Louise Cake with Plum and Coconut
This is inspired by (but completely different to!) the ‘Louise’ cake: a hugely popular tea time treat in New Zealand. More of a slice than a cake, it’s traditionally made with a thin cakey bottom, a spread of raspberry jam in the middle and a thin layer of coconut meringue on top. We’ve kept the layers theme but rung a lot of changes. We sell this in our shops as a ‘summer slice’, using the best stone fruits, from peaches to apricots to cherries, depending on what’s in season. Whichever fruit you use, it needs to be ripe but not too soft.
|125g||unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 2cm cubes|
|1 tsp||finely grated zest of lemon|
|3||large egg yolks|
|1½ tsp||baking powder|
|1 tsp||vanilla extract|
|5||medium dark red plums, ripe but firm (450g), or peaches, apricots, cherries etc|
|For the meringue:|
|140g||egg whites (from 3½ large eggs)|
|1 tsp||vanilla extract|
|1 tsp||white wine vinegar|
You will need a baking tray, a high-sided 20cm square or 23cm round tin (with a removable base) and an electric mixer with paddle and whisk attachments.
Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C Fan/Gas Mark 3.
Spread out the flaked almonds for the meringue on a baking tray and roast for 10 minutes, until they are a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Increase the oven temperature to 185°C/165°C Fan/Gas Mark 5. Line the base and sides of a high-sided 20cm square or 23cm round tin (with a removable base) with baking parchment.
Place the butter, sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on a medium-high speed, until light and creamy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and beat until combined. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a bowl. Add the coconut and stir to combine. With the machine on a low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mix, alternating with the milk and vanilla. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin – it will only rise about a fifth of the way up the sides – and smooth the top evenly. Place in the oven and cook for 25 minutes, until the cake is fully cooked and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Meanwhile, prepare the plums. Slice each plum vertically in half. Discard the stones and slice each half into four segments so that you have eight segments per plum and forty segments in total. If you start with a larger quantity of smaller plums, or another smaller stone fruit like cherries, then just quarter each fruit.
When the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven and turn the temperature up to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas Mark 6. Gently lay the plum segments on top of the cake, close together and cut side down. Don’t overlap the fruit, though, as this will make the middle layer too watery.
To make the meringue, place the egg whites and salt in a clean bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Beat on a medium-high speed for about 1 minute until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to whisk on a high speed until the egg whites are stiff and glossy. Add the vanilla, vinegar and cornflour and whisk again until combined. Finally, fold in the toasted flaked almonds.
Scrape the meringue into the cake tin, on top of the plums, and spread out evenly over the fruit. Swirl the meringue around so you get rough waves and peaks, then place in the oven. Immediately lower the oven temperature to 180°C/160°C Fan/ Gas Mark 4 and bake for 35 minutes, or until the meringue has formed a hard crust and is just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the cake tin for at least 30 minutes before pushing up the removable base to release the cake. Peel away the parchment paper, place on a platter, and serve.
Traditionally, Louise cakes are baked in rectangular tins and cut into fairly thin squares. We’ve made ours in a high-sided 20cm square tin with a removable base. The resulting slices are about three times the height of the original. We love the height – it makes everyone feel like a kid when presented with a slice – but you can also make it in a 23cm round springform tin instead, if necessary. Wedges are not as neat to cut as squares, but the cake will still work well.
The cake is at its best on the day it’s made, but is absolutely fine kept for up to 2 days in an airtight container in the fridge. The plum juice will make the base a bit soggy after day one, but this won’t affect the taste.