This cake is a whole mess of things I was working on in the kitchen. I made pastry cream for another recipe, a layer cake I think, and had bought too much fruit at the farmer’s market. Then, I decided to attempt baking a Basque cake for the thousandth time, and failed because I misread the recipe and added too many eggs and flour. But looking back I don’t think the recipe would’ve achieved the texture I was hoping for anyway.
So what did I have? A cake that had the barely sweet, crumbling texture of a scone, way too much pastry cream, and slowly ripening fruit sitting on my counter. I popped everything together hoping for the best, and I got something much better than my ambivalent expectations.
The dry cake is the perfect base for the sweet and creamy pastry cream, and fresh fruit add brightness and freshness to the the rich pastry below. I love this cake, and plan on using it as a base throughout the year as different fruit comes in and out of season – pears in fall, citrus in winter, strawberries in the spring. It’s so versatile, and so so delicious. It’s best enjoyed with a cup of tea and a friend to help you, otherwise you might end up eating all of it in one sitting, slice by slice.
INGREDIENTS (FOR CAKE)
1 recipe lemon scented pastry cream
1 scone cake
3 nectarines, peaches, or plums, sliced
To assemble, simple spread the finished pastry cream on the cake, and top with fruit. For additional flavor, pour a tablespoon of your favorite liqueur over the fruit (grand marnier or sherry are delicious choices). Hold in the fridge until serving, but best at room temperature.
INGREDIENTS (LEMON SCENTED PASTRY CREAM)
3/4 cups half and half
2 strips of lemon peel
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 pinch kosher salt
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Warm the half and half and lemon peel in the saucepan until steaming, careful that it doesn’t boil.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, and salt. Add the egg yolks and whisk them into the dry ingredients. This will form a thick, sandy paste. Pour a little of the hot half and half into the eggs and whisk to combine. Continue pouring the half and half slowly into the eggs, whisking continuously.
When all the half and half has been added to the eggs, pour everything back into the saucepan. Set a strainer over a bowl nearby.
Set the pan back over medium heat, whisking constantly. When it has thickened to a loose pudding-like consistency, pause whisking to see if the cream has come to a boil. If large bubbles pop on the surface (watch out, they splash quite a bit) the cream is ready to remove from heat.
Stir the vanilla into the pastry cream and then pour everything through the strainer set over the bowl. Stir to push it through the strainer. This will catch any bits of cooked egg and the lemon peel that are your pastry cream.
Cover the pastry cream with a piece of plastic wrap pressed right up against the surface of the cream – this will prevent a skin from forming – and chill completely. When ready to serve, whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks, and fold into the pastry cream.
INGREDIENTS (SCONE CAKE)
4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
½ vanilla bean, scraped
2 large eggs
1¼ cup flour, plus more for shaping dough
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon cream, for washing the dough
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter and sugar and beat well. Add scrapings from inside vanilla bean, as well as both eggs, and beat a few minutes longer. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and add to mixer gradually. Gather dough together, shape into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate 40 to 60 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F.
Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 8 inches, and 1 inch thick, to fit in an 8 inch spring form tart pan. Press into the pan. Brush cream over cake’s surface. Bake on lower rack of oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly brown at the edges but soft in the center.