Recipes

My Family’s Recipes: Birthday Cake

12/06/2012

When I first told my mum that I was taking part in the Lavazza Coffee Set Match competition, she said to me: “you are going to make the birthday cake, aren’t you?”.

Let me explain, for those of you who are not familiar with the birthday traditions of “Casa Mulè”. On our birthday, my mum makes a special cake which doesn’t have a name and, as far as I’m aware, you won’t find anywhere else. I’m so fond of this cake and of our tradition, that the first time I spent my birthday away from my family, I made this cake to feel closer to them!

It is a special recipe, that I kept for the Coffee Set Match semi-final. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you the Wimblebon Cake!

You only need a few key ingredients: coffee, custard cream, whipped cream and a particular type of Italian biscuits, called Pavesini. The preparation is similar to that of Tiramisù: dip biscuits in coffee and create layers with cream.

Of course, nothing is that simple! As I didn’t have Pavesini biscuits, I decided to bake them myself (much to my mum’s skepticism!), which took more than an hour. Then I made the custard cream: 30 minutes of stirring continuously and in the same direction because otherwise “the cream goes crazy” (as we literally say in Italian)! Then you lay everything up and put the cake in the fridge…for a minimum of 5-6 hours!

By the time I started the decoration phase it was 11pm on Sunday night! And that’s when the disaster happened: I over-whipped the cream, as I was trying to get a darker shade of green by adding more colouring. Eventually I stirred the cream too much and it started to turn into butter!

It was too late to buy more cream, so with the tension of a long cooking day making my body ache, I went to bed trying to relax. Next day at 7am I was already in Tesco and, before leaving for work, made green and yellow batches of whipped cream and decorated the cake with white icing and coffee beans.

I wasn’t satisfied with the result, as I had this image in my mind of an emerald-green cake like the Wimbledon tennis court and a bright yellow tennis ball on top…nothing like the cake I had in front of me! So today I made a few tweaks to the decoration, in particular I re-designed the tennis court using whipped cream over the white icing I used originally. I also made a little net using two toothpicks and a white ribbon. Finally, I cut out the Wimbledon logo from a paper bag and placed it on the side of the cake.

As for the setting of the photos, I decided to keep it simple with a white tablecloth and plate and a lime napkin, as the cake has already got so much going on! The beautiful Lavazza A Modo Mio *Wimbledon Limited Edition* machine features in the background. :)

Ingredients

For the biscuits

  • 150g plain flour
  • 130g white sugar
  • 30g cornflour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla flavour

For the cake

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 150g white sugar
  • 50g plain flour
  • 1/2l milk
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup coffee (half normal, half decaf)
  • 1 cup double cream
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • food colouring (optional)

Preparation

Beat the eggs with the sugar until you have a foamy mixture, add the flour, cornflour and vanilla extract. Mix with slow movements, from the bottom to the top, as stirring too hard will ruin the foam. Prepare an oven tray with baking paper, then pour the biscuit mix using a piping bag, creating a long and thin shape. Keep the tray in the fridge for 10′ before placing it in the oven at 160°C. Cook for about 10-15′ until they are golden, then remove from oven and cool down.

Start preparing the cream: beat the egg yolks with the sugar, then slowly add flour and milk. Stir continuously to avoid creating lumps in the cream. Add lemon zest and move the bowl to the stove. Cook with low flame until the cream becomes thick – don’t stop stirring, always moving in the same direction. When the cream starts to boil, remove from the stove.

Make the coffee using your favourite machine. I brewed Lavazza Tierra! ground coffee with a Bialetti moka pot and also used Cremosamente Dek capsules in the A Modo Mio machine. It is important to mix normal coffee with de-caf, otherwise the cake will be too strong.

Use a deep dish for the cake. Dip the biscuits in the coffee and carefully place them in the dish, covering the bottom as well as the sides. Pour custard cream over the bottom, then add a layer of biscuits, add cream on top, another layer of biscuits, then cream, then biscuits to close the top. The biscuits covering the sides should be sticking out by approximately 1cm; bend them inwards over the top layer.

Cover with cling film and store in the fridge overnight or for at least 5-6 hours.

Whip the cream using an electric whisk and, when it thickens, add the icing sugar. As it gets foamier, check if there are soft peaks and be careful not to over-whip (as I did!) as the cream will lose volume, then clump and separate.

Take the cake out of the fridge and flip it over a dish. Cover it with the whipped cream and decorate as you like.

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