When I met Anna Weston last week I asked her what she would recommend I bake to take to my in-laws. Without hesitation she said the New Zealand Louise Cake. So that’s what I made!
The Louise cake consists of three layers: a soft shortbread, a generous slick of raspberry jam, and a coconutty meringue on the top. One of my sisters lived in New Zealand for a while so I’m familiar with the shortbread favourites (often topped with a caramelly layer). And although Anna said that some Kiwis claim they hadn’t come across it, it’s in the New Zealand recipe bible, the Edmonds Cookbook, so fair dinkum as far as I’m concerned.
It was a pretty easy bake despite the layers, and the shortbread doesn’t need baking first. This cake was one of the ones Anna particularly mentioned when we were talking about definitions. At first glance it’s perhaps on the fence: in Britain shortbread is much more biscuity than cakey. But it was actually the one she picked out when she was talking about texture – despite the rubbing in method it is much softer than the word shortbread would suggest. I’m not sure I would go so far as to call it cakey, but it’s certainly a very tasty bake. Anna also tipped me to leave it for its whole baking time so I just checked that the meringue wasn’t getting too brown after about half an hour. It was pretty soft to remove from the tin (though I should say this was my own fault for not lining as well as greasing the tin). I did get it out without mishap though I didn’t risk slicing it until we got there!
It was indeed, a perfect gift to take to the family. The Scientist, who is used to being called on for critical yet constructive comments on my baking, admired the variety of tastes and textures – fruity (I added some fresh raspberries with the jam, as suggested in the recipe), sweet and nubbly from the coconut (that was my word not his; he’s more likely to come out with things like ‘redactive’ and ‘exponential’). Definitely a keeper. I might even try it out on my sister next…
Thanks to Anna for the suggestion, and for permission to reproduce the recipe here:
New Zealand Louise Cake, from Anna Weston’s Global Bakery
1/2 cup/125g butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup/150g caster sugar
3 large eggs, separated
2 1/2 cups/325g all-purpose/plain flour
2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
3/4 cup/200g raspberry jam
3 egg whites (from the separated eggs)
1/4 cup/50g caster sugar
1 1/4 cups/120g unsweetened desiccated coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
A handful of fresh raspberries
Heat oven to 300 degrees F/150 C/Gas Mark 2
Lightly grease an 11-inch/28 cm x 8 inch/20cm cake pan. Line the pan with baking paper, and allow the paper to hang over the edges a little.
1. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract.
3. Sift the flour and baking powder, then fold into the mixture until combined. This will result in a crumbly dough.
4. Press the dough into the lined cake pan until the base is covered and then completely cover it with a thin layer of jam (you can also sprinkle the jam with some fresh raspberries if you have them). Set aside while you make the topping.
5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
6. Gradually add the caster sugar, one tablespoon at a time, while continuing to beat the whites until they form stiff, glossy peaks.
7. Using a spatula, gently fold in the desiccated coconut and vanilla extract.
8. Spread the coconut meringue over the jam, ensuring that the jam is completely covered.
9. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the meringue has developed a lightly golden brown and soft pink colour. It is quite normal for it to crack.
10. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Lift it from the tin and onto a cooling rack, using the lining paper, and allow it to cool completely.
11. Once the cake has cooled, cut it into squares and serve topped with fresh raspberries (if available). The cake can be kept in an airtight container for up to one week.