In my mind, summer is the best time of year hands down. Swims in sun-dappled lidos, lazy walks in the park, idyllic picnics in leafy parks and drinking outside late into the night. Sometimes the reality lives up to the dream. But of course, the inevitable British weather puts a bit of a dampener on things, no pun intended.
So to counteract the awful weather ruining my fun I’ve been eating as many summery foods as possible: light asparagus salads cooped up in the office watching the rain; cucumber gin and tonics huddled under a blanket warching Netflix; crudités wits spicy dips that aren’t quite good enough to overpower the sound of thunder.
Strawberries are the perfect summer treat, and they go perfectly with a light sponge cake, livened up by black pepper and with a kick from orange liqueur. Rather than double cream, which can be a bit rich for my taste, I use mascapone with a touch of Greek yogurt between the layers, which adds a nice acidity and means you can eat a bigger slice!
The hands on time to make this cake is very minimal – perfect for summer days when you can’t be bothered to bake something complicated – but special enough for a celebration.
Recipe: Strawberry, Orange Liqueur and Black Pepper Layer Cake
For the cake:
4 eggs, weighed
Equal weight of unsalted butter, caster sugar and self-raising flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
Few tbsp milk
3 20cm cake tins, greased and lined
For the filling:
2 punnets of strawberries, sliced, few reserved whole for decoration
2-4tbsp caster sugar (this will depend on how sweet your strawberries are – taste as you go)
3tbsp orange liqueur
few twists freshly ground black pepper
2 tubs mascarpone (approx 500g)
6tbsp plain yogurt (optional)
2tbsp icing sugar
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
- Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the vanilla then eggs one by one, mixing each time until fully incorporated. (If the mix starts to split, add a tbsp of your flour at the same time.)
- Gently mix in the flour until just incorporated.
- Add enough milk to give a consistency that drops in one big dollop from the spoon when you hold it up.
- Split mix between the pans and level out the surface.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until light golden, springy and a cocktail stick comes out clean. Leave to cool.
- While the cake is cooling, macerate the strawberries. Add them to a bowl with 2tbsp of the sugar and the orange liqueur and mix. Taste. If you think it needs it, add a little more sugar (the berries will get sweeter through this process). Add a big twist of black pepper and leave at room temperature for an hour or so.
- In a separate bowl, whip the mascarpone, yogurt and icing sugar until combined and firm. Pop in the fridge until you need it.
- To assemble, drain the strawberries, reserving the juicy liquid that will have been released. Mix this liquid into the mascarpone mixture a few tbps at a time until it taste delicious and isn’t too runny.
- Spread the mascarpone mixture over the bottom cake, pile on half the macerated strawberries and add another crack of pepper if you like. Add the next layer and repeat. For the top layer, spread the mascarpone mixture and decorate with your reserved berries.