In 1865, English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson released his new novel to unanimously poor reviews; it was filled with such nonsense that Dodgson’s sanity was called into question, and it was never expected to be a bestseller. But Dodgson- writing under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll- and his nonsense novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, proved the cynics wrong and its unique brand of absurdist, madcap humour has endured and appealed to generations. It’s spawned spinoffs, films, and merchandise, and its motely cast of characters- including the Cheshire Cat, the Dodo, the White Rabbit and the titular Alice herself- have found their place in the nation’s collective heart.
This year marks its 150th anniversary, so what better way to celebrate than with a cake perfect for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. A take on the classic Queen of Puddings, this bitesize version of the summer dessert with a genoise sponge cake base and meringue swirl, could make even the Queen of Hearts crack a smile!
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MAKES one 21cm square cake cut into sixteen squares
PREP 20 mins for cake, 20 mins for meringue
COOK 25 mins for cake, 25 mins for meringue
▪ Will keep in an airtight container for three days.
FOR THE GENOISE SPONGE
95g caster sugar
3 medium free-range eggs
95g plain flour
20g butter, melted
FOR THE FILLING
3 tablespoons strawberry jam
FOR THE MERINGUE
2 egg whites
100g caster sugar
1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease and line a square 8in/21cm cake tin.
2 For the sponge, whisk the caster sugar and eggs in a large bowl or a stand mixer, until foamy, thick and pale (this will take around ten minutes) and reaches the ribbon stage; this is when the whisk leaves a ribbon trail that holds for about five seconds on the surface of the mixture when the whisk is lifted out.
3 Sift half of the flour over the whisked eggs and sugar and partially fold in using a large metal spoon. Sift over the remaining flour and fold in. Be gentle during folding to retain the air whisked into the eggs.
4 Drizzle the melted butter around the edge of the bowl and gently incorporate.
5 Spoon the batter into the tin and level with a spatula, then bake in the preheated oven for around 25 minutes or until the cake is golden on top and springs back when pressed lightly with a fingertip.
6 Whilst the cake is cooling in the tin, prepare the jam. Warm three tablespoons of jam in the microwave to loosen, then pour over the top of the cake.
7 Reduce the temperature of the oven to 140c. Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking parchment.
8 For the meringue, whisk the egg whites in a large, clean bowl until the whites reach stiff peaks which hold their shape when the whisk is removed.
9 Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking between each addition, until all the sugar is incorporated and the meringue is thick and glossy.
10 Fill a piping bag with meringue and pipe individual swirls of meringue onto the baking parchment. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the meringues have a crispy shell. Switch the oven off and leave the meringues to dry out in the oven.
11 Remove the cake from the tin and cut into even squares. Add a meringue swirl to the top of each square just before serving.