This weekend has been one of very few weekends off since starting at Ottolenghi and I have loved every minute of it. It’s funny how much goes unnoticed until it’s taken away, and then when you get it back, you appreciate it so much. Like waking up in bed on a Sunday, and not having to go to work. It would therefore have been rude not to have baked something today, because what do you do on your day off from the Otto kitchen? Spend it in your own kitchen of course! Today I made a glorified Louise Cake.
My mum chose what we were having for pudding, as she flicked through Ottolenghi’s Sweet recipe book this morning. The famous Louise cake, or what is sold in Ottolenghi shops as the ‘Summer Slice’. Louise Cake is a popular tea time treat in New Zealand, but tends to be a tray bake, and is a lot flatter than the Ottolenghi version, as there is no fruit and minimal meringue involved to add height. Instead it is a layer of shortcake, followed by a layer of jam, and topped with a stingy amount of coconut meringue. Its origins aren’t crystal clear, but rumour has it that it was created for the wedding of Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Louise! The recipe for Louise Cake was more than likely brought to New Zealand by British settlers.
Here at Ottolenghi, we’ve to give it a bit of a modern spruce; an airy layer of vanilla and coconut sponge, followed by a juicy layer of what usually seems to be a stone fruit, stones cut out of course, then topped generously with waves of a crunchy, caramelised almond meringue. The traditional Louise Cake is made as a traybake however because the Ottolenghi version is a lot taller, in the shops we use long bars to bake them in, but a loose bottom square, or even round as I did, does the trick. As we were walking through Waitrose, we decided that the addition of rhubarb with the purple plums we picked up, would be a lovely seasonal touch. Apart from the rhubarb, I followed the rest of the recipe, oh, apart from using lime zest because we didn’t have a lemon.
Speaking of appreciating what we have when we realise what it’s like without it… it felt so therapeutic to be baking in my kitchen today, at the pace of a snail. I still get great enjoyment out of cooking at work but it is sometimes dampened by the speed at which we have to work. However today, I was listening to classical music, and baking in full zen mode, it was great. I often find when i’m baking, that the more aesthetically pleasing the outcome, the greater satisfaction I get. I really enjoyed making this cake because the layering of the fruit gives such a beautiful burst of colour and the meringue’s natural waves give such height and volume. The end result is three very distinctive layers, that are revealed as the cake is cut.
The recipe for this version of the Louise Cake, can be found on page 173 of Sweet, but lucky for you, can also be found on the Ottolenghi website. If there is anyone out there and i’ve tempted you to give this monster a go, pleaaase let me know in the comments, especially what fruit you decided on for the middle!