Layered almond and lemon cake with berries and mascarpone cream
This cake is airy with a delicate crumb and meringue mix to fold through an almond-based batter - it both tastes and looks spectacular
Preparation Time 30 mins
Cooking Time 30 mins
Total Time 60 mins
For the almond and lemon sponge:
200g caster sugar
300g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp fresh ground nutmeg
freshly grated zest of one lemon
2 tsp vanilla essence
For the filling:
500g Mascarpone cheese
1tsp vanilla essence
2 tsp caster sugar
300g fresh strawberries
Preheat the oven to 175°C. Separate six of the eggs, popping the yolks into a mixing bowl with the two remaining eggs. Whisk the egg yolks and 100g of the sugar until they are smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla essence and lemon zest and combine those with the mixture. Next, add the ground almonds and the baking powder and mix them well to combine.
Using a food mixer or handheld electric mixer, whisk the six remaining egg whites until they are fluffy and form peaks when you remove the whisk. Now add the remaining 100g of sugar a tablespoon at a time while you whisk at high speed until you get stiff, shiny peaks as if you are making a meringue. Whisk in the vinegar; this will help make the meringue mix more stable when you add it to the batter.
Add a third of the meringue mix to the batter, mixing it in well to loosen it up. Now carefully fold in another third using a metal spoon. When that is well combined, add in the final third, again folding carefully. This will make the sponge lovely and light. Butter and line the base of two 20-23cm cake tins. Spoon half the batter into each. Bake for thirty minutes without opening the oven door. After thirty minutes, stick a skewer into the centre of one of the sponges, if it comes out clean, your sponges are ready. If it is a little sticky, give them another five minutes and check again. They should be perfectly cooked after thirty minutes, but it is worth checking just in case your oven temperature is a little off. When the sponges are done, remove from the oven and allow to cool a little before removing them from the tins.
When they are fully cooled, cut each sponge in half to make four layers for your cake. Do not torture yourself trying to get perfectly even halves here, I think they look great even if they are little uneven.
In a big bowl, whisk the cream, vanilla essence, and sugar until it is a little stiff. Add the Mascarpone cheese and whisk to a smooth, thick cream. Now slice about half of the strawberries, keeping some nice ones to decorate the top of the cake. Cut some of the blackberries in half now too, also keeping the remaining half for the top of the cake.
Start to assemble the cake. Spread some Mascarpone cream over one layer and add some of all the different berries. Add another layer of cake, cream & berries, and then repeat once more. Now add a final generous layer of cream to the top of your cake. Cut some of the bigger strawberries in half with the stalks still on and pile all the remaining berries high on top of your cake for a spectacular finish.
Strawberry and blueberry crumble
This crumble is delectably and simple to make - enjoy the incorporated fresh berries with ice cream for a summertime treat
Preparation Time 10 mins
Cooking Time 10 mins
Total Time 20 mins
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
For the crumble:
a handful of flaked almonds
Halve and quarter 350g of the strawberries. Pop them into a small pan along with the blueberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Simmer over a low heat for five to minutes until they are soft but still holding their shape, then take them off the heat.
Warm your oven to 180°C. In a bowl, rub together the flour, butter, and sugar until you get a clumpy breadcrumb-like texture. Mix in the flaked almonds. Hull and quarter the rest of the strawberries. Put a layer of strawberries in an ovenproof dish and spoon over the warm berry compote. Scatter the crumble mixture over the top.
Bake for ten minutes, until the crumble is nicely toasted. Serve with some whipped cream, or better yet, some tangy Greek yoghurt. The tartness of the yoghurt works beautifully with this warm, sweet crumble.
You can make this all in one go or make it up portion by portion on demand. Just choose an ovenproof dish that is right for the portion size you want. You can even save any unused compote and uncooked crumble and have a lovely second helping whenever you want one. It will keep well in the fridge for a few days. A gorgeous dessert ready to be baked in minutes whenever you fancy some.
Strawberry and feta salad with pear and pecans
Salty feta with sweet fresh fruit, spinach leaves, candied pecans and a beautiful balsamic and olive oil dressing – an irresistible summer salad
Preparation Time 10 mins
Cooking Time 8 mins
Total Time 18 mins
200g fresh baby spinach
1 ripe pear
80g pecan nuts
125g feta cheese
60ml olive oil
30ml balsamic vinegar
25g caster sugar
Heat the sugar in a small pan over a high heat until it melts and caramelises slightly. Toss in the pecans and coat them in the light caramel. Leave them in the pan with the heat off for a few minutes before turning them out onto a non-stick baking tray to cool. If you want a slightly simpler approach, just toast the pecans in the oven at 180°C, sprinkled with a little sugar, for eight to ten minutes and then allow them to cool. The pan method does give a better flavour though.
Wash the spinach and the fruit. Thinly slice the pear, removing the core. Hull the strawberries and cut them into wedges.
Put the olive oil, balsamic & honey into a clean jar. Use a good balsamic, these days that does not have to cost a fortune and it is worth it. Add a little salt & pepper, pop on the lid and shake it well to mix the dressing.
Put the spinach into a large salad bowl. Add the pears and half the strawberries. Next, add half the pecans and crumble over the feta before adding the remaining strawberries and pecans.
Just before you serve, add the dressing, and toss the salad at the table.
Strawberry and rhubarb pavlova
Crisp meringue and sweet cream with sweet fresh strawberries and rhubarb roasted in orange and honey - a match made in heaven
Preparation Time 30 mins
Cooking Time 2 hours 15 mins
Total Time 2 hours 45 mins
150g caster sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla essence
a bunch of rhubarb, about 400g
1 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
Separate the eggs. Whisk the whites until they are stiff with nice peaks. With your mixer still running at high speed, gradually add the sugar a tablespoon at a time until you have a glossy, stiff mixture. Do not over whip it though, you want a creamy, smooth mixture with stiff, glossy peaks. Just before the meringue is ready, add the vinegar and mix that through.
Heat your oven to 120°C. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Spread half of the meringue mixture onto each, forming discs about 25cm in diameter. Bake for two hours and then turn off the oven. Use a wooden spoon to hold the oven door slightly ajar and leave the meringue in there until the oven is completely cool.
Hull and quarter half of the strawberries. Add them to a pan with the lemon juice and one teaspoon of caster sugar. Cook over a medium heat until the strawberries are soft, and the juices reduce down to a runny jam-like consistency. Take the pan off the heat and allow the compote to cool completely.
Trim the rhubarb and cut it into 3cm long pieces. Toss it in the zest and half the juice of the orange, along with a tablespoon of honey. Bake the rhubarb in your oven at 180°C for about fifteen minutes, then remove it from the tray and low it to cool. If you like, you can bake the rhubarb at the same time as the meringue, just give it about thirty minutes at that lower temperature until it is soft and cooked through but still holding its shape.
Whip the cream along with two teaspoons of caster sugar and one teaspoon of vanilla essence. Wash the strawberries, cutting some in half, keeping the stalks attached. These are for the top of your pavlova. Hull and slice the rest.
Place one meringue on a serving platter. Spread generously with the Chantilly cream, and add the roasted rhubarb. Add the top layer of meringue, spreading that with the last of the cream. Now spoon over the strawberry sauce. Pile on the sliced strawberries, top off with the halved berries, and if you fancy it some fresh blackberries or flaked almonds for decoration.
You can prepare most of the elements for this dessert ahead of time. If you wish, bake the meringue, roast the rhubarb, and make the strawberry compote the night before you need the pavlova. You can then whip the cream, prepare the fresh fruit, and assemble the pavlova just before you are ready to serve it. Do not leave this dessert to stand for too long before serving it though, or the meringue will lose its crisp texture.