Diary of a Foodie

Pink Cuts

Diary of a Foodie: Season One: Just Desserts

Makes20 small tea cakes
  • Active Time:1 1/2 hr
  • Start to Finish:2 hr
January 2007
These dainty tea cakes took many of us back to our childhood. A few drops of kirsch gives them a faintly eastern European air.

For cake

  • Butter for greasing baking pan
  • 1 cup minus 1/2 tablespoon cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners sugar for dusting

For pastry cream

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For icing

  • 1 rounded tablespoon red-currant jelly
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons hot water
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon kirsch (optional)
  • Special equipment:

    parchment paper; a clean kitchen towel (not terry cloth); an offset spatula

Make cake:

  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325ºF. Butter sides of a 17- by 12- by 1-inch baking pan and line bottom with parchment paper.
  • Sift flour with salt into a bowl.
  • Beat egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until they just hold soft peaks, then add granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating, and continue to beat until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks, 3 to 4 minutes in a stand mixer or 4 to 6 with a handheld. Add yolks and vanilla and beat until very thick, about 2 minutes.
  • Sift flour mixture into egg mixture in 3 batches, folding in each batch gently but thoroughly. Spread batter evenly in lined baking pan.
  • Bake until top of cake is pale golden and springs back when pressed lightly, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then run a small knife around edges to loosen. Lightly dust top with confectioners sugar. Invert pan onto kitchen towel, then remove pan and peel off parchment. Cool cake completely, about 15 minutes.

Make pastry cream while cake bakes and cools:

  • Whisk together cornstarch and milk in a 1-quart heavy saucepan until smooth. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking constantly, then boil, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Whisk milk mixture gradually into egg yolk in a small bowl. Return mixture to saucepan and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Transfer to a metal bowl, then put bowl into a larger bowl of ice and cold water and cool pastry cream, stirring occasionally, to room temperature, 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Beat butter with confectioners sugar (1/4 cup) and vanilla in a medium bowl with cleaned beaters at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat cooled pastry cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, into butter mixture until smooth.

Assemble and ice cake:

  • Halve cake lengthwise, then transfer half to a cutting board and spread with all of pastry cream. Top with other half.
  • Heat jelly and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan, stirring until jelly is melted, then whisk together with sifted confectioners sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in enough hot water (2 to 3 tablespoons) to make a smooth spreadable icing, then whisk in kirsch (if using). Spread icing evenly over top of cake with spatula, then chill cake, uncovered, until icing is set, about 30 minutes.
  • Cut cake crosswise into 5 (roughly 3-inch-wide) sections with a wet large knife, then cut each section into 4 (1 1/2-inch) pieces. (Rinse knife between each cut; icing is very sticky.)
Cooks' note: Cake can be assembled (but not cut) 3 days ahead and chilled in an airtight container. Cut cake, then bring to room temperature before serving.
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