This recipe is from Pani Stasia *,she and my mother were at school together. She baked wonderful cakes and everyone loved this soft cake with seedless green grapes on the top within a mound of lovely meringue.
Many years ago I jotted down the recipe and now I found it amongst my many hand written recipes.
I obviously had not written it down very well and in my first attempt, although the topping part worked very well , the bottom cake part was not as I remembered it. Part of the problem was some of the measurements were in spoons and I think my conversions did not work out that well. Also I remember that seedless grapes used to be very small, now they seem to be much bigger.
My next attempt was a disaster! I tried cutting the grapes in half (bad idea) and I adjusted the base ingredients – the base did not cook well at all this time – a big gloopy mess – straight to birds.
One of a pair of wood pigeons that come into the garden looking for cast off cake!
I decided to bake the cake base separately and add the topping later – I had a couple of goes and found that a Victoria sponge using two eggs was the best.
This method means you have 4 egg yolks left over (you can use these in many other recipe). The original recipe used the yolks in the base and the whites in the topping – sadly I could not recreate this.
100g caster sugar
100g self raising flour
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Grease a 22cm loose bottomed tall sided tin.
Preheat the oven to GM4 – 180°C.
Cream the butter and sugar till light and fluffy
Add the eggs and lemon rind and whisk again.
Fold in the plain flour.
Place the mixture in the tin and bake for around 25 minutes.
Leave to go cold before adding the topping.
225g seedless green grapes
4 egg whites
200g granulated sugar
2 sponge fingers – crushed
Preheat the oven to GM2 – 150°C.
Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff.
Add the sugar and whisk again till stiff.
Mix in the crushed sponge fingers
Put half of the meringue mixture on top of the cake base.
Place the grapes in a layer on top of the meringue.
Put the rest of the meringue mixture on top of the grapes and smooth it down.
Bake for 1 hour – if not dry enough – lower oven to GM1- 140°C and leave for another 30 minutes.
Switch off the oven and leave cake in the oven.
Once oven is cold take out the cake and leave to cool in the tin.
Do not try to take it out of the tin until it is totally cold.
Queen Anne tea plates & Portmeirion – Crazy Daisy cake forks – Sophie Conran’s design from 2009.
Coffee set and plates – Greenway by Hostess Tableware – design by John Russell, 1960 – 1979.
Pani translates as Madam, Lady or Mrs and is a polite form of address – it is like donna in Italian or saying Miss Mary in the Southern States of America.
Stasia is the shortened form of the Polish name Stanisława. (The feminine form of Stanisław)
St Stanisław is the patron saint of Kraków & Poland, he was a martyr, murdered by the Polish king Bolesław II the Bold in 1079 – a story which has much in common with St Thomas à Beckett and the English king Henry II in 1170.
I could see out of my kitchen window that the rhubarb was beginning to grow. As I still had one batch left frozen from last summer I to decided to use that up before the new crop and in time for you to try it.
Ingredients – base
200g plain flour
100g butter – chilled
70g icing sugar
2 egg yokes
pinch of salt
Method – base
Add a pinch of salt to the flour.
Use a knife to cut the chilled butter into small pieces into the flour and then use your fingers to make the mixture like breadcrumbs.
Add the icing sugar and mix this together.
Add the yolks and gently mix this in, then and bring it all together into a dough – try and handle the pastry as little as possible.
Form the dough into a rough rectangle.
Wrap the dough in greaseproof paper and chill it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to GM 6 – 200°C.
Grease and line a 23 x 26 cm baking tin.
Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough a little
Press the dough into the tin – filling it up all the sides.
Prick the surface with a fork.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes till golden.
Leave to cool.
Ingredients – Rhubarb filling
400g (approx) of rhubarb
150g of granulated sugar (more may be needed)
25g of butter
3 egg yolks
2-3 tablespoons of potato or corn flour
Method – rhubarb filling
This needs to be made ahead of time as it must be cold.
Pre-heat the oven to GM2
Chop the rhubarb into small pieces and place in a baking dish
Bake in the oven for around 1 hour – till soft.
Check for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary – but not too sweet.
Leave to cool a little.
I used cooked rhubarb that I had frozen from last year.
Wizz the rhubarb up with a blender or chopper to get a purée.
Place this in a saucepan.
Mix the yolks with the potato or cornflour and add this to the rhubarb and heat till it thickens.
Add the butter and mix in.
Leave to go cold before use.
A few thoughts on the origin & history of meringues:
Meringue – a French word.
Swiss village of Meiringen.
Improved by Italian chef Gasparini.
From Polish word – marzynka – a day dream?
Made by the chef for the exiled king of Poland, Stanisław Leszczyński (1677 – 1766), Duke of Lorraine (1737 -1766).
His daughter, Maria, was married to Louis XV of France and she introduced them to the court.
In Polish – beza(sing)) bezy(pl) – link to – buzi – kiss?
French meringue – whisk eggs till stiff – add sugar and whisk again.
Italian meringue – uses sugar syrup.
Swiss meringue – sugar and whites heated over a water bath.
Addition of cornflour – strengthens the egg white.
I used 4 egg whites & 200g icing sugar.
Place the whites into a grease free bowl.
Whisk till stiff.
Add icing sugar and whisk again till stiff.
Preheat the oven to GM 1 -140°C.
Cover the base with the rhubarb filling and level it out.
Cover the rhubarb with the meringue and level it out
Put back into the oven for 45 to 60 minutes.
Cut the cake into squares when cool to serve.
Served here on Royal Doulton – Counterpoint tea plates 1973 – 1987.