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Lemon Ricotta Cake with Italian Meringue

 



I love cakes that utilise dairy ingredients such as ricotta, yoghurt or sour cream to make a very moist and slightly fudgy style of cake. This cake has ricotta and Greek yoghurt to give that great texture, plus soaked in lemon syrup for added moistness as well as added zing.

You can top this cake in a lot of ways – drizzle with more lemon syrup, ice with buttercream or as I did, swathe with beautiful cloudy Italian meringue!

Ingredients

4 large free range eggs – approximately 200 – 220g in weight

200g caster sugar

Zest of 2 lemons

175g butter

175g ricotta

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

75g Greek Yoghurt

200g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bi carbonate of soda

Lemon syrup

Juice of remaining lemon left over from zesting

50g sugar

Italian Meringue

225g caster sugar

120 glucose syrup

90ml water

150g free-range egg whites

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a 20cm springform tin with butter. Line the base with a circle of baking paper.

Whisk the eggs, sugar and lemon zest in an electric mixer, starting on low and gradually increasing speed to maximum. Whisk till mixture is pale coloured slightly increased in volume.

Melt the butter and cool to room temperature. Break up ricotta roughly with a fork to help in mixing it in.

Add the lemon juice, vanilla paste, ricotta, yoghurt and butter to the bowl and whisk on low speed until just amalgamated. You don’t want to mix too long and knock the air out.

Combine the plain flour, baking powder and bi carbonate of soda, stirring with a fork to mix. If you want to, you can sift these ingredients.

Very carefully fold the flour into the cake mixture in 3 or 4 lots. Again, be careful not to overmix as you will lose volume. The mixture will be slightly lumpy because of the ricotta, but don’t worry, that doesn’t affect the baked cake texture.

Carefully pour into the cake tin. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake come out clean. Check the cake after 30 minutes – you may need to cover the top with foil if it’s browning too quickly.

Meanwhile, make the lemon syrup by putting the lemon juice and sugar into a small saucepan  over a low heat and stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for a minute to reduce the syrup slightly.

Once cooked, remove from the oven, and leaving the cake in the tin, pierce all over the top with a skewer.

Pour the lemon syrup over the cake and then leave to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the spring form tin onto a plate.

To make the Italian meringue: first reserve 3 tablespoons of the caster sugar. Put the remaining sugar, glucose syrup and water into a small saucepan and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Have a cooking thermometer ready to test the temperature.  Without further stirring, cook over medium heat until the temperature reaches 117 degrees C on your thermometer.

Put the egg whites into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk  on a low speed. When the egg whites become loosened and slightly foamy, add the reserved 3 tablespoons of sugar, a tablespoon at a time.

Now you need to do this last action during the heating of the sugar syrup, which can be tricky. The idea is to pour the sugar syrup when it has reached 117 degrees C, onto the whisked egg whites and sugar. Pour the hot syrup down the side of the bowl, not onto the whisk.

Whisk on medium speed for several minutes until the mixture looks like meringue and is glossy and stands in peaks, and has cooled to room temperature. This will take at least 5 minutes – maybe more.

You can add any flavourings and colours at this point – stir in carefully by hand. I added the juice and seeds of a passionfruit for my cake, as passionfruit goes well with lemon.

To finish the cake, pile the thick luscious Italian meringue onto the top of the cake, using a palette knife.

Serve in thick slices, with more passionfruit, some lemon curd, whipped cream, ice cream, I could go on… this cake is a truly magnificent dessert cake however you like to serve it!

Summer Fruits Celebration Cheesecake

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230B2880-DC61-4C1A-9967-B46A8C4CFF36It’s Australia Day 2018. On a hot and humid Friday, I’m off to Palm Beach for a lunch with my friends the Architect and the Delegator.

Australia day is the last of the summer holidays: 26 January, a day for family and friends to have a barbecue or go to the beach.

There is much discussion in our country at the moment about the timing and relevance of this day.  Whatever one’s views, it was lovely to catch up with old and dear friends in the beautiful  environs of the northern beaches.

The Delegator requested I make a desert!  So thought I’d make a cheesecake which celebrated the wonderful summer fruits which are so plentiful in our markets.

The cheesecake is my go-to recipe from a 1960s family recipe, blogged here before. So here is the cheesecake with its “celebration of summer fruits” theme. I made a passionfruit curd as a topping, then scattered summer fruits, crystallised ginger and some white chocolate over the cake.

Ingredients

Crumb Crust
230g sweet biscuits (half plain, half ginger nut)
1/2 level teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 level teaspoon cinnamon
85g butter

Cream Cheese Filling
500g cream cheese
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 free-range eggs

Topping
1 carton (280ml) sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 dessertspoon lemon juice
1 level tablespoon sugar

Passionfruit curd
4 tbls sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Pulp of 3 passionfruit
2 free-range egg yolks
2 tbls butter

Summer fruits – pawpaw, passionfruit, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries

Crystallised ginger

White chocolate

Method

Crush biscuits very finely in a food processor and add the nutmeg and cinnamon. Melt butter in a saucepan, remove from heat and quickly stir in biscuit crumbs.

Press firmly into greased 22cm springform tin* bringing mixture at least half way up the sides of the tin.

Put cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice in the food processor and mix well. Add eggs one at a time, whizzing after each addition.

Pour mixture into uncooked crumb crust and bake in a moderate oven at 180 degrees C for 30 minutes. Remove from oven.

Beat together the topping ingredients and pour over hot cheesecake. Return to oven and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Cool, then store in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.

For the passionfruit curd,  place all the ingredients into a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon, making sure all the ingredients are amalgamated and the sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Put aside to cool.

To assemble the cheesecake, spoon the cooled passionfruit could over the cheesecake. Scatter the fruit haphazardly or with a design. Slice the crystallised ginger, and scatter this over the cake too. Finish by shaving some white chocolate over the whole cake.

I don’t think the cheesecake needs more adornment, but you could serve it with a little cream or some Greek yoghurt.

 

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Clementine Layer Cake with Raspberry Meringue Buttercream


Here is a quirky celebration cake, or if you’re looking for a cake to make that requires a few cake decorating skills. Nothing too challenging, I assure you!

I created this one lazy Saturday, with nothing more in mind than I wanted to make a cake that looked good and on which I could try out a few new skills in icing and decorating. As I’m the classic rustic baker, this cake is quite achievable for anyone with some basic skills! I was inspired by a recent trip to Saga in Enmore, in Sydney’s inner west where the legendary Andy Bowdy makes awesome cakes! Check out the website here!

You could use all or just some of my ideas, and tailor make the cake to suit your own creativity.

And by the way, for us Aussies, who only recently have (limited) access to clementines, mandarins would be great too!

The full description of the cake is this: Clementine and Almond Cake with Raspberry Meringue Buttercream, White Chocolate Crumb, White Chocolate Passionfruit Drizzle, Toffee Fruit.  The cake itself is based on that wonderful, and now quite universal, orange almond cake from Claudia Roden, first seen in A New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden.

I have included the quantities for a full size cake mixture. You probably won’t need the entire mixture – however if your cake is a baked in tins larger than the ones I’ve used (10cm/4in), you may need the whole lot. If you do have some mixture left over, just bake it in muffins molds for some seriously moist and delicious little cakes!

The same with the meringue buttercream. I have given quantities enough for a large amount of frosting. You can make less, or keep the remaining buttercream for another bake.

So here’s my recipe for the cake and its assembly.

Ingredients

Clementine Cake
3 clementines skin on (or 3 mandarins)
4 free-range eggs
250g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
250g ground almonds

Raspberry Meringue Buttercream
4 egg whites
2 cups white sugar
2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons freeze dried raspberry powder or enough to make a deep pink buttercream

White Chocolate Crumb
100g white chocolate
1 tablespoon passionfruit fondant creme* or a few drops good quality yellow food colouring

White Chocolate Passionfruit Drizzle or Dribble!
100g white chocolate
1 tablespoon passionfruit fondant creme* or a few drops yellow food colouring
A few drops milk

Toffee Fruit
3 tablespoons caster sugar
A few clementine segments and whole strawberries

Method

Cake

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C fan forced, 170 degrees C non fan forced. Butter 3 small cake tins well, and line the bases with a circle of baking paper – I used tins 10cm/4in in diameter.
Place clementines in a medium saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil and cook until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain, cool and chop (discard seeds), then blitz in a food processor. Add the eggs and sugar and process until combined. Add the baking powder and ground almonds and blitz making sure  everything is thoroughly mixed. The mixture is quite a wet one, so you can, if you’re nervous add 1-2 tablespoons of plain flour to make the batter a little less runny.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake tins.
Bake for up to an hour, or until until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the cakes comes out clean. If the cakes are still wet, bake for longer.  However, the cakes may take less than the hour – check at the 40 minute mark for “doneness”.
Cool the cakes before carefully turning out of the tins, removing the baking paper.

Raspberry Meringue Buttercream

Place the egg whites and sugar into a metal bowl and set over a saucepan filled with about 5 cms of simmering water.
Heat, stirring frequently, until the temperature of the egg whites reaches 60 degrees C.  Transfer the heated egg whites and sugar to a large mixing bowl or stand mixer. Mix at high speed until they have reached their maximum volume, 5 to 10 minutes.

Mix on medium or medium-high speed while pinching off small pieces of butter and throwing them in. Mix in vanilla. Continue beating for about 5 minutes until the meringue and butter mixture is completely amalgamated, thick and of icing consistency. Carefully fold in the freeze dried raspberry powder.

White Chocolate Crumb

This method is tricky and possibly controversial! There are no doubt recipes which tell you how to bake white chocolate in the oven until it caramelizes and goes crumbly. I can’t guarantee the success of my method – a lot will depend on the power of your microwave and you own baking intuition in judging timings.
Essentially, you are cooking the white chocolate after it has melted, causing it to seize.
My method is pretty easy – stick the white chocolate in pieces  in the microwave (not on high- medium or even lower), and carefully melt. Then add the fondant creme or yellow food colouring mixing it through the warm chocolate. It will start to seize up. If it’s crumbly enough for you, then it’s done. If you want a more distinct crumb, place the chocolate back in the microwave on a low heat and cook for longer. I would advise going in 20 second bursts until you are satisfied with the crumb texture.

White Chocolate Drizzle

This needs to be made when you are ready to apply the drizzle/dribble to the cake.
Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, taking care that the bowl does not touch the water. Or live dangerously as I did and melt the white chocolate in the microwave on a low heat setting.
Once melted, add the  fondant creme or yellow food colouring. As with the white chocolate crumb, the chocolate will probably seize. Take off  the heat and add a few drops of milk and beat vigorously until the mixture is of drizzling consistency. It comes back pretty well.

Toffee Fruit

Put the caster sugar in a small frying pan over a medium heat and dissolve the sugar, being careful not to stir the sugar. Once the melted sugar has hit that beautiful toffee/tea colour, remove from the heat, and carefully pour most of the toffee over the clementine segments and strawberries on the baking paper. Pour the last bit of the liquid toffee onto the baking paper so that you can break it up into shards once cold.

Assembly

Carefully cut the 3 cakes horizontally in half, to create 6 layers. This can be quite tricky as this cake is incredibly moist and can break easily.Work out which of the 6 layers are good, and which  you want to disguise. Pick the best for the top layer, a sturdy one for the bottom layer, and all the rest in between.
Place the bottom layer on a cake plate or cake board. Ice with the meringue buttercream, again being careful  as the cake is fragile. Repeat with the other layers, making the frosting on the top nice and thick. Ice the sides of the cake. A good palette knife will help with achieving a smooth texture.

Now for the decoration! This is where you can use your creative license! I dribbled the white chocolate drizzle down the sides of the cake, scattered the white chocolate crumb over the cake and around the base, placed the toffee fruit on and around the cake, and lastly decorated the cake with the toffee shards.
But absolutely you can have fun with this cake and do whatever you like to make your cake a quirky and visually spectacular creation!

*My local kitchen store stocks a range of Roberts Fondant Cremes see here for the link to the Passionfruit one I used in the recipe. However you can easily get the yellow effect by just using yellow food colouring, and don’t worry about the passionfruit flavour.

 

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