It’s been howling a gale the last two days, huge gusts of wind whipping through the valley, bending the trees sideways and turning the field into a sea of rippling and waving grass. I feel a bit sorry for the birds and bats flapping away day and night in the breeze! It’s definitely blowing away the cobwebs, though I have to confess, I wouldn’t mind a bit of sunshine this month.
Never mind. Weather like this is always a good excuse to get some baking done, and today I’m taking another trip down memory lane to the sweets and cakes of my childhood in New Zealand. Louise Cake is much beloved in NZ, star of many a country market and school fair, though it’s little known outside of the country. It’s made in three layers: crumbly buttery shortcake, tart berry jam, all topped with crispy coconut meringue.
This is real grandmother baking where I come from, and true to form, it’s very simple to make. It can be made entirely by hand, though you’ll find life easier with an electric beater to whip the meringue. I’ve modernised this recipe quite a lot by reducing the amount of sugar, but you’ll want to make sure to use a nice tart jam like raspberry to get a good flavour. I’d suggest crushing a few fresh berries into the jam, if you have them, to give it a lovely freshness.
I hope you’ve had a great start to the new month. Happy Baking! x J
New Zealand Louise Cake
for the shortcake:
- 100 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 50 g sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 250 g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 150 g berry jam
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
for the coconut meringue:
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 tsp cornflour / cornstarch
- 150 g sugar
- 100 g desiccated coconut
- icing/confectioners sugar, to dust
- Heat oven to 180°C / 350° F / Gas 4. Line a 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12 in.) baking pan with baking paper and lightly grease.
- Beat butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the vanilla extract and stir well. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together, then stir through the butter mixture until you have a soft, pliable dough. Press the dough evenly into the prepared pan.
- Mix the jam and lemon juice together, then spread evenly over the base.
- Clean your mixing bowl with hot water, wipe it out with a little vinegar to remove any oils, then add the egg whites and cornflour / cornstarch to the bowl. Whisk using an electric mixer until soft peaks form, then add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating all the while, until the mixture is thick and glossy.
- Fold through the coconut, then spoon the meringue evenly over the base. Bake in the bottom third of the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until the meringue is lightly golden.
- Allow to cool in the tin before lifting out, slicing into 12 and serving. If you like, dust with icing sugar.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I don’t like coconut. Can I leave it out?
Of course, just omit it from the recipe.
I like a very crisp base to my slice. Can I really bake this all in one?
This is the classic way to make Louise cake and results in a very moist, crumbly shortcake base. If you would like the base to be crunchier, you’ll need to bake the base and let it cool before topping with jam and the meringue mixture. Make sure to prick it all over with a fork, bake for 20 minutes, allow to cool and then proceed as per the recipe.
How long will Louise Cake keep?
3 days or so in a container. The meringue will soften after the first day.