June 12, 2016



I spotted some lovely looking strawberries in the supermarket recently – sadly we don’t grow any of our own, one day perhaps.  Wondering what to do with them I had an urge to bake a  Fraisier Cake.  Or possibly even mini ones.


I began looking at recipes and remembered that some of the contestants on Great British Bake Off had an awful lot of trouble with this cake one year.  If my memory serves me right, it was a technical challenge set by Mary.  When I looked at her recipe online it said “tricky to achieve, but certain to impress”.  Alarm bells started ringing in my head.

You can see the recipe here.  It requires home made sponge, crème patissière and a layer of marzipan.

Now I have to say that making crème patissière is not one of my strong points.  In fact I have only ever made it twice before and on both occasions it didn’t thicken.  Most disappointing when everyone and their grandmother seems to be able to whisk up a crème pat with effortless ease and it turns out perfect every time.  (I have the same trouble with scones.  Everyone seems to be able to make perfect scones but not me.  You could build houses with mine.)

Then I found a James Martin recipe online for a Fraisier, called “cheat’s strawberry gâteau”, where he uses shop bought sponge flan for the top and bottom layers.  You can see that recipe here and it gave me an idea.


Mary’s recipe included a home made fatless sponge for the base and top.  I’m good at making fat free sponges but time was an issue so I decided to go with James’ bought cake version.  I really wanted to make individual cakes for a special evening with guests but I could imagine myself getting into a terrible mess trying to construct them and turn them out so that they looked half decent.  So instead, I decided to make them as desserts, in little glasses.

They were a huge success.  I even made crème pat and it set perfectly.  I used this recipe here.  I used shop bought cake which in France is called “quatre quarts” and its nearest equivalent in the UK would be a madeira cake.  I used French cream, beaten and thickened with something called “Chantifix”, which is guaranteed to always thicken your cream and is good as long as you don’t mind the added sugar – which in this case I didn’t as I was aiming for a chantilly effect.  In the UK double or whipping cream, sweetened with a little icing sugar would do the same job.

The ones without any alcohol for the children were marked using cocktail sticks, so that there could be no uncertainty.


This month’s Love Cake theme is “no bake”, which, because I (couldn’t be bothered) didn’t have time to make my own sponge means that the mini Fraisiers fit perfectly.  You can see the details here.


I shop bought madeira cake or quatre quarts

1 punnet of strawberries

8 tsp Cointreau

250ml double or whipping cream, or crème entière and a sachet of Chantifix

For the crème pat

4 egg yolks*

65g caster sugar

15g plain flour

15g cornflour

350ml whole milk (I used semi skimmed and it was fine)

½tsp vanilla extract

icing sugar for dusting.


You will need 8 glasses, tumblers or dishes of a suitable size.

First, make the crème pat.  Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl using an electric whisk, until they turn pale and thick.  Whisk in the cornflour and flour.

Put the milk and vanilla into a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 30 seconds.

Very slowly pour half of the hot milk onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time.  Pour the mixture back into the pan onto the remaining milk.  Bring gently back to the boil and simmer for one minute, whisking all the time, until smooth and thickened.

Pour the finished crème pat into a clean bowl and dust with icing sugar to prevent a skin forming.  Sit the bowl on top of another containing iced or very cold water to cool.

Slice the cake into thin slices about 1cm thick then, using suitable pastry cutters, wine glass rims or jam jar rims, cut 8 large and 8 small circles of the right size to fit the base of your chosen glasses.  Put a smaller circle in the bottom of each dish and splash over a teaspoon of Cointreau. (Omit this step for children.)   Add a layer of crème pat about 2cm thick.

Rinse the strawberries and slice them into thick slices vertically.  Push slices into the crème pat against the sides of the glass.  Just slice a few at a time as it’s not easy to say exactly how many you will need.

Whisk the cream until thick (follow the instructions on the Chantifix packet if using) and fill each glass up to the top of the strawberries, making them all even in fullness.

Place a larger disc of cake on top of the layer of cream and dust with icing sugar.  Add half a strawberry for decoration.  Put slices of strawberry on a cocktail stick to identify any alcohol free portions.  Chill in the fridge until needed.

*I have anguished many a time over what to do with unused egg whites.  Meringues are another of my not very strong points.  I have occasionally resorted to throwing them away after they have lurked in the fridge and haunted me for a few days.  I now discover that if you simply cook them in a saucepan like you would make scrambled egg with a whole egg, the dog loves them with her breakfast.  One conscience eased and one very happy dog!

Serves 8.

June 10, 2016


prune and apple cake

A few weeks ago, I was reading this post in one of my favourite blogs over breakfast and an idea for the forthcoming Loire Valley CCC meeting sprang to mind.

Karen used cooked apple and home made lemon curd as the filling for her cake but whilst I was reading the post I was busy spreading something called “crème de pruneaux” on my toast.  Anyone who is not a fan of prunes should stop reading now! 

We love prunes in our house, possibly due to having been fed so many of them as a child in the 50’s.  In fact I love any kind of prunes, even the much derided tinned ones that we got for “afters” for school dinner, or at home served up cold with warm custard or rice pudding (delicious).  Apart from this cake, other baking triumphs using prunes include chocolate prune cake, a clafoutis of prunes soaked in rum and a prune and apple crumble, all delicious. 

prune and apple cake.1JPG

Anyway, the French must eat a lot of apple compôte as there is a huge amount of supermarket shelf space dedicated to it in France, whilst you would be hard pressed to find more than a jar or two in the UK.  We love it.  I especially like the one that has lumps or “morceau” of apple in it which is very handy for rustling up a quick cheat’s apple crumble. 

As for the “crème de pruneaux”, I can’t say I have ever seen anything like it for sale in the UK.  It’s almost like a cross between a compôte and a confiture, more runny than a jam but stickier than a compôte.

prune and apple cake3

prune and apple cake4

The theme for the cake club was “Saints or Sinners”.  In other words, a cake that would be vaguely good for you or one that was no holds barred, don’t give a damn, sinful in every slice.  This cake is essentially a Victoria sponge sandwiched together with the prune jam and apple compôte, with a little lemon icing drizzled over the top.

Thinking that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and we all know how good for you prunes are, I felt my cake qualified unquestionably as a saintly cake!

I even polished my halo and made the sponge properly, using the “weigh the eggs” and creaming method – as opposed to my usual chuck it all in and cross fingers all-in-one method.  Double brownie points in saintly terms for that I think!

prune and apple cake5

Anyhow, it was very nice and I will definitely be making it again.


4 eggs, weighed in their shells

The same weight in:

Softened butter, Flora Buttery, Lurpak Spreadable, or baking spread

Caster sugar

Self raising flour

A tablespoon of milk (if needed)

For the filling and icing:

1 jar of Crème de Pruneau

1 jar of apple compôte “avec morceau”

4 tbsp. icing sugar

Juice of ½ lemon


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°fan / gas mk 4. Butter two 20cm sponge tins and line the bases with circles of baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (using a stand mixer, hand held mixer or by hand). Beat the eggs and add them gradually to the mixture, beating well with each addition. Sift the flour into the bowl and fold in by hand. Add the milk if the mixture seems too stiff.

Divide the mixture evenly between the cake tins and level the top. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and springy. Cool in the tins for a couple of minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. When cool, slice each cake into two horizontally using a bread knife so you now have four layers.

Taking the bottom half of one sponge, spoon about 4 dessertspoons of crème de pruneaux onto the cake and spread out evenly. Do the same with 2-3 spoons of apple compôte, spreading out carefully in an even layer. Put the top half of that sponge on top and spread with prune and apple in the same way. Then add the bottom layer of the second sponge and do the same.

Finally, put the remaining top layer of the second sponge on top. Make a thin icing using the sifted icing sugar and lemon juice mixed to a paste. Drizzle over the cake, encouraging it to drip down the sides. Decorate with your choice of decoration or fresh flowers.

Serves 8-12.