Whilst we are, of course, normally far too busy being exceedingly fabulous hostesses to stop for afternoon tea, there are just occasionally times when the planets align and we are able to let our mascara run and our reinforced under cladding sag (well away from public view, obviously), kick off our court shoes and spark up a Capstan Full Strength while the kettle boils.
Seeing as though also we are trying to reintegrate into high society once again, this uniquely English institution is a remarkably civilised and uncomplicated step to take on that journey. One thing it does require, though, is cake – and this is a slightly exotic version of a Victoria Sandwich. I hope you enjoy its rich denseness and alluring pale green and amaranth colours, just not quite in the somewhat literal sense Brenda seems to have done by the look of the stretch marks in her Spanx and the jangling palette of her maquillage…..
for the cake
200g unsalted pistachios – shelled and skinned
275g butter – in approx 1-2cm cubes and at room temp
275g icing sugar
7 large eggs
375g ground almonds
2tsp baking powder
for the filling
stewed plums – we had these in the freezer. Don’t worry if you don’t, you can use a neighbour’s – or just use plum jam.
sugar to taste
Preheat the oven to 180°C while you shell and skin the pistachios – if you buy pre shelled, excellent. Rub most of the skins off but don’t overly fret if some get left on, making a cake should be a pleasure, not turned into an afternoon of purgatory.
Place the pistachios in a metal pan and roast for 5 mins, perhaps briefly taking out half way through to give the pan a small shake.
Once hot and fragrant, take out and blitz in the food processor until they’re forming a paste.
Now lower the oven temperature to 150°C while you grease with butter and line a 22cm cake tin.
Add the ground almonds, the butter, icing sugar and eggs (I popped a couple of extra yolks in too which I had in the fridge left over from making a meringue!). Whizz for up to 2 mins or so till well combined, add the cornflour and whizz on slowest speed for a few seconds till just combined.
Pour the mix into the cake tin and slot into the oven on the middle shelf for an hour or a tiny bit longer if not quite yet cooked. I also turned mine half way through to ensure very even cooking.
Meanwhile, take about 300ml of the stewed plums, pressed them through a sieve into a small pan and heated gently on the hob. Then add just enough sugar to take off the sour edge but not cause the fruit to get too sweet. Allow the puree to just simmer for about 15-20 mins so that you end up with something quite jammy in consistency. Set aside to cool.
Once the cake is done, turn out onto a wire rack to cool which may take a good couple of hours. With a long, thin blade, slice horizontally in two, and on the lower half, spread a fairly thin layer of the plum puree – as if to spread jam on toast. Replace the top half of the cake, dust with icing sugar and serve with cups of tea using your best china!