By Ian Leatt
What does summer mean for you? To me it means long warm evenings, outdoor parties, BBQs with friends, wine, beer, soft music and candles that flicker in the decreasing light.
It also means fresh fruit and lots of it: raspberries, strawberries, cherries by the bucket load, saskatoon berries and so much more.
Memories of summer celebrations in another life come flooding back from across the pond, always stimulated by the thought of cake and the delicate flavours that can be enjoyed by blending a moist lemon sponge with fresh cream and fresh strawberries, a marriage made in heaven.
1 ¼ cups cake flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups of fresh, washed strawberries
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ cups fine sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon lemon extract
6 tablespoons hot milk
1 handful of fresh mint leaf tips
2 cartons (litres) fresh whipping cream
2 cups sliced, roasted almonds
3 tablespoons cherry kirsch
Start by making the sponge cake. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Sift together flour, salt and baking powder; then in a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until fluffy and lemon-coloured. Gradually beat in the sugar. Stir in lemon juice and lemon extract and resume beating, gradually adding the sifted flour mixture.
Beat only enough to blend. Heat the milk, and add it quickly to the mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until blended. Pour into an ungreased, 10-inch cake tin at once.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 55 minutes, or until golden brown and firm to the touch. Turn upside down and cool in the tin. Then loosen sides, and turn out on a cake rack to cool completely. (The reason for letting it cool in the tin is to help keep the moisture in the cake. I typically make the sponge a day before using so that when I do start to put the dessert together the cake won’t affect the temperature of the fresh cream.)
Now the fun begins. With a carving knife, cut horizontally through the cake twice, to produce three individual slices of cake. Place the first piece of cake on a plate, then pour a little cherry kirsch over it. (A tip: place a little fresh cream on the plate before the cake goes on it; the cream helps hold the cake in place.)
Using a large spoon, spread some fresh whipped cream on the cake and level out, ensuring you have covered the entire piece of cake.
Place your second piece of cake on top of the first and pour some kirsch over it. Using a piping bag, squeeze fresh whipped cream around the outside top of your cake making a wall. Slice some strawberries and place them inside the cream wall. Place the final piece of cake on top.
Using a spatula, cover the outside of the cake with fresh whipped cream. Pour your roasted almonds onto a plate.
This next step is a little challenging; you have to be careful not to drop the cake. With one hand, pick up the plate and the cake, your hand underneath the plate and holding it at an angle. With your free hand, grab a bunch of almonds and press them against the cream on the side of the cake. You will find that some of the almonds fall back onto the plate below. Repeat the process, bit by bit, going fully around the cake and attaching the almonds.
Finally, use a piping bag to pipe a top decoration on the cake: swirl, circle, whatever movement you are comfortable with, around the top outer edge of the cake. Now place your remaining strawberries inside the decorated edge.
Finally, add some extra colour by finishing off your masterpiece with mint tips. Now sit back and enjoy a nice piece of summer cake with relatives or friends.
Ian Leatt is general manager of Pegasus Publications.