It was one of my closest friend’s 21st birthdays this week, and none of us had much money to buy her a really great present. Therefore, we decided to do a few homemade bits and this included me making a cake. Now we are all choco-aholics, but seeing as it was summer I didn’t want to make the same heavy recipes that I’ve been making for years. Although there are some of my real favourites in there, like oreo brownies and my special cookies, the prospect of eating them in the middle of the city in summer was not appealing. My friend is working in the city at the moment and I was also there for various interviews so we decided that we would all meet up for a birthday lunch. Now in London we’ve been experiencing not boiling temperatures, but its been pretty warm for us sun deprived Brits. All of this meant that something all together lighter was in order.
As always I had a flick through my old favourite cook books to get an idea of what to make and came across a recipe for a cake by John Whaites. I gather he gained fame from the Great British Bake Off, but I had not personally heard of him until a few Christmases ago, when I was given his cookbook. Its not a book I use much, in fact only once before with disastrous consequences. I generally like to keep things positive, focusing on foods, recipes, and books to recommend rather than being negative, but this is not a book I would recommend. Although I did significantly alter the recipe, part of that was in response to the failure of the observations and markers he suggest would manifest and did not. But different things work for different people, so maybe I’m just a Nigella girl at heart?
Despite these set backs, the cake actually turned out fabulously. A lovely mix of light and fruitiness, and according to Mr Whaites it is also very low fat, because there is no fat added (ie oil or butter) and in my version I did not add any either.
The main changes I made were adding cacao and lemon to the sponge, doing it in two tins so there is no need to cut it in half (and actually greasing the tins!), not adding blackberries to the top (they’re not low fodmap), changing the flour and sugar types, adding chocolate to the meringue layer and strawberries in the middle of the cake.
Ingredients (serves 10)
For the Sponge
130g Light Brown Muscovado Sugar
Zest of 2 Oranges
Zest of 1 Lemon
110 g Plain Gluten Free Flour (I used Dove’s Farm)
20g Cacao Powder (sifted)
For the Soaking Syrup
50g Light Brown Muscovado Sugar
Teaspoon Lemon Extract
50ml Not from Concentrate Orange Juice (using concentrate wouldn’t be the end of the world)
For the Meringue Topping/ Filling
4 Egg Whites
225g Caster Sugar
Tablespoon Cacao Powder (Sifted)
Large Handful of Strawberries thinly sliced
Strawberries, Raspberries and Blueberries to top (I also added a little edible gold spray but icing sugar works equally)
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease two round cake tins of the same size, and line with baking paper.
- To make the sponge, put the eggs, lemon and orange zests and sugar
in a heatproof bowl over a barely simmering pan of water. Whisk together the ingredients with an electric whisk, at full speed, until it is very slightly warm. Then remove from the heat and continue whisking for a further five minutes. You want it to thicken, but don’t worry if its still rather liquid.
- Then sift the flour and cacao over the top of the mixture, to form a thick layer, fold in with a wooden spoon. You need to ensure that there are no flour clumps hiding anywhere in the mix, before pouring into the prepared tins. Cook for 20 mins in the preheated oven. Remove and allow to cool fully before decorating.
- Whilst that is cooking you can make the soaking syrup, to infuse the sponge with more flavour. Put the water and sugar in a pan, and bring to the boil, let it bubble away for two minutes. Then remove from the heat. Once it has cooled, stir in the lemon extract and juice. Pour onto the sponges once they have cooled.
- To make the meringue filling and topping whisk the egg whites in a heat proof bowl. Do this until they form soft peaks which collapse easily. Be careful not to over beat.
- Then using a sugar thermometer in a sauce pan (see here if you don’t have one) heat the sugar and water initially stirring gently to combine it, until it reaches 118 degrees C or the ‘soft ball’ stage.
- Take off the heat immediately. Whilst using your electric whisk on the egg whites, gently pour the hot sugar down the side of the bowl (you may need to borrow a pair of hands for this) and combine the two. Mix until it has cooled, in about 8 minutes.
- Put about a sixth of the total meringue mixture into a separate bowl and mix in the tablespoon of cacao powder to it.
- Spoon the plain meringue on top of the first layer of cake, and place the sliced strawberries on top of that. Make sure to cover the whole cake. Then place the other cake layer on top of the strawberries and press down. Again top the cake with the plain meringue.
- To get the marbling effect, take the cacao meringue and swirl it into the plain meringue on the top of the cake. I like to do small spiralling motions that move upwards (see picture above).
- Finally top with fruit and, if you want, spray with edible gold dust or sprinkle icing sugar on top. Store in the fridge to stop it toppling.