We've had a bit of a crazy weekend this week celebrating a kids party, a wedding, father's day and my father-in-law's 60th birthday. With so many lovely things it's hard to know what to blog about, so I'm just going to skip straight to one of my favourite things about a celebration and that is baking cake (of course)!
My father-in-law's two favourite cakes of all time are Prinsesstarta (Swedish princess cake) and Bombe Alaska. Since I hadn't ever eaten Prinsesstarta before I thought I'd have more hope of success making a Bombe Alaska. For the uninitiated a bombe alaska has a sponge base, with a mound of ice-cream in the centre, all covered with mountainous pillowy clouds of meringue. It is a bit of a leap of faith baking ice-cream in the oven but the meringue acts like an insulating blanket and stops it from melting.
The cake was a big hit. I think it might be my new favourite - for it's theatricality and unbeatable kitsch. I'm looking forward to experimenting with different flavours next time. If you'd like to make your own here is how you do it...
If you're feeling lazy you can buy a tub of ice-cream but really I think it is well worth making your own.
Vanilla ice-cream (recipe from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop - aka the best ice-cream book ever!)
250ml whole milk
500ml heavy cream
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise (I really recommend buying a good quality vanilla bean not just those crappy rock hard ones you can buy in a packet at the supermarket. It makes a big difference and if you are going to all the trouble of making your own ice-cream you want it to be amazing)
6 large egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Warm the milk, sugar, 250ml of the cream, and salt in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the warm milk and add the bean as well. Cover and remove from the heat and let steep at room temperature for 30mins.
Pour the remaining 250ml cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, the scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat, with a heat proof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Put the vanilla bean into the custard, add the vanilla extract and stir until cool over an ice bath.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator (overnight). Remove the vanilla bean and churn in your ice-cream maker according to the instructions.
Line a small bowl (pudding shaped is best - I used one that was about 61/2inch diameter. You need the diameter to be about 2inches smaller than the diameter of your cake tin) with glad wrap. Fill bowl with ice-cream, cover and freeze. When it comes time to assemble the bombe sit the bowl in hot water for a few seconds and the ice-cream should tip out fairly easily. Pop the glad wrap covered ice-cream back in the freezer to harden up for a few minutes before assembling the cake.
Sponge Base (recipe from Nigella Lawson's Feast - I've tweaked the method a little)
6 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
100g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated zest 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 200C. Butter and line a 25cm (I used a 21cm) springform tin with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer. Then beat in the egg yolks, then the vanilla and zest and finally the dry ingredients.
Spread into the prepared tin and bake for 12-15mins until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.
You can make this in advance and put it in the freezer (thaw for 2 hours at room temperature before assembling the cake).
Meringue and putting it all together (recipe from Nigella Lawson's Feast - again I've tweaked the method a little)
6 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
200g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 220C and put the shelf down low.
Whisk the egg whites until they are foamy and then add the salt and cream of tartar and then continue whisking until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, beating well after each addition by which time you should have a thick and glossy meringue mixture.
Place the cake base on a baking tray. Unmould the ice-cream onto the base (see notes under ice-cream) or if you are using a bought tub scoop softened ice-cream into a mound on the cake making sure you leave an edge of sponge around the outside.
Pile the meringue over the top of the ice-cream and completely cover the sponge top and sides, creating a mountainous swirly effect. Make sure no ice-cream is showing through as it will melt in the oven if not protected by the meringue.
Put it into the oven for up to 10 minutes until it has turned golden in colour - keep an eye on it! Eat immediately!