What’s a good, summer party cake?
Jess, London SE19
A good party hinges on good cake, and who better to advise on such matters than the king of desserts himself, Jeremy Lee? “My absolute go-to is hazelnut meringue with a heap of raspberries and cream,” says the chef-proprietor of Quo Vadis in London. “For fun, pour on raspberry puree and load it with ice-cream.” To achieve meringue greatness, Lee beats egg whites thoroughly in a “scrupulously clean bowl” and ensures that the first addition of sugar is beaten in well: “Do that, and you’ll get safely into harbour.”
Summer is, of course, a time for bountiful fruit, eating outdoors and, says Helen Goh, co-author (with Yotam Ottolenghi) of Sweet, “when traybakes come into their own”. While a slab of sponge perhaps doesn’t sound much to write home about, when dressed for the occasion, it brings ultimate party vibes. “People think they’re rustic and brown, but you can make them really pretty, too.”
Also partial to a celebratory traybake is Tarunima Sinha, owner of baking delivery business My Little Cake Tin. She adds ground almonds or pistachios to the batter for moisture, a few spoons of soured cream for lightness, and elderflower cordial or lemon zest for flavour. “All you need to do then is make a fruit puree [passion fruit, strawberries or mango, say] and swirl it through whipped cream.” Slather that on top of your cooked sponge, and scatter over some berries and edible flowers. Alternatively, for “a little je ne sais quoi”, Goh pokes holes in the cake and pours over a syrup infused with bay leaves. Or, for “instant wow without any extra work”, Sinha bakes hers in a bundt tin, and eats it with the cream and berries on the side.
“Something I love that’s fantastic in summer, but often neglected, is a yoghurt cake,” Lee says. They’re quick, easy and an excellent vehicle for good olive oil, citrus and all manner of nuts. “I’d be tempted to do an orange, olive oil and pistachio or almond one,” he adds, especially when partnered with a fruit compote – “every berry under the sun, or peach, or apricot” – and an abundance of custard. “Yoghurt cake isn’t fragile, either, so it’s great for picnics or carrying up a hill.”
Also ticking the simple yet satisfying box is bingka ubi, or Indonesian tapioca cake. Rahel Stephanie, who runs cult London supper club Spoons, says: “It’s a foolproof, one-bowl cake. Just throw in a bunch of grated tapioca, sugar, coconut milk and tapioca starch, mix it all up and bake for an hour.” Her top tip is to swap greaseproof paper for a greased banana leaf (if you can get one): “It adds a beautiful fragrance – quite aromatic and vanilla-esque.” Then, to make things suitably celebratory, top with some fresh mango or grated coconut.
There are, however, occasions when only chocolate will do, and Goh has got Jess’s back with an Australian ripple cake: “It’s made by ‘gluing’ chocolate biscuits together with cream, which you can flavour with coffee.” Cover with more cream, “so it looks like a barrel”, and chill: “You’ll get that chocolate hit without having a big, messy chocolate cake.”