Louise Cake with Plum and Coconut
This is inspired by (but completely different than!) the Louise cake: a hugely popular teatime treat in New Zealand. More of a slice than a cake, it’s traditionally made with a thin cakey bottom, a spread of raspberry jam in the middle, and a thin layer of coconut meringue on top. We’ve kept the layers but made a lot of changes.
We sell this in our shops as a “summer slice,” using the best stone fruits, from plums to peaches to apricots to cherries, depending on what’s in season. Whichever fruit you use, it needs to be ripe but not too soft.
½ c plus 1 T unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ¾-inch cubes
½ c granulated sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (1 tsp)
3 large egg yolks
1 c all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
3 T finely shredded coconut
⅓ c whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 dark red plums, ripe but firm (1 lb), or peaches, apricots, cherries, and so on
½ c sliced almonds
5 oz egg whites (from 3 ½ large eggs)
⅛ tsp salt
¾ c plus 3 T granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp cornstarch
(1) Preheat the oven to 350°.
(2) Spread out the sliced almonds for the meringue on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, until they are a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
(3) Increase the oven temperature to 375°. Line the base and sides of a high-sided 8-inch square or a 9-inch round springform pan with parchment paper.
(4) Place the butter, sugar, and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on medium-high speed, until light and creamy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and beat until combined. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together into a bowl. Add the coconut and stir to combine. With the machine running on a low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, alternating with the milk and vanilla extract. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan — it will rise only about a fifth of the way up the sides — and smooth the top evenly. Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, until the cake is fully cooked and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
(5) Meanwhile, slice each plum vertically in half. Discard the pits and slice each half into four segments so that you have eight segments per plum and forty segments in total. If you start with a larger quantity of smaller plums or another smaller stone fruit like cherries, then just quarter each fruit.
(6) When the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 350°. Gently lay the plum segments on top of the cake, close together and cut-side down. Don’t overlap the fruit, though, as this will make the middle layer too watery.
(7) To make the meringue, place the egg whites and salt in the clean bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Beat on medium-high speed for about 1 minute until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat on high speed until the egg whites are stiff and glossy. Add the vanilla extract, vinegar, and cornstarch and whisk again until combined. Finally, fold in the toasted sliced almonds.
(8) Scrape the meringue into the cake pan, on top of the plums, and spread out evenly over the fruit. Swirl the meringue around so you get rough waves and peaks, then place in the oven and bake for 35 minutes, or until the meringue has formed a hard crust and is just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the cake pan for 30 minutes before pushing up the removable base (or removing the sides) to release the cake. Peel away the parchment paper, place on a platter, and serve.
Traditionally, Louise cakes are baked in rectangular pans and cut into fairly thin squares. We’ve made ours in a high-sided 8-inch square pan with a removable base. The resulting slices are about three times the height of the original. We love the height — it makes everyone feel like a kid when presented with a slice — but you can also make it in a 9-inch round springform pan instead, if necessary. Wedges are not as neat to cut as squares, but the cake will still work well.
The cake is at its best on the day it’s made, but is absolutely fine kept for up to 2 days in an airtight container in the fridge. The plum juice will make the base a bit soggy after day one, but this won’t affect the taste.
Belinda’s Flourless Coconut and Chocolate Cake
Every month or so, we gather in the test kitchen with our pastry chefs. It’s an open forum, with the chefs presenting their offerings, which we then taste and discuss. It’s always exciting, as ideas are constantly being improved and implemented. This cake was a product of one of those meetings, brought to the table by Franceska Venzon, herself inspired by Belinda Jeffery’s version of the cake. We’ve played around with the shape — baking it in a loaf pan — and added a chocolate ganache, but the base is all Belinda’s.
There’s something about a cake showcasing its flourlessness or gluten-free nature that can often make it sound a little bit lacking. Unfairly so, in a case like this, where the feeling of eating it is the very opposite of “free from”; it’s utterly buttery and decadent.
¾ c plus 2 T unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
1 ¼ c granulated sugar
⅔ c finely shredded coconut
Scraped seeds of 1 vanilla pod
¼ tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 ⅔ c almond meal
2 oz dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa solids) roughly chopped into ⅓-inch pieces
2 T granulated sugar
1 T light corn syrup
3 T water
Scraped seeds of ¼ vanilla pod
1 ½ T unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ¾-inch cubes
(1) Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease the base and sides of a standard 8 ½ x 4 ½-inch loaf pan or a 9-inch round springform pan and line with parchment paper, then set aside.
(2) Place the butter, sugar, coconut, vanilla seeds, and salt in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Turn the speed to low, add the almond meal and mix until just combined.
(3) Scrape the mixture into the pan and bake for 40 minutes if using the loaf pan or 50 minutes if using the round pan, or until the cake is golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and set aside to cool in the pan before inverting onto a serving plate. Set aside until completely cool.
Make the water ganache:
(4) When you are ready to serve, place the chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside. Put the sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Stir to combine and, when the sugar has melted, increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil, stirring gently from time to time. Continue to boil for about 7 minutes, until the color is a pale amber. Remove from the heat and carefully pour in the water. Don’t worry if the mix seizes; just return the pan to the heat, add the vanilla seeds, and stir gently and continuously until it returns to a boil and the sugar has melted again. Remove from the heat and wait for a minute before pouring the water-caramel over the chocolate. Allow to stand for about 3 minutes, then whisk to combine. Add the butter, a couple of cubes at a time, whisking after each addition. Continue until all the butter has been added, whisking to combine until the consistency is that of thick syrup.
(5) Spread the ganache over the top of the cake, letting it run down the sides a little, and serve.
This will keep well for up to 5 days in an airtight container. It can be eaten on the day of making, but we think it tastes even better served at room temperature the following day.
Cinnamon Pavlova, Praline Cream, and Fresh Figs
This is a stunning dessert for a special occasion. It also has a nice element of surprise, as the meringue base is not quite what you might expect: gooey — almost toffee-like — rather than dry and crispy. This is due to the brown sugar in the mix. Combined with the praline cream and fresh figs, it’s absolutely delicious. Pavlova is the dessert to make when you have a bit of time and are feeding people you adore. This recipe calls for sliced almonds, but you can easily substitute chopped pistachios (as pictured opposite).
4 ½ oz egg whites
(from 3 large eggs)
½ c plus 1 ½ T granulated sugar
½ c plus 1 T packed dark
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 oz dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa solids), finely chopped
½ c sliced almonds
⅓ c plus 2 tsp granulated sugar
2 T water
¾ c plus 2 T heavy cream
1 ⅔ c mascarpone
1 lb 5 oz fresh figs,
cut into ⅓-inch disks
3 T honey
¼ c sliced almonds or shelled pistachio kernels
(1) Preheat the oven to 350°.
(2) Spread out all the almonds (for the praline and finishing) on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 7–8 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven, divide into two piles (½ c for the praline cream, ¼ c for finishing) and set aside to cool. Alternatively, if using pistachios for the meringue, roast the nuts for the meringue and praline separately.
(3) To make the meringue, lower the oven temperature to 250°. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper and trace a circle, about 9 inches in diameter, onto the paper. Turn the paper over so the drawn-on side is facing down but still visible.
(4) Pour enough water into a medium saucepan so that it rises a quarter of the way up the sides; you want the bowl from your electric mixer to be able to sit over the saucepan without touching the water. Bring the water to a boil. Place the egg whites and both sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk by hand to combine. Lower the heat under the saucepan so that the water is just simmering, then set the mixer bowl over the pan, making sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. Whisk the egg whites continuously by hand until they are warm, frothy, and the sugar is melted, about 4 minutes, then transfer back to the mixer with the whisk attachment in place, and beat on high speed for about 5 minutes, until the meringue is cool, stiff, and glossy. Add the cinnamon and beat to combine.
(5) Spread the meringue inside the drawn circle, creating a nest by making the sides a little higher than the center. Place in the oven and bake for 3 hours, then switch off the oven but leave the meringues inside until they are completely cool; this will take about 2 hours. Once cool, remove from the oven and set aside.
(6) Place the chocolate into a small heatproof bowl and set it over a small saucepan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl is not touching the water. Stir occasionally until melted. Let cool slightly, then brush the chocolate inside the meringue nest, leaving the top and sides bare. Do this gently, as the meringue is fairly delicate. Leave to set for about 2 hours.
(7) To make the praline cream, place the ½ c toasted almonds on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and set aside. Put the granulated sugar and water into a small saucepan and place over medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar has melted. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until it turns into a dark golden brown caramel. Pour the caramel over the nuts (don’t worry if they’re not all covered) and leave until completely cool and set. Once cool, transfer the praline to the small bowl of a food processor and process until fine.
(8) Place the cream, mascarpone, and pulverized praline into a large bowl and whisk for about 1 minute, until stiff peaks form. Be careful not to overwhip here — it doesn’t take much to thicken up — or it will split. (If this begins to happen, use a spatula to fold a little more cream into the mix to bring it back together.) Refrigerate until needed.
(9) Spoon the cream into the center of the meringue and top with the figs. Warm the honey in a small saucepan and stir in the ¼ c almonds or pistachios. Drizzle these over the figs and serve.
The praline (after pulverizing but before it’s mixed with the cream) can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container. The meringue needs to be made in advance — it takes 3 hours to cook, 2 hours to cool in the oven, and another 2 hours to set, so you’re forced to get ahead by at least this much — but it will also keep for up to 3 days wrapped loosely in aluminum foil.
Once assembled, the pavlova should be eaten as soon as possible. It will hold for a couple of hours, but it won’t look as good after that.