A glorious summer afternoon, on my way to a river walk before tea and cake with my brother (I always bring the cake). Spaniel and I enjoying the breeze with the top down for the swooping drive beside the South Downs towards the Arun. And horror! In the rear view window I see an untethered carrier bag fly from between the car seats, miss (thank God!) the windscreen of the car following and disappear into the hedgerow, concealed by foaming traveller’s joy and Queen Anne’s lace.
No chance to stop and retrieve it, we’re in a stream of traffic and there’s nowhere safe to park. And in my head a stream of abject apology and self-justifying bluster: “I don’t do things like that. I don’t leave litter, I clear up litter.” I collect discarded Styrofoam coffee cups while I walk the dog and join with my neighbours in condemning the customers of a certain drive-in takeaway burger bar. It seems where we live is just the distance you drive before finishing your drink. The cups are all the same (large) size, I wonder if there is another circle of roadside litter, closer to the takeaway, made up of smaller size cups?
And, when I stumble over mattresses discarded in field entrances along the lanes of the South Downs, I have to remind myself how pleased I am not to live in a police state; lest I find myself wishing for CCTV on every gateway. But I don’t leave litter, I tell myself. Then the view of the soaring, tumbling carrier bag plays again in my brain. And another thought. David Sidaris lives very close to where I was driving. Now I’m one of the antisocial litter louts he describes in his books and on the radio. Total shame. I’ve reached my brother’s when another thought hits me. ‘Does it make things better or worse that it was a bag for life?’
Resolve to do better, and put the portion of white chocolate and lemon curd wedding cake that I’ve brought to chill while the spaniel dives in and out of the river.
The top two tiers were made using a recipe I adapted from the Epicurious website, so here’s a link to the original. In fact I made 5 cakes altogether, 3 white, 2 dark chocolate, as the bride wanted to use the cake as dessert. The quantities in the original recipe were for baking in three 9 inch tins, each of the tiered cakes was baked in a loose bottomed tin, I used 25 cm (just over 9 inches), and 20 cm. The original recipe is from the US, so here are the quantities I used, smaller size cake in brackets. Conversion factor is (20/25 = 0.8) squared = 0.64 to give cakes of same depth – hopefully! To make the cake itself lemony I put the zest in the cake, rather than in the lemon curd.
11.5 oz (7.5 oz) SR flour
1 ( ½ ) teasp baking powder
I omitted the recommended salt
4 oz (2 ½ oz) white chocolate
8 fl oz (5 fl oz) double cream
5 fl oz (3 fl oz) milk
1 ( ½ ) teasp vanilla extract
4 ½ oz (3 oz) butter (softened but NOT runny)
14 oz (9 oz) caster sugar
4 (3 and omit milk) large eggs, separated.
Zest from 4 (3) lemons
Assembling the cake took a while, so I switched on the oven when I was half way through – 350o F or 180oC if baking in 3 separate tins in which case the time was 35 minutes. In one large tin I turned the temperature down to 160oC (fan oven) then 140 oC after 40 minutes, and the cakes took 1 ½ hours and 70 minutes respectively. Lots of checking with metal skewer after ¾ time.
Grease and line tin(s) with non-stick paper.
Sift flour and baking powder twice.
Melt chocolate in half the cream. I used microwave in 10 then 5 second bursts, stirring after each one. White chocolate melts (and burns) so easily, warming it with the cream in a 1 pint plastic pudding basin is the most successful method I’ve ever found.
Stir in rest of cream, milk and vanilla extract.
I use a stand mixer so I beat the egg whites first (detail below), transfer to a clean bowl and save washing up.
Whip egg whites to soft peaks, add ½ the sugar continue beating until stiff bit not dry.
Put in large clean bowl, and swap beater to (in my case) ‘K’ beater. If you haven’t switched the oven on yet, do it now.
Beat butter with lemon zest and rest of sugar until fluffy. Beat in yolks.
On slow speed add alternate flour and cream mixtures, beginning and ending with flour.
Fold in the beaten egg whites, by hand with large metal spoon.
Place in tin(s) and into centre of oven
When baked through, place upside down on rack and allow to cool. I put in freezer and set crumb before slicing horizontally twice to fill with white chocolate ganache (I used icing sugar in addition to the white chocolate to stiffen the ganache), and lemon curd. (This is also the time to put in pillars). I froze the filled cake to make it easier to handle before adding more ganache to the top and a scraping to the sides. I froze everything to take to the wedding (150 miles away) and assembled it chilled before the reception, using white ganache as ‘glue’.
I made double quantities of the curd in the Epicurious recipe, it was enough for 3 cakes and some left over, but I did not top the cakes with curd.
The bottom tier was a 12 inch dark chocolate sponge, with two layers of ganache, and coated with melted chocolate. I made one spare dark chocolate sponge, 10 inch diameter.
There were 73 guests, and ½ one dark cake and the smallest white chocolate tier left over, which I refroze. It tasted fine when I checked before giving portions to those who missed the day. And I didn’t mention the carrier bag to my brother.