30 mins to 1 hour
1 to 2 hours
Makes 1 cake
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Equipment: you will need a sugar thermometer and a blowtorch
From Saturday Kitchen
For the berry compote
- 400g/14oz fresh or frozen berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants or blackberries
- 100g/3½oz golden caster sugar
- 1 orange, juice and finely grated zest
For the vanilla cakes
- little vegetable oil, for greasing
- 6 medium free-range eggs
- 190g/6¾oz golden caster sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 190g/6¾oz plain flour, sieved
For the Italian meringue
- 300g/10½oz golden caster sugar
- 25g/1oz liquid glucose
- 4 medium free-range egg whites (total weight 140g/5oz)
To make the compote, put the fruit, sugar, orange juice and zest in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer, then cook at a gentle simmer for 25–30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has softened and reduced to a thick pulp.
Remove from the heat and strain the fruit through a sieve, using the back of a spoon to push as much through as possible. Taste and adjust the sugar or orange juice if necessary. Leave to cool, then store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.
For the cakes, preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan/Gas 3. Grease and line the base and sides of three 20cm/8in loose-bottomed sandwich tins with baking paper.
Put the eggs, sugar and vanilla bean paste in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Beat together using a whisk until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has reached 40–45C (it should feel like a hot bath). Remove from the heat.
Pour the mixture into a standing mixer and whisk at maximum speed for 15 minutes, or until the batter is cool and thick and has tripled in volume. (If you don’t have a standing mixer, use an electric hand whisk.) Gently fold in the flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, using a metal spoon or rubber spatula, until fully combined. Pour the batter into the tins and bake for 25–30 minutes, or until the cakes are risen, golden brown and spring back when pressed. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Turn the cakes out of the tins and leave to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the Italian meringue. Heat the sugar, glucose and 4 tablespoons water in a saucepan over a medium–high heat, stirring gently. Using a sugar thermometer, check when the solution reaches 80C and then stop stirring. Continue to heat the mixture, without stirring. When the sugar syrup reaches 110C, put the egg whites in a clean glass bowl and start whisking on full speed. When the sugar syrup reaches 119C, remove the pan from the heat and add the syrup to the egg whites in a slow, steady stream, while continuing to whisk them. Once all the syrup has been added, whisk until the meringue has cooled completely.
To serve, place one cake on a stand and spread with half the compote. Attach an open star nozzle to a large piping bag, then fill with the meringue. Pipe a third of the meringue in a large circle from the centre outwards. Place the second sponge on top and repeat the process.
Once the third and final sponge is in place, finish with the remaining Italian meringue. Use a blowtorch to colour and caramelise the meringue on top and that is peeping out of the cake. Serve the day you make it.