If a backyard wedding in summer could masquerade as a cake, this would be it. Strawberry and lavender is the most perfect marriage of flavours and aromas: it is the first taste of summer. There is something about the floral fragrance whistling across the rounded sweetness of the simple strawberry that renders the fruit somewhat fizzy, flighty and flirtatious.
A pillowy meringue topping prevents the sponge cake element from becoming too boisterous and heavy for these subtle undertones, yet there is a necessary slim inch of sponge to carry the lavender and provide a sound base for the whipped cream and strawberry filling.
I added a swirl of lemon curd to the whipped cream, but it was lost somewhat amongst the other flavours. I think the end result would be even dreamier if a layer of strawberry jam was spread over the sponge base, and a swirl of strawberry compote through the cream would really lift this cake.
strawberry & lavender meringue cake (adapted from ‘Summer’, Nigella Lawson, p. 202).
120 g plain flour
25 g cornflour
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
100 g unsalted butter, softened
300 g caster sugar
3/4 tsp dried lavender
4 eggs, separated
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
375 ml double cream
1 heaped tbsp lemon curd
350 g strawberries
Preheat oven to 200°C/gas 6. Line two 8-inch sandwich tins (loose-bottomed).
Blitz 100g of the sugar and lavender together in a food processor, until well combined and sandy. Cream the lavender sugar with the butter until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks.
Put the flour, cornflour and baking powder in a bowl and then gently fold these dry ingredients into the butter, sugar and egg yolk mixture. Add the vanilla and milk, and stir to combine.
Divide the batter between the two tins and smooth out the surface.
Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually whisk in the remaining caster sugar (200 g) until stiff and shiny. Spread a layer of meringue on top of the sponge batter in each tin.
Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until golden. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the tins. Remove from tins when ready to assemble and serve the cake.
Whip the cream until it just softly holds it shape, then gently fold in the lemon curd. Spread the cream on one of the cake layers (inverted, i.e. the meringue should be on the plate and the sponge pointing upwards, coming in contact with the cream). Hull and slice the strawberries, or half smaller ones, and arrange these all over the layer of cream, before putting the other cake layer on top (meringue pointing up to the sky). Press down very gently to seal it.