What better Autumn teatime treat could there be than a slice of sweetly spiced loaf cake baked with butternut squash and sweet dried apricots? This cake is deliciously moist (sorry, I don’t have another word for it!) and a little like a fruitier carrot cake. […]
Happy summer solstice everyone! It’s the longest day of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, which means more hours of daylight (and hopefully sunshine) and as far as I’m concerned that’s cause for celebration. One year (a really, really long time ago) I actually spent the summer solstice at Stonehenge, which really was quite a party!
I think this cake is a perfect celebration of summer with all those juicy seasonal berries, it actually reminds me a little bit of a Swedish Midsummer Cake. It’s essentially a gussied-up Victoria sponge but with white chocolate frosting that makes it just a little bit more special. Whether you’re celebrating the solstice or not, how could you resist a slice of this!?
the weight of the eggs (inc shells) in butter, sugar and self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tbsp milk
zest of 1 lemon
150g mixed berries (whatever is in season)
1/2 tbsp cornflour
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp cornflour
100g white chocolate
100g butter, room temperature
extra berries to decorate
Pre-heat your oven to 180°c and grease two sandwich tins. Place a disc of baking parchment in the base of each just to be extra certain that nothing is going to stick.
Weigh your eggs, in their shells so that you know how much flour, butter and sugar you’ll need.
Sift together the flour and baking powder a couple of times and set it aside. This will get plenty of air into it.
Beat together the lemon zest, butter and sugar until it is pale, thick and fluffy, this should take a minute or two using a hand or stand mixer.
Lightly beat each egg and mix them into the butter and sugar one at a time. Follow each one with a spoonful of the flour and beat it well. Sift the remaining flour into the batter in two batches and carefully fold it in.
Finally stir in the milk to loosen the mixture to a nice soft dropping consistency. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two prepared tins and level off the tops. Bake them in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes. Once the time is up open the oven door and test that the sponges are cooked with a skewer. Give them another minute or two if it doesn’t come out clean. They should feel light and springy once they are cooked.
Put the cooked sponges on a wire rack and let them cool in the tins for five minutes then turn them out on the rack and carefully remove the greaseproof paper. Allow them to completely cool before you fill them.
Whilst the cakes bake and cool you can make the filling and frosting so that they have time to cool too.
Combine the berries with the sugar, cornflour and lemon juice in a small pan. Heat the fruit
until it starts to break down a little and the juices thicken to create a jammy compote. Leave to cool and thicken.
Next it’s onto the frosting. Whisk together the sugar, flour and cornflour in a small saucepan. Stir in the milk, making sure that it’s all well blended and then set the pan over a low heat. Gently heat the mixture, stirring continuously, until it starts to bubble and forms a very thick custard. Set this aside to cool completely. Melt the chocolate and let this cool too.
Put the cold custard mixture into a bowl and beat it with an electric mixer until it is slightly aerated. Beat in the melted chocolate and then follow this with the butter, adding a little at a time until it is all incorporated and you have a nice thick, fluffy frosting.
To assemble the cake place one of the sponges on a serving plate and spread it with the berry compote. Top this with half of the frosting and then sandwich on the second sponge. Use the remaining frosting to decorate the top, spreading it smoothly and just lightly grazing the sides of the cake. Finish it off by piling some pretty, fresh berries into the centre of the cake and adding a quick dusting of icing sugar.
It wasn’t until I travelled to Charleston SC that I thought of praline being anything more than the chocolate seashells that Mr Colonial Cravings receives for Christmas every year. But in Charleston we tried some very tasty crunchy little clusters of caramelised pecans. I think the European ones are usually made from almonds or hazelnuts and ground very finely before they become those little chocolatey indulgences. The caramelised pecan version are what I associate with praline and cream ice cream, the inspiration for this cake!
I’ve shamelessly hijacked the decoration idea from the mojito cake that Jax shared with us all this summer (although hers was far neater than mine!)
350g plain flour
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
50g cocoa powder
120g butter (softened)
pinch of salt
375g icing sugar
3 tbsp cream
Start by making the praline so that it has plenty of time to cool and become crunchy. Cover a sheet pan with oiled foil or a silicone mat and set it aside. Put the sugar in a wide non-stick pan and gently heat it until it melts and caramelises. If you want to decorate the top of the cake with any whole pecans then set them aside now and roughly chop the rest. Carefully stir these into the caramel and immediately pour them out onto the prepared tray. Leave these to cool and harden whilst you bake the sponge.
Pre-heat the oven to 190°c and grease and line three 18cm (or similar) sandwich tins. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa in a large mixing bowl and then whisk in the sugar and salt. Beat the butter into the mix.
In a separate jug whisk together the eggs and milk. Beat the liquid into the dry ingredients in two batches and then divide the batter between the three prepared tins and level off the tops. Bake the sponges for 20 minutes, by which time they should have risen nicely. Let them cool in the tins for a couple of minutes and then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Soften the butter for the frosting by beating it a little. Add the icing sugar and cream and beat again until you have a thick fluffy frosting. Now to crack on with the cake construction!
If necessary trim the sponges to give them nice level tops and then sandwich them together with about a quarter of the buttercream between each layer. Use the remaining buttercream to coat the top and side of the cake. Make the top nice and smooth but don’t worry about the side too much as long as there’s enough frosting coating them for the praline to stick.
Put the caramelised pecans into a food processor and pulse them until they are quite finely chopped. Gently pat them into the sides of the cake, making sure that they stick in a nice even layer. Decorate the top of the cake with any pecans that you set aside earlier or just leave it plain.