I didn’t get nervous about the Swiss meringue until I saw the polyester sleeve of my mother’s dressing gown dangling perilously close to the flame flying out of the blowtorch.
Let me start at the beginning. When we decided to make cakes for my mother’s birthday, I went with my usual method of imagining something and deciding to leap in without being fully sure of my method. It sounds like a reckless process when I write it down like that, but “Eh, I’ll learn by trying” has served me pretty well so far.
What I didn’t realise when I pictured a cake topped with fluffy meringue, piped tips torched golden, is that Swiss meringue is notoriously finicky. Thanks to reactions between proteins that I don’t completely understand and definitely can’t pronounce, Swiss meringue can be both unstable and less fluffy than you’d hope. It can weep. It can collapse. If I’d known this, I might have been nervous earlier than when I had visions of my hand flying off to the left and setting the kitchen on fire.
Thankfully, using this method, the meringue – and I – did not weep or collapse. Instead, it came out glossier than a show horse, and once I’d moved that pesky sleeve out of the way, turned the most glorious golden colour after being kissed by a blowtorch.
There are very few things about modern cookery that actually make me sad. For my dad, the great tragedy is chilli being added to everything – chilli ketchup, chilli chocolate…other things. Some might be disappointed by the rise of burgers, or perhaps by how their native or favourite cuisine has been bastardised as its slipped into the mainstream, like Mexican food expert Diane Kennedy is.
I’m just sad that if you google macaroon, you get pages and pages of macarons, with not a shred of coconut in sight. Instead of golden, moist treats, it’s all smooth domed meringue, glued together with ganache or curd. The humble coconut macaroon has been usurped by the finicky French macaron. Read More
-l-l. Lemon and lime loaf would have been a much more pleasing name for this easy-peasy cake, but we can’t miss out the gin drizzle. Really, even lemon, lime, and gin loaf isn’t its proper name – since I dreamt it up on a rogue afternoon off work, what I’ve called it in my head is Victorian malady cake, with scurvy and mother’s ruin in mind. And it’ll certainly have you saying, “Please, I want some more.”
It’s possible I’ve binge-watched too much Dickensian.
In a distinctly non-austerity move, this cake calls for real butter. Almost a whole block of it! I was pro-margarine before, mostly due to its significantly lower price, but you really can’t beat butter* for the flavour it gives, not to mention that oh-so-tempting yellow colour.
The gin, meanwhile, isn’t a boff-you-in-the-face taste, but more of a back-of-the-mouth hint. Just enough to subtly evoke summer days. If you want the gin flavour to feature more? Increase it in the drizzle by a tablespoon or two.
This cake is an easy flash-forward to sunny afternoons, a creation you can whip up without any real elbow grease at all. A beat, a mix, a fold, and a drizzle, and you’re done.