Strawberry Lemon Curd Cake

 

Cake Packets

A couple of weeks ago, our community held our annual International Day and Spring Fair.  This is an extravaganza where all of our various expat groups, alongside our host country, pull out the stops on their national pride.  There is a parade of national dress and flags, and then the highlight is two gymnasiums of food tables selling servings of favorite dishes from all of our representative countries.  You can very likely end up with a plate full of injera and kim chi, with a waffle on the side.  It’s weird, but fun.

The British table this year, rather than stooping to bangers and mash, sold tiny jars of lemon curd.  You can see my now empty lemon curd jar in the photo background below,  wearing its gingham cap. Having the occasion of a school bake sale, I made a couple of loaves of this moist, flavor-intense cake.  You could use any type of fruit.  The recipe calls for blueberries, but we have strawberries, and  I can imagine it with peaches or even figs.  We’re down to the dregs of our lemon season now, but next winter, when everyone is giving away their lemons again, I will use more  juice in batches of tangy lemon curd.

Both of the following recipes are from BBC Food Recipes, the British-speak just enhancing the mood.  I didn’t ice my cakes because they were so moist and nice without it.

 

Lemon Curd

  • 4 lemons, zest and juice
  • 200g or 7oz caster sugar
  • 100g or 31/2 oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 3 free-range eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  1. Put the lemon zest and juice, the sugar and the butter into a heatproof bowl. Sit the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl. Stir the mixture every now and again until all of the butter has melted.
  2. Lightly whisk the eggs and egg yolk and stir them into the lemon mixture. Whisk until all of the ingredients are well combined, then leave to cook for 10-13 minutes, stirring every now and again, until the mixture is creamy and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  3. Remove the lemon curd from the heat and set aside to cool, stirring occasionally as it cools. Once cooled, spoon the lemon curd into sterilised jars and seal. Keep in the fridge until ready to use.

 

Lemon Curd Cake

  • 175g softened butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 500ml tub Greek yogurt (you need 100ml/3½ fl oz in the cake, the rest to serve)
  • 300g jar good lemon curd (you need 2 tbsp in the cake, the rest to serve)
  • 3 eggs
  • zest and juice 1 lemon, plus extra zest to serve, if you like
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 200g punnet of blueberries (you need 85g/3oz in the cake, the rest to serve)
  • 140g icing sugar
  • edible flowers, such as purple or yellow primroses, to serve (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 160C or 320F. Grease a 2lb loaf tin and line with a long strip of baking parchment. Put 100g yogurt, 2 tbsp lemon curd, the softened butter, eggs, lemon zest, flour and caster sugar into a large mixing bowl. Quickly mix with an electric whisk until the batter just comes together. Scrape half into the prepared tin. Weigh 85g blueberries from the punnet and sprinkle half into the tin, scrape the rest of the batter on top, then scatter the other half of the 85g berries on top. Bake for 1 hr 10 mins-1 hr 15 mins until golden, and a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean.
  2. Cool in the tin, then carefully lift onto a serving plate to ice. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and stir in enough lemon juice to make a thick, smooth icing. Spread over the top of the cake, then decorate with lemon zest and edible flowers, if you like. Serve in slices with extra lemon curd, Greek yogurt and blueberries.

Lemon Curd Cake, 2

 

Barely Sweet

If you read my blog astutely, not that I expect you to, but you may have noticed that I posted Allan and I went on a trip to Slovenia and Croatia.  Now, I had every intention of giving day by day coverage of our discoveries, but I forgot the charger for my camera and I burned out the battery on day 2.  Without photos, let’s face it you don’t have much of a blog.  I took some pictures with Allan’s phone and I may dribble those out over time, but I missed the big photo op.

But maybe it’s better this way.  Maybe Slovenia and Croatia just became part of me and I will reveal how they changed me through small revelations.  That is actually true, and I noticed that tonight.  I always have a quart of strawberries in my fridge these days because they are so beautiful and abundant in Tunisia, right now.  We don’t eat much dessert at our house, but the weather has turned chilly again, and the sea is stormy, and Allan and I aren’t feeling our best, so our son made a gorgeous chicken soup with homemade dumplings for dinner.  I decided I could at least contribute a little cake to have with our strawberries.  I saw a recipe today for a cornmeal cake, which I hoped would be like just about every dessert we had on our trip:  barely sweet.  The desserts were heavily fruit laden, think strudel,  with just a hint of sweetness.  I commented several times that the dessert could almost be a side dish.  This cornmeal cake has that very touch of sweetness and a really nice corn crunchiness (I used a coarsely ground cornmeal), while being fork tender at the center.  It was just what I wanted to have.

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Cornmeal Cake with Strawberries

From Fresh From the Farmers’ Market by Janet Fletcher

  • Unsalted butter and cornmeal for preparing the pan
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 6 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan with 2-inch sides, then dust with cornmeal, shaking out excess.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the cake flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
  3. With an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy.  Add sugar gradually and beat, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice, until creamy and light.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add lemon zest.
  4. Combine milk and vanilla extract.  With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with milk.  Beat just until blended, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice.  Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
  5. Bake until top is golden brown and firm to the touch, 35-40 minutes.
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Mini-Strawberry Tarte Tatins

My friend Annie, at work today, whooshed past me as I was waiting to scan and send some recommendation letters.  She turned back and said, “Do you want to do some cooking with strawberries?”  My mind was far away from cooking at that moment and I wasn’t even sure I had heard her correctly, so I weakly smiled and dumbly nodded and she walked away.  But I do,  I do want to do some cooking with strawberries, still.  We have had strawberries for several months, now.  All winter I associated strawberries with the tonic flavors of winter:  fennel, leeks, spinach, and citrus.  By the way, I never get tired of that combination and we still have fat, ox-blood colored berries trying to catch our attention in the entryways of the produce stalls and I still cannot resist them.

Strawberries, however,  are verging on a danger zone for me.  It’s May now and a mythical place called Whatcom County, Washington is beginning to awaken from its dormancy in my brain.  I am pretty effective at cryogenically freezing that attachment when I have to be away all year, but I’m past the winter season here and the next encounter with strawberries will be in Washington and we will be right back into the shortcakes, jam, and I hope this summer, ice cream and then we will be with our sons, and our other side friends and family, worshipping the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the violet, solstice sunsets.

This was a recipe I piloted during the cook-a-thon that was the month of April.  It is from Donna Hay who, God bless her, keeps everything as simple as can be.  Even working with pastry.  I also love her committed use of vanilla beans with strawberries and it is a combination I insist on now, too.  This comes together easily and don’t think twice about buying puff pastry from the store which means, do that.  I am an advocate of making a lot of things at home, but puff pastry is not one of those things.  I’ve tried.  Warning, these boil over so bake them on a lined baking sheet.

Mini-Strawberry Tarte Tatins

Donna Hay, Issue 60

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp water
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 2 pints strawberries
  • 1 pkg. frozen puff pastry

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place the butter, sugar, water, and vanilla in a small nonstick or glazed pan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Bring to the boil and cook for 2-3 minutes, remove from the heat and compost the vanilla bean.

Divide the strawberries between 4 x 3/4 cup capacity, lightly greased muffin tins or mini-cocotte pans and pour over the caramel.

Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick.  Cut circles 1/4 inch wider than the form you are using and place on top of the strawberries.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.  Invert onto plates and serve with whipped cream or creme fraiche.

Makes 4.

Brown Sugar Pavlova with Strawberries

We have had a dribble of strawberries already, but being a seasoned Tunisian resident, I’ve lived here over a whole year now, I didn’t bite on the first buzz-bomb strawberry that caught my eye.  No, I know we will still have some strawberries in May and I remember making strawberry jam in March last year, so I was waiting.  I come from a strawberry-fulfilled county in Washington State.  I know, however, that the first strawberries you see in June are from California and taste like sheetrock.  You have to wait until the local berries are almost spoiled before you can get the really good ones.  Don’t get me started on the year my county was practically dumping strawberries into dumpsters they had such a bumper crop and our local Trader Joe’s had a pyramid of California strawberries in their store.  I didn’t go in that store for about two years after that.
            We live by local harvests here.  Can you imagine something so pure and wonderful?  When you see strawberries in the market, you can buy them and they will be sweet and full of the tastes of earth and sunshine.  I still can’t believe it.
            I am a big-time strawberry shortcake devotee, but only if every ingredient is homemade and real.  For these gentle, hand-raised strawberries, I made a special, but wholesome, pavlova, bearing the warm flavor of brown sugar.  The pavlova layers were a little crisp and chewy on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside.  Piled with layers of whipped crème fraiche, and strawberries, it was a winter delight, especially as it was pouring rain outside.
 Brown Sugar Pavlova with Strawberries
adapted from Gourmet Grilling, 2011
For Meringue
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1 cup superfine granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. distilled white vinegar
3/4 cup egg whites (5-6 large eggs) at room temperature for 30 minutes

For Berries
2 1/2 lb strawberries, trimmed and quartered
2 Tbsp granulated sugar

For Cream
1 1/3 cup creme fraiche
Make Meringue
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F, rack in middle.  Lightly butter 3 (8-inch) round cake pans and line with rounds of parchment paper.  Dust sides of pans with confectioners’ sugar, knocking out excess.
Pulse superfine sugar, brown sugar, and cornstarch in a food processor until well combined.
Stir together vanilla and vinegar in a small bowl.
Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt , using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks.  Increase speed to medium-high and add sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time.  After all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute more.  Add vinegar mixture, then beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.  Spoon meringue into pans (about 2 1/2 cups per pan) and smooth tops.
Bake until meringues have a crisp crust and feel dry to the touch, about 1 hour (insides will still be moist and marshmallow-like).
Turn oven off and prop door open slightly, using a wooden spoon if necessary.  Cool meringues in oven 1 hour.
Run knife along sides of cake pans and carefully turn meringues out of pans.  Carefully peel off parchment (meringues will be fragile and may crack further).  Carefully turn right side up.
Toss berries with sugar and let stand at room temperature until ready to use (up to 1 hour).
Assemble Dessert
Beat creme fraiche using an electric mixer until it just holds soft peaks.  Put 1 meringue on a serving plate and spread 1/3 of whipped cream over it.  Spoon 1/3 of fruit (with juice) over top.  Repeat layering with remaining meringues, cream, and fruit.