This spectacular cake won Stephen the first prize in the cake category plus the closely-fought Best In Show Award.
220g icing sugar
120g ground almonds
4 egg whites
80g caster sugar
3 tablespoons hot water from a boiled kettle
80g icing sugar, sifted
10g caster sugar
50g plain flour
50g corn flour
Pinch of baking powder
225ml whole milk
170g caster sugar
3 egg yolks
170g unsalted butter
3 tbs blackberry jam (without seeds)
4 tablespoons water
20g caster sugar
100g toasted flaked almonds
70g icing sugar
1) Preheat the oven to 170ºC.
2) Draw two 25cm circles in a large piece of baking parchment and grease the insides of each circle with butter. Place each piece of baking parchment on a baking sheet.
3) Place the ground almonds in a large bowl and sift the icing sugar on top.
4) Whisk the egg whites and caster sugar until the whites have formed a thick meringue, but don't let it get dry and powdery. Take one third of the meringue and incorporate it into the icing sugar and almonds with a large metal spoon. Then add the remainder of the meringue in two equal batches. Try to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.
5) Spread the mixture inside the prepared circles, bringing it right up to the edge. You may find it helps to stick the baking parchment to the baking sheet using a small amount of the macaroon mix.
6) Bake for about 10-12 minutes – ideally until the macaroons come away freely from the baking parchment, but whatever you do try not to overcook them. Remove from the oven as soon as they are cooked and leave to cool.
7) Increase the oven to 175ºC.
8) Grease a 25cm springform round cake tin lined with baking parchment (for best results use one with a removable bottom).
9) Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks on full power, adding the hot water a tablespoon at a time, until thick and light. Add the icing sugar gradually and beat well. It should be light and fluffy. Set aside.
10) Beat the egg whites until stiff in a clean bowl. Add the caster sugar to the stiff egg whites and beat well until smooth and glossy.
11) Sift the flour, corn flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Fold in the egg yolk and icing sugar mixture with a large metal spoon one third at a time until fully incorporated. Then fold in the egg whites very carefully. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through – the cake will come away from the sides of the tin when baked.
12) Transfer the tin to a wire rack and let cool completely.
13) Put the milk in a small saucepan with 85g of caster sugar. Heat until the mixture steams, but do not allow to boil.
14) Put the egg yolks in a bowl with 85g of caster sugar and stir until pale and thick. Do not whisk as you do not want the mixture to become airy.
15) Slowly pour the hot milk on to the yolk and sugar mixture, stirring constantly.
16) Rinse or wipe out the saucepan and return the mixture to the pan. Heat gently, stirring constantly, until thickened and a nice custard consistency has formed (it will be ready when it coats the back of a clean wooden spoon). Do not allow to boil.
17) If there are any lumps in the custard, strain through a sieve, and allow to cool until it is thickened and set.
18) Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until very soft and creamy. Then beat in the cooled custard one tablespoon at a time. Add the jam and mix well.
19) In a small saucepan, bring the water and caster sugar to the boil over a medium-high heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside to cool. Add the kirsch and mix well. Set aside.
20) Very carefully, peel the macaroon discs off the baking paper and place one of them on a serving plate or cake stand.
21) Spread one third of the buttercream evenly over the macaroon.
22) Place the sponge on top of it, poke lots of small holes in the sponge with a skewer or sharp knife and brush it generously with the syrup. Leave to rest for a few minutes, until the syrup is absorbed.
23) Carefully spread one third of the buttercream over the soaked sponge. It will be more difficult because the sponge is moist from the syrup.
24) Overturn the second macaroon onto a clean flat chopping board so that it is upside down with the baking parchment now face up. Carefully peel back the baking parchment. Then, as quickly as you can, turn the chopping board back over and, holding the macaroon in both hands, place it on top of the cake; an extra pair of hands is useful at this point! If your macaroon is soft it might crack in your hands – don't worry about this.
25) Spread the remaining buttercream on the sides of the cake and press the flaked almonds onto the cream. Using a sieve, sprinkle the top of the cake with a small amount of icing sugar.
This recipe is adapted from Patricia Scarpin's Zuger Kirschtorte recipe. The macaroon layers are based on Ottolenghi's macaroon recipe and the buttercream is adapted from a recipe in Leiths Techniques Bible.