Summer food: Little slice of heaven, with coffee

Author Alexa Johnston shares her Louise Cake recipe. Photo / Supplied
Author Alexa Johnston shares her Louise Cake recipe. Photo / Supplied

Alexa Johnston, author of best-selling cookbooks Ladies a Plate, A Second Helping and What's for Pudding, draws from her treasure trove of vintage community and family cookbooks.

My favourite recipe from Ladies, a Plate: The Collection is Louise Cake (with Marmalade Tea Loaf a close second). Both recipes offer ways of using home made preserves, but Louise Cake is the winner for me because the delicious red fruit jam - preferably home made of course - is sandwiched between a tender shortcake base and a thin layer of crisp coconut meringue.

New Zealand home baking often includes desiccated coconut, originally, I imagine, an economical substitute for ground almonds - but it has become our preference.

And Louise Cake is quickly made, cuts into lots of slices, looks pretty, keeps very well in the tin and is perfect with a mid-morning coffee - any time of the year.

Q & A

My best new dish this year was Madhur Jaffrey's Salmon in a Bengali Mustard Sauce from her brilliant new book Curry Easy.

I've always relied on Madhur Jaffrey's books, and Curry Easy is both a beautiful book and a treasure trove of great new recipes.

My favourite cook book this year was Margaret Costa's Four Seasons Cookery Book, first published in 1970 and reprinted in 1999, it is a best seller and still available.

Costa writes with great knowledge, enthusiasm and charm about home-style rather than restaurant-style food and cookery and her 1960s columns for the London Sunday Times magazine were legendary.

This year I'll be finishing the photography and writing for my next book.

I've had a great year researching and testing all the recipes - and tasting the results.

And I'll also be working with Auckland Museum on an exhibition to mark the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

Louise Cake

For the base

70g butter
55g sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp lemon juice 1 tbsp
140g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

For the topping

5 tbsp raspberry jam *
2 egg whites
115g caster sugar
55g coconut
* or other tart red jam

Getting ready

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a shallow 30cm x 20cm tin with baking paper, or butter it lightly. Soften the butter.

Mixing and baking

1. Cream the butter and sugar together until light then beat in the egg yolks and mix thoroughly.

2. Add the lemon juice, then sift in the flour and baking powder and mix to a firm dough.

3. Press the dough evenly into the prepared tin, and spread over the jam. You don't need a thick layer.

4. Beat the egg whites until stiff then gently fold in the caster sugar and the coconut using a metal spoon. Spread carefully over the jam, again trying to keep an even thickness. Sprinkle with a little more coconut.

5. Bake for about 25 minutes until the coconut is just turning a golden brown.

6. Remove from the oven and cut into squares or fingers while it is still warm. Store airtight. Makes 24 fingers.

- NZ Herald

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