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Category: Cakes

November rain

I was so delighted to be featured on Sous Style this week. It’s one of my favourite lifestyle sites, filled with great ideas, recipes and stories on interesting people.

We had a lovely lunch at home, with our friends David and Sheyenne and their kids Balkis and Naturel. Don’t you just love their names? As my guests are vegetarians, I came up with a veggie-friendly menu with a French touch. For starters, we had chestnut soup with tapioca pearls and crème fraîche, followed by crêpes sarrasin (buckwheat pancakes) with squash, green cabbage and Roquefort cheese, served with a typical Provençal dish called Tian de légumes (vegetable tian). It looked like a little masterpiece on the table. Finally, I made a luxurious Calvados apple tart, again, served with crème fraîche (yes, I think you must know by now that I am all about cream). The Calvados (apple brandy) soaked apples bring you all the warmth needed on a cool November day. And that almond crust… is heavenly.

It was a lazy rainy afternoon, filled with fun and laughter. The girls were singing and dancing, the boys played with the dogs, the lunch dragged on for hours and hours, just how it should be.

You can view the feature here.

Chestnut soup with tapioca pearls
1/2 pound/ 230 g whole, peeled and cooked chestnuts (for the soup)
1/4 cup/ 60 g cooked peeled chestnuts (chopped, to sprinkle on soup)
3 cups/ 750 ml chicken stock (or vegetable)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 onion (sliced)
3 tbsp of small tapioca pearls
Salt & pepper for seasoning
Crème fraîche for serving (1 tbsp per bowl)
A small handful of finely chopped parsley

In a large pot, melt the butter on a medium heat and fry the onions
for 2 minutes. Add the chestnuts, continue frying for 1 minute, then
add stock, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Bring to a soft boil and turn down
the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Let the soup cool slightly,
then transfer to a food processor to smooth all the ingredients into a
velvety soup. Return to pot, add the tapioca and cook for 15 minutes
on a low heat (or until the tapioca becomes translucent). Serve in
individual bowls with a teaspoon of chopped chesnuts, a big spoon of
crème fraîche and parsley.

Squash, green cabbage and Roquefort buckwheat pancakes

For the filling:

1 pound/ 450g butternut squash
1/3 cup/ 80ml vegetable stock
1 cup/ 150 g green cabbage (chopped)
1/4 pound/ 100 g Roquefort cheese
Butter or olive oil for frying

Chop squash into small cubes and fry in olive oil until golden for 4-5
minutes. Add stock, cover and simmer for ten minutes until cooked and
tender. Drain any excess liquid and set aside. In a pan, fry in olive
oil the chopped cabbage for 5 minutes on a high heat. Add salt and
pepper. Cabbage must be slightly al dente. Set aside.

Buckwheat pancake batter (sarrasin)
2 cups/ 250 g buckwheat flour
2 eggs
2 tbsp/ 30 grs melted butter
1 pinch salt
2 cups/ 500 ml milk

In a large bowl, mix the buckwheat flour and make a well in the
middle. Add the eggs in the center, slowly combine and stir the milk,
melted butter and salt. Make sure to stir constantly and firmly so you
won’t get lumps in the batter. Cover with a plate and leave to rest
for at least an hour.
Heat your oven on a low heat so you can place your pancakes to keep
warm. When the batter is ready, melt a teaspoon of butter in a frying
pan. Add one ladle of batter to form a pancake. Fry approx 2-3 minutes
on a medium heat until golden. Flip sides and repeat. In one corner of
the pancake, place a enough squash, cabbage and crumbled Roquefort.
Fold pancakes in half and fold again to form a triangle. Leave on heat
30 seconds to gently melt the Roquefort. Serve immediately.

Vegetable tian

4 tomatoes
3 large zucchini
2 aubergines
2 garlic cloves
A handful of finely chopped parsley
3 bay leaves
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper for seasoning

Preheat the oven to 210°C/400°F. Clean all vegetables and slice them
finely into equal ‘rondelles’ (round slices). Sprinkle the aubergines
with coarse salt for 20 minutes, then rinse them with boiling hot
water. Drain. Rub garlic all over roasting pan, then align the slices
tightly alternating with each vegetable. Sprinkle sliced garlic all
over, place the sprigs of thyme and bay leaves on top, drizzle with
olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Cook in oven for 30 minutes.
When ready, sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve immediately.

Calvados apple tart
5 apples, peeled, cored and sliced into small chunks
1/4 cup/ 60 ml calvados
5 tbsp/ 60 g brown sugar (cassonade)
3 egg yolks
1 cup/ 250 ml crème fraîche or sour cream
3 tbsp ground almonds
Additional crème fraîche to serve on the side.

For the pastry:
2 cups/ 250 g plain flour
2/3 cups/ 150 g butter (softened at room temperature)
1/4 cup/ 30 g caster sugar
1/2 cup/ 60 g icing confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup/ 80 g ground almonds
1 egg
A pinch of salt

Chop apples and soak in the calvados for 1 hour.

For the crust:
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together until the mixture
forms a homogenous dough. Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and
place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Take out 30 minutes before
rolling out. On a floured parchment covered surface, roll out the
dough to fit your tart pan. Line tart pan with the pastry dough, and
cut out excess overhang dough approx. ¼ inch/ 1 cm off the rim. Fold
in the excess dough to make a double thick rim. Pierce dough with a
fork all over and place in the freezer for 30 minutes to one hour.
This will prevent your crust to shrink when blind baked.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 210°C/ 400°F.

Blind bake the tart for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 180°C/ 350°C.
Take the tart crust out. Drain apples and keep the remaining calvados.
Sprinkle tart with 2 tbsp sugar and place the drained apples all over
the tart. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. If the crust starts to
brown too much, cover edges with aluminium paper. Take the tart out of
the oven. Increase oven heat again to 400°F. Beat together the egg
yolks, cream, remaining sugar and reserved calvados and pour mixture
into the tart all over the apples. Sprinkle the ground almonds on top
and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Serve warm with a tbsp of crème
fraîche on the side.

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Plum & fig meringue pie

‘People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy’. Anton Chekhov

As hard as it was letting go of summer, I find the fall season most inspiring of all. We have never been so happy to have rainy days, anxiously waiting for the cèpes mushrooms to appear. Not only do I go to the local village for daily groceries, but I am also expecting to get some useful information. I linger at the newstand longer, at the greengrocer’s and at the boulangerie, in the hope of getting some clues because mushroom hunting gossip has become the talk of the town.
On my way back home through the forest yesterday morning, I parked my bike by an oak tree and went through a meadow filled with ferns. I found one cèpe. Yes, one. Which means that my intuition was right about that location. There shall be more. It’s a matter of days.
I still have an abundance of plums, and plucked the last batch of figs from our tree. I felt I needed to honor this final crop by making something extra-special. Meringues are a considerable part of my domestic happiness, so I decided to treat myself to a plum and fig meringue pie. I prepared my favourite pastry dough (so easy, and I love the subtle ground almond taste) and aligned the fruits. Here’s a wonderful tip on how to avoid a watery pie. Just sprinkle the sliced plums with sugar and instant refined tapioca, and set aside for 15 minutes. You’ll be amazed with the results. I made a medium-sized pie and four little ones, just for fun.
Depending on your mood, this pie can be dressed up with meringue, or dressed down bare. They are both equally delicious. Whatever makes you happy.

Ingredients

For the pastry:
250 g/2 cups plain flour
150 g/ 2/3 cups butter (softened at room temperature)
30 g/ ¼ cup caster sugar
60 g icing/ ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
80 g/ ½ cup ground almonds
1 egg
A pinch of salt

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together until the mixture forms a homogenous dough. Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Take out 30 minutes before rolling out. On a floured parchment covered surface, roll out the dough to fit your tart pan. Line tart pan with the pastry dough, and cut out excess overhang dough approx. ¼ inch/ 1 cm off the rim. Fold in the excess dough to make a double thick rim. Pierce dough with a fork all over.

Filling ingredients:
8-9 medium-sized plums – pitted and sliced
4-5 medium-sized figs – sliced
50 g/ 1/4 cup sugar
30 g/ 2 1/2 tbsp instant refined tapioca
2 tbsp plum jam (to glaze plums on pie)

Meringue topping:
4 egg whites
200 g/ 1 cup caster sugar
A pinch of salt
A pinch of cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven 180°C/ 350 F
Step 1) Place sliced plums in a bowl, sprinkle with sugar and tapioca – mix gently. Set aside for 15 minutes. Slice figs, set aside on a plate.
Step 2) Place plums (flesh upwards) and figs inside the pie crust (see photos). With a brush, smooth some jam to glaze the fruits.
Step 3) Bake in oven for 25 minutes (large pie) and 15 minutes (small pies) or until crust is golden. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
Turn the heat up to 240°C/ 450 F
Step 4) You can now start preparing the meringue topping. In a large glass bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy, add cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract. Continue to whisk and gradually add sugar until egg whites become glossy with stiff peaks. Using a spatula, garnish the pies with the meringue topping in a circular movement. In this recipe, the meringue is 4-5 cm height for the large pie, and 3-4 for the small pies. You can choose the thickness to your liking.
Step 5) Place pies in the top part of the oven for 2 minutes or until meringue browns slightly on top. Check constantly as the browning can happen very fast.

Kouign Amann

One of the best things about the fall season is mushroom picking. Someone had whispered in my ear they had found three large gorgeous cèpes in their garden last week-end. After hearing this, I never leave home without rubber boots and a basket in the hope to bring back a bounty of my own. Since I moved to Médoc, I have discovered reliable mushroom trails close to my house. Where to go, how to pick them, and more importantly what not to pick. It is so revitalizing to go on daily walks in the woods and meadows, filled with untouched wildlife in every corner. I love the different shades of light you see as you walk along, especially when the sunlight sparkles through the trees and fern, bringing its warmth and wonder to everything it touches. As the kids don’t have school on Wednesdays, it seemed like the ideal time to go on a family mushroom picking excursion. So there we were, along with a our dogs (not all of them, but most), on a champignons quest.

We entered the woods, looking all over for shiny brown buttons. The dogs, as usual, managed to find what their hearts desire. A dead bird, a fox skeleton, a deer’s paw. Non merci! After an hour of searching in vain, we were all a bit disappointed, but it wasn’t a total loss. You know it’s still a good day when your daughter says: ‘Maman, this was a real adventure’! Walking back home, we talked about how the moon and the rain affect the mushroom’s growth. Because the secret of nature is patience.

Back home, the kids were longing for the goûter. It’s the tea-time break that is the most important hour in the life of les enfants. On Wednesdays (in France, most kids until the age of 11 don’t have school on that day), they enjoy a little grown-up style tea and cake moment in the playroom. They sit together and, as they are drinking a vervain tisane, they feel very grown-up and discuss important school issues. ‘Did you like the food at the canteen this week, do you like your new teacher, who is your new best friend?’ Mia had requested the butter, sugar and caramel cake, just like the one Amélie Poulain makes in ‘Amélie’.

This old-fashioned Breton cake is called kouign amann. Brittany is all about warmth, coziness, comfort and butter. It’s a caramelized cake made of the most basic ingredients: butter, flour, sugar and yeast. You will need patience (for the dough rising), and a good hand to fold in the butter and sugar in a few layers. The kids adore this caramelized treat, and I think they also find the unusual name mystical. Old Breton words like kouign (cake) and amann (butter) sound like a language from an enchanted forest. It’s a very rich cake, especially in butter. Vive la France!

Later that night, as I slipped into bed, I heard terrifying sounds in the forest. Our mornings are graced by visiting deers, but at night we hear the wild boars at play. I can hear them from afar, their deep grunting echoing in the forest. They are probably on the same trail as we were earlier, eating all the fresh acorns I saw. Will they come to my house? It’s funny, but two years ago, I would have been horrified and up all night. The new ‘country me‘ thought, ‘I hope they won’t eat my precious cèpes’! (the ones that aren’t there yet… perhaps next week?)

Ingredients:
250 g/ 2 cups plain flour
200 g/ 3/4 cup salted butter ‘demi-sel’ (room temperature)
200 g/ 1 cup granulated white sugar + extra for dusting
10 g/ 1 tbsp fresh baker’s yeast
1 good pinch of salt/ fleur de sel
120 ml/ 1/2 cup lukewarm water

In a large bowl, prepare the dough. Dissolve yeast in 3 tbsp lukewarm water and wait till it becomes frothy. Mix flour, salt and add dissolve yeast in center. Gradually add water and start kneading. I do everything by hand, and it usually takes me about 15 minutes of good kneading until I get a soft and supple dough. Shape into a ball, and leave to rise in the bowl covered in a cotton cloth for 3 hours at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 210°C/450F

Step 1: On a floured surface, start rolling the dough to a square shape, about 1 cm thick. Spread 50 g butter, 60 g sugar and fold the dough over the butter/sugar on each side (as if you were wrapping a present in paper – the present being the butter/sugar, the paper being both sides of dough). Fold to form another square.
Step 2: On a floured surface, use a rolling-pin and roll the folded dough into a square shape. Repeat as step one with butter/sugar and folding.
Step 3: Place folded dough in a floured cling film and leave to rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
Step 4: On a floured surface, roll out refrigerated dough one last time. Shape in the form of a square. Place 70 g butter and remaining sugar and fold like in step 1.
Step 5: Place in a buttered round cake tin. Gently press the dough with the palm of your hand to fill in the cake tin. Spread remaining butter on top of dough and sprinkle with a 1 tbsp of sugar. Place in oven and bake for 22-25 minutes, depending on oven strength.
Tip: As this cake is all about caramelization, I would advise to start checking every 2-3 minutes towards the end as it is so easy to over-caramelize or even burn. Starting 17 minutes or so, as soon as it looks slightly golden brown, it’s ready. As I have been making this cake for years, I have learnt from my mistakes.
Step 6: Leave to rest on a rack for 15 minutes before transferring to a plate. Use a round-tipped knife to lift/ unmould the cake. Serve warm.
Tip: Should you want to prepare this cake in advance, I would recommend reheating it by bain-marie (steaming).

Summer gems


The charm of summer in Médoc is the lack of crowds on the beaches and in the forests. Our environment feels untouched and its inhabitants are glad. Locals love how detached Médoc is from the rest of France – some say that true Médocain character has remained unchanged throughout the centuries. They are raw, earthy and true hunters at heart. I really feel we are in a very special place here, far away from the rest of the world. May it stay this way forever.

When I want to reconnect with civilization, I go to Bordeaux (I will give you a little tour of Bordeaux next month) which is an hour and a half away by car. And for some charming sea-side culture I love going to Cap-Ferret (an hour away from here) which has all the key elements to make me happy – the charming oysters ‘cabanons’ (huts) where you can sit and eat the freshest oysters and drink white wine with your feet in the water, the perfectly shaped white dunes and big waves of the Atlantic ocean, pine trees perfuming the air, Vichy print dresses from Popie’s, the mussels filled with sausage meat and garlic at ‘Chez Hortense‘, the dune of Pyla, the bassin of Arcachon. It’s also where I love buying espadrilles for my kids – the choice is amazing.

A few shots taken on Instagram in Cap-Ferret – At ‘chez Hortense’, by an oyster cabanon, on the beach.

Every summer I discover something new. Something that will mark my memory forever, like a beautiful shell found on a beach or a restaurant discovered on a hill with the best risotto ever (like ‘Da Priori’ in Marque, Italy). Well, summer is still not over, but I have to tell you about the ‘dunes blanches’ I ate last week. They are exquisite little ‘chouquettes’ filled with chantilly cream, a ‘spécialité’ from the boulangerie ‘Chez Pascal’ (46 Route du Cap Ferret 33950 Lège-Cap-Ferret) in Cap-Ferret. Chouquettes (sugar puffs) are sold in every bakery in France, but Pascal’s version with cream is a true delight. When they open in the morning, there’s already a five meter queue. Need I say more?

As I am a totally food-obsessed, I couldn’t wait for a new day to start so I could recreate these creamy gems as fast as I could. So here’s the recipe, to be treasured.

Ingredients (makes 20 large chouquettes or 30 small chouquettes)

250 ml full-cream milk
200 ml water
250 g butter (room temperature)
250 g plain flour (sifted)
2 tbsp caster sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp fine salt
140 g small sugar grains

For the filling:
200 ml whipping double cream
50 g icing sugar

To make the ‘pâte à choux’ (choux pastry)

In a large saucepan, mix milk, water, caster sugar, salt and butter and bring to a soft boil. Take off the heat and add flour in one go. Mix well until dough is smooth. Return to heat for 1 minute stirring constantly – this step is called ‘drying’ the batter. The dough should be sticking off the pan and forming a ball.
Take off the heat, and add one egg at a time, making sure to mix in each egg in the batter.

Preheat oven 180 °C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place the ‘pâte à choux’ dough in a pastry piping bag with a large nozzle and pipe medium (6cm) or small (4cm) dome shapes. Sprinkle with sugar grains. Depending on size, bake for 30-35 minutes for medium size, or 20-25 minutes for small size. Check on them gradually, they should be golden and puffed. I always eat/try one before taking them out to be sure they are perfectly cooked in the center. Set aside and leave to cool completely.

Assembling:
Whisk cream until stiff, add sifted icing sugar halfway. When all the ‘choux’ are cool, make a small slit in the base using a stick. Use pastry bag with the smallest nozzle tip and ‘inject’ each ‘choux’ with the cream (approx 1 tbsp per choux). Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve immediately.

Summer peach and vervain tart

My grandmother loved taking me on long garden walks in the beautiful countryside of Périgord. She always had a pair of old-fashioned garden scissors ready to cut off a few of her favorite herbs and flowers. She loved vervain, and religiously had a cup of infused leaves every night before going to sleep – ‘La petite tisane du soir’ she would say. She also mixed them to sliced summer peaches with a dash of sugar – she would leave the peaches to marinate in a covered bowl all day in the fridge. In Roman times, vervain was associated with the god Venus, as it had magical properties to revive lost love. This marvelous herb is such a divine match with summer peaches, so I was inspired to make a peach tart with a vervain infused custard, reminding me of sweet childhood days with my grandmother. The pastry dough is just as she used to do it, with ground almonds – extra delicious and crumbly. The combination of the citrus vervain taste with cream and peaches topped with a large cloud of fruit fool will make your summer brighter than ever.

Ingredients

For the pastry:

250 g/2 cups plain flour

150 g/ 2/3 cups butter (softened at room temperature)

30 g/ ¼ cup caster sugar

60 g icing/ ½ cup confectioner’s sugar

80 g/ ½ cup ground almonds

1 egg

1 pinch of salt

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together until the mixture forms a homogenous dough. Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Take out 30 minutes before rolling out.

For the vervain-infused custard base:

400 ml/ 1 and a half cup milk

20 vervain leaves (fresh or dried – alternatively you can use 4 vervain teabags)

2 egg yolks

2 tbsp plain flour or cornstarch

50 g/ ¼ cup white sugar

In a saucepan, boil the milk and throw in the vervain leaves (or teabags). Take off the heat and let the vervain infuse for 10-15 minutes. In a bowl, mix the flour (or cornstarch), egg yolks and sugar together. Blend in the vervain-infused milk slowly and re-heat (on a low heat) until the mixture becomes thick and creamy. Should the mixture have lumps, you can pass it though a sieve. Set aside to cool.

For the tart:

3 large peaches, sliced (in half moon shapes)

For the fruit fool cream topping:

200 ml/1 cup whipping cream

1 plum, 1 peach, 1 nectarine (or any summer fruit you wish – they should be on the riper side)

50 g/ ¼ cup caster sugar

Chop fruits to small bits. Set aside. Whip cream until stiff, adding caster sugar halfway. Fold in the chopped fruits.

A few leaves of fresh vervain

Final stages:

On a floured parchment covered surface, roll out the dough to fit your tart pan. Butter the tart pan, line with the pastry dough, and cut out excess overhang dough approx. ¼ inch/ 1 cm off the rim. Fold in the excess dough to make a double thick rim. Pierce dough with a fork and place in the freezer for 30 minutes (this tip will prevent the dough

from shrinking when you bake it). When ready, line the inside with parchment, fill with dried beans (I use my son’s marbles), and blind bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 F/ 180° C.

Leave to rest for 10 minutes. Fill the tart base with the vervain infused custard, place the sliced peaches on top in a circular shape, pushing them in slightly, sprinkle with caster sugar and bake again for 15-20 minutes at 350 F/ 180° C. The peaches might get watery when you take out the tart from the oven – no worries, they will set nicely once the tart has cooled down. Leave to cool completely, serve with fruit fool on top of the tart, or on the side. Sprinkle with a few fresh vervain leaves.

Mathieu’s fruit cake


Fruit cakes remind me of a box of jewels, the kind of gems you would win as a child at a fun fair. It looks like a chest filled with all the ingredients to make a rum-loving pirate happy. It’s an old-fashioned cake suitable for any occasions, especially tea parties. I usually love dreamy cream cakes, but I decided to give my friend Mathieu a chance and rediscover his version of a fruit cake. Mathieu loves baking all sorts of cakes and this happens to be one of his favourite. Rum ‘bathed’ candied fruits and raisins are the key ingredients, soaked for forty-eight hours to get the full flavours.

We had a lovely afternoon tea-time snack, out in the garden with friends and family – perfect summer weather, feeling lazy and happy. The cake turned out beautifully, light, slightly glazed on top with roasted almond flakes. Slicing the cake is the fun part, with all the candied fruits sparkling in the sunshine – it matched my mood and the girls dresses.

Ingredients: (serves 6-8)

200 g plain flour (sifted)
100 g caster sugar
125 g butter
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
40 g ground almond
1/2 lemon zest
10 g vanilla sugar
150 g mixed candied fruits
100 g candied cherries (halved)
30 g dried dark raisins
Rum (enough to cover the candied fruits)
A handful of flaked almonds
Apricot jam (to spread 15 minutes before the end)
1/2 tsp lemon juice

With Selma and my daughter Louise.

My godson Oscar (left), and my son Hudson.

Combine the candied fruits, raisins and rum (enough to cover the fruits) in a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for at least 48 hours.
Preheat oven to 350°/180 C. Grease the bottom and sides of a cake mould/ loaf pan with butter and dust all over with ground almond. Tap off excess and set aside.

Combine eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Fold in the sifted flour, baking powder, ground almond and melted butter – mix well. Drain the soaked candied fruits and raisins – reserve rum mixture. Add the reserved rum, candied fruits, halved cherries, raisins and lemon zest to batter. Mix gently. Pour batter in mould, smooth top with rubber spatula and sprinkle with flaked almonds. Bake for 45-60 minutes depending on cake mould depth. Fifteen minutes before the end of baking time, take out the cake and glaze the top lightly with apricot jam (mixed with 1/2 tsp lemon juice) using a brush (make sure not to break the almond flakes). Continue baking. Insert into the middle of the cake a toothpick – when it comes out clean, the cake is ready. Unmold cake onto a wire rack and let cool completely before slicing.

Far Breton

Summer really comes alive when all our favourite people are in the house. Kids, dogs, friends – that’s what life is really about. My best friend Isabelle is here with her husband Mathieu, their two cuties Oscar (my godson) and Selma. Not only can I enjoy their company, but also some excellent guest cooking. I can just sit back and lounge by the pool expecting an exciting menu ahead.

This is the case with Mathieu, who’s a fashion designer based in London. He is a real natural when it comes to cooking, one of those French kitchen luminaries that can create a dish out of nothing. Today he baked a Far Breton, inspired from his childhood holidays in Brittany.

The beautiful flavour of the homely batter and sophisticated rum is what I love most about this rustic cake – the never-ending taste lingers on until you have the last sip of coffee. Always causing a sensation at home, we end up slicing smaller pieces to keep everybody happy. I say, let’s make more next time.

Ingredients (serves 6):

4 eggs
300 g pitted dried prunes
225 g plain flour (sifted)
8 g vanilla sugar
Dark rum (enough to cover the prunes in a small bowl)
125 g caster sugar
1 tsp salted butter
75 cl full-cream milk
A pinch of salt.

Preheat oven 200 °C.

Place pitted dried prunes in a small bowl and pour enough rum to cover the prunes. Cover and set aside for 48 hours at room temperature. The prunes will soak up most of the rum.

Drain the soaked prunes and keep the remaining rum. Set aside. In a saucepan heat the milk until it simmers. Remove the thin layer of film that might have formed. Beat the eggs until fluffy, then pour slowly to the sifted flour, whisking away. Add the warm milk slowly, sugar, vanilla sugar, a pinch of salt and continue whisking. Pour remaining rum into batter and set the prunes aside.

Line a rectangle or oval oven-proof dish (27 cm length/5.5 cm depth approx.) with butter and pour in half of the batter. Place prunes evenly all over the dish and continue pouring the remaining batter. Place in the oven for 35 minutes – when the ‘far’ is slightly golden, take it out of the oven and spread salted butter all over. Lower the oven temperature to 180°C and bake for another 10 minutes.

Let the far rest until cooled and serve (it can also be served warm to your liking).

Lemon meringue cake


Ah, the Almafi coast! Ravello, Positano and Capri have the most amazing views, turquoise sea and old-school glamour, that is why it has always been our favourite family holiday destination. This lemon meringue cake is a souvenir of what I love most on the Amalfi coast – lemon trees and delizie limone, a local speciality sponge cake filled with lemon cream. Whenever I want to splurge, spoil and be spoilt, this is the cake I have in mind. I love how the voluptuous baked meringue icing wraps the entire cake like a fluffy cloud, as if there was a secret message inside saying that you have achieved sweet nirvana. For this is what this cake is all about – heaven.

Ingredients:(serves 6)

For the sponge cake:
6 eggs (separated)
200 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
200 g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 180°C/350 F. Butter and flour two cake pans (approx 20 cm/8-inch). Beat the egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Beat the egg whites until stiff, fold in very gently to the egg yolk mixture. Finally, sift the flour, add the baking powder and fold in to egg mixture. Spoon batter gently into cake pans and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden and test-knife comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack, then remove from pans and set aside to cool completely. When cool, slice each cakes with a long knife to make 4 layers of cakes. Set aside.

For the lemon custard
2 eggs
150 g sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Grated zest of 1 lemon
40 g unsalted butter

In a large saucepan or double boiler combine sugar, lemon juice and zest over simmering water. In a bowl, beat the eggs and add to the sugar/lemon mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened (about 8 minutes). You can alternate and take on/off heat while whisking away. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Set aside to cool completely and refrigerate for one hour.

For the meringue topping
4 egg whites (room temperature)
1/2 lemon juice
220 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a large glass bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy, add lemon juice and vanilla extract. Gradually add the sugar until egg whites become glossy with stiff peaks.

Assembling the cake:
200 ml double cream – whipped

Preheat the oven to a 240°C/ 460 F

Whip cream until stiff and incorporate to lemon custard. Place a layer of the cake on parchment paper, generously spread a layer of lemon filling on cake, add the other cake on top. Repeat procedure for each layers. With a spatula, spread meringue mixture covering cake entirely, forming decorative peaks by lifting spatula as if you were forming waves.

Place cake in the oven for 2-3 minutes or until meringue browns slightly on top. Check constantly as the browning can be very fast. Take the cake out and place on a serving dish. Chill before serving.