I've got three Belinda Jeffery books (I think I should go and buy the other ones now) and the recipes are all wonderful. My favourite book of hers is Mix & Bake, where I've made so many recipes from it without fail. Each cake is wonderful and I've yet to find one I don't love. They're all very easy and use ingredients that are easily found. They're generally quite fast to make. For example, the Buttery Almond and Coconut Cake only takes me 30 minutes to get into the oven and is such a crowd pleaser.
Her latest book is called Desserts, which already captured my attention. The recipes are less cake orientated and more about general desserts from around the world. The book is split into categories that centre around a key ingredient, such as berries, nuts, stone fruits, honey etc. I've browsed through it and already I'm excited to try so many recipes. Seriously, do yourself a favour and buy Belinda's books, starting with Mix & Bake. I can't recommend them highly enough.
From this Dessert book, I decided to try the Vanilla Meringue with cinnamon sugared almonds just based on the look of the cake. My final version looked a lot like the photo, much like most of Belinda's other recipe as the items in the photos represent what is truly achievable rather than some version of the cake which you can never replicate. Below is what my cake looked like. Rather pretty I say.
The cake is quite a strange in the way it's made. I was expecting to bake the sponge separately from the meringue. That would have been quite a bit more effort and having to use the oven multiple times. But instead, as usual, Belinda's recipe was super easy. The sponge layer is cooked together with the meringue layer and nuts. Everything in one go. How easy is that.
To the taste, wow wow wow. Everyone who ate this loved it, including me. My friend declared it in his Top 10 cakes ever. There's so many textures and flavours going on here, yet all made from a few ingredients and baked at the same time. I really did not expect the cake to be so intricate in flavour. I love the various layers of textures and flavours you get, and the cinnamon sugared almonds really top it all off perfectly with a fragrant splash.
As usual, I like to give tips for recipes I try to help you succeed.
*The cake is very sweet. You can drop the sweetness a bit but I wouldn't drop the sugar in the meringue as that's what help keep it stable. Drop the sugar in the sponge and topping on the almonds.
*Whip the meringue until stiff and keep whipping. You really want the meringue to be firm so when baked won't fall apart.
*I underbaked my cake a little and it tasted great. The sponge layer was a bit soft in the middle and I think that actually worked to the advantage of the cake with another texture element.
*The cake is really fragile and as Belinda suggests, you should assemble as late as possible and not keep for more than a day if you want to keep the beautiful look. Flavour-wise, it will taste awesome many days later but it will collapse a lot and not look so pretty.
*I found that if you are careful you can lift the cake out of the tins without having to invert the cake so the almonds and sugar can stay in place.
Vanilla Meringue Cake With Cinnamon Sugared Almonds
From Belinda Jeffery's "Desserts" book.
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1 cup self-raising flour
4 egg whites
180g caster sugar
90g flaked almonds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp caster sugar, extra
200ml thickened cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
up to 1 tbsp amaretto
1.Preheat oven to 180C. Butter two 24cm springform tins, lining base with baking paper. Dust sides with flour, tapping out excess.
2.Beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each. Reduce speed to low and add milk and vanilla. The mixture will be quite curdled but add the flour and mix until combined. The mixture should be quite thick.
3.Divide the batter evenly between the two tins and spread to a flat shallow layer.
4.To make the meringue, beat egg whites on a medium speed until softly fluffy. Add the sugar a bit at a time and continue beating until all the sugar is added. The meringue should be thick and glossy.
5.Divide the meringue evenly between the two tins and spread it flatly over the cake layer. Scatter the flaked almonds over each meringue layer. Mix the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the mixture.
6.Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
7.Removed the cakes and let cool on a wire rack.
8.Make the cream filling by whipping the cream and vanilla extract until thick and fluffy. Drizzle in the amaretto and whisk in.
9.To assemble, sit one layer on a plate or cake stand. Spread the cream filling evenly over the top. Carefully place the second cake over the first.
10.This is the best part. Cut out a huge slice and enjoy.