It was my grandma’s birthday and my family had requested I make a cake for her. Something light. Something ‘healthy’.
I didn’t think there was such thing as a healthy cake but I spent my time poring over cookbooks to find one that didn’t have too much fat and wasn’t too dense and heavy. I came across this beautiful cake in Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer and since my grandma’s favourite colour is red, I thought it was quite appropriate to have plump, rosy red strawberries standing out against a white cream surface.
It all seemed to be going well except when I took my cakes out of the oven, the meringue hadn’t puffed up as I expected it to but instead had flattened down into a sugary, slightly chewy layer. I read and reread the recipe and I’m quite sure I did everything right, so anyone have any suggestions as to why my meringue didn’t puff up?
In any case, the cake was still ethereally light and sweet and sandwiched a delicious combination of lightly whipped cream and strawberry halves in the centre. It was well received even by my grandma who even ate a whole piece to herself! She usually insists she can’t eat that much and tries to offload some cake to other family members or gives it to my grandpa. I took it as a compliment that she managed to polish off her own slice of cake this time :)
adapted from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson
1 cup plain flour
3 tbsp corn flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
100g very soft unsalted butter
1 cup caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
1 punnet strawberries
1. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line, butter and flour two 22cm springform pans.
2. Combine the flour, cornstarch and baking powder into a bowl. Cream the butter and 1/3 cup of the sugar in another bowl until light and fluffy. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks into the butter and sugar, saving the whites to whisk later. Gently fold in the measured-out dry ingredients, add the vanilla, then stir in the milk to thin the batter. Divide the mixture between the two prepared springform pans.
3. Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form, then gradually add the remaining sugar. Spread a layer of meringue on top of the sponge batter in each pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the meringue begins to turn a dark gold on top. Let the cakes cool in their tins, then spring them open at the last minute when you are ready to assemble the cake.
4. Whip the cream, and hull and slice the strawberries; that’s to say, the bigger ones can be sliced lengthwise and the smaller ones halved. Invert one of the cakes on to a plate or cake stand so that the cake crumb is uppermost. Pile on the cream and stud with the strawberries, letting some of the berries subside into the whipped whiteness. Place the second cake on top, meringue upwards, and press down gently, just to secure it. Serves 8.