I’m noticing a recurring theme with my blog posts. A majority focus on the sweet side of life, and what could be more sweet than sugar? Ah, how blessed you are you sweet granules which transform many a dish into something magnificent.
Last year I had a desire to work in the film and theatre industry, however, I should have known my heart wasn’t really in it as everyday after work I would return home, not to sit on my laptop hunting for work experience or movie-making tips, but to bake. I saw it as a way to unwind, relax after the long day, immersing my arms elbow deep into enriched dough, rolling out long sausages of marzipan, enduring the skepticism of my family, who, once they tasted the Christmas stollen or the pistachio, cardamom and marmalade cake, tucked in enthusiastically, then sneaked back to the kitchen for seconds.
The habit continues still. Family and housemates either appreciate or abhor it, or, in the worst situation, they enjoy a slice before forgetting about it and leaving the leftover three-quarters for me to persevere through. It’s not a hardship but I try not to think about how much I’ve eaten.
This sticky plum meringue cake is basically another excuse to share my love of baking.
As an amalgamation of assorted meringue-covered desserts it has similarities to Queen of Puddings although the base of custard soaked breadcrumbs was far too fiddly. Instead it is a classic Victoria sponge topped with a layer of jammy plum compote infused with orange and cloves, and a mound of fluffy mallowy meringue.
To make the meringue remember to whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks before adding the sugar otherwise it won’t form a crisp crust while baking. The satisfaction of sliding a knife through the delicate shell into a cushion of mousse is essential to the eating process. I used a mixture of caster and soft light brown sugar (mainly because we had run out of more caster sugar) but it created a warm caramel colour and subtly rich toffee flavour. This isn’t a requirement, however, as long as you use 50g sugar per egg white then the meringue will stay stable.
Sticky Plum Meringue Cake
115g softened butter
115g caster sugar
115g self-raising flour, sifted
5 plums, depending on size
A few good squeezes of honey
A sprinkle of cinnamon
3 egg whites
- Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Grease a cake tin (a loose-based tin is best) with butter and line the base with a disc of baking parchment.
- Make sure the butter is soft before using! Beat it with the sugar for about five minutes until really pale and fluffy.
- Beat together the eggs and add a tablespoon to the butter and sugar at a time, beating after each addition. If the mixture begins to curdle add a tablespoon of the pre-weighed flour and beat to combine.
- Once all the egg is whisked in, sift over the flour (an extra sift never hurts!) and fold with a large metal spoon.
- Pour the batter into the tin, level with a spatula and bake for 20 mins. Check with a skewer or gently poking the centre, if it springs back it is cooked. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile, make the compote.
- Chop the plums and remove the stones, then add to a saucepan with some honey, the spices and juice from half the orange. Heat gently, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Once the honey sizzles and the pan looks dry add more honey and orange juice. The plums will slowly soften. Mash them with the wooden spoon.
- When they are looking soft and sticky turn off the heat. Pour on top of the cake and spread to the edges evenly.
- Pour the egg whites into a clean bowl and whisk, starting at low speed and increasing to high, until it has formed stiff peaks. Lift out the beater and hold them upside down. If the peak of meringue points upwards it is done.
- Add a tablespoon of sugar and beat to combine. Do this twice more – add a tablespoon of sugar per egg white – before pouring in the remaining sugar while you beat the meringue.
- Put the cake bake in the cake tin (to prevent the sponge drying out in the oven). Dollop around the circumference of the cake and then in the centre before spreading out into pillow mounds.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in the top third of the oven until crisp and golden. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes (make a cup of tea, the perfect accompaniment) before gently easing out of the tin and slicing up wedges of gooey meringue and sponge.
Variations: Any other fruit will work as long as it’s soft enough to make a compote, for example, berries, apples or mango. Think of different spices or herbs to compliment the flavours – maybe vanilla, mint, ginger or lemon.
Sift 10g cocoa powder over the sugary stiff-peaked egg whites (end of step 9) and swirl through to make a chocolatey marble meringue. Sift another 10g over the cake before you put it in the oven.