spread or pipe one third of the cream over the cake. It will appear quite a thick layer initially, but as the moisture is drawn into the cake overnight, it will slowly settle.
- Lay on the prune and chocolate layer and repeat with the syrup and half of the remaining cream.
- Finally place the raisin layer on the top upside down (to give a nice flat top to the cake), soak with the syrup and spread or pipe on the last of the cream.
- Cover lightly with cling film and allow to mature overnight. If you have no cool place to leave the cake, it can go in the fridge, but you should give it time next day to soften before cutting.
- Sprinkle with a little cocoa just before serving.