• A few months before Jo and I headed of on our Euro road trip I met a guy whose name escapes me, but who spoke so excitedly about a cake at Lake Bled, Slovenia that I immediately made an appeal to Jo to add the country to our road trip. Yes, I went to Slovenia for cake. But this is a book about bakes that remind me of home, no? Well it turns out (and yes I had suspected this all along) that the Lake Bled Cream Cake is little more than our very own Vanilla Slice with the ingenious addition of a little rum and a layer of chantilly cream. Enjoy.

    Serves 8

    Ingredients 1 sheet of store bought all butter puff pastry, defrosted in the fridge overnight (spelt if you can find it) 1 recipe crème pâtissière (don’t make ahead of time) 300g double or thickened cream 1 ½ tbsp dark rum 50g icing sugar plus extra to dust ½ tsp vanilla bean paste 1 ½ tbsp skim milk powder

    Note: Please, please, please use an all butter puff pastry. The cheap margarine variety does this slice no justice and is not worth the stomach real estate.

    Method 1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan-assisted for 30 minutes and line a baking tray.

    2. Unwrap the puff pastry and place it on the lined baking tray. The pastry should measure approximately 20cm by 30cm, but any slight variation will work with some minor adjustments so long as it fits on the baking tray. If it doesn’t fit, slice it into two equal sized and shaped pieces and bake separately.

    3. Place a second sheet of baking paper over the pastry followed by a second baking tray to weigh it down. Bake for 15 minutes before carefully lifting and placing back down the top tray, and rotating before returning to the oven. Reduce the temperature to 200C/180C fan-assisted and continue baking for a further 10 minutes. If the top tray is quite light place an oven safe ceramic plate or something similarly heavy on top to weigh it down. The purpose of the weight is to ensure that the pastry rises evenly and stays relatively compact so that it doesn’t break into flakes when you are assembling the slice. Once the pastry is completely baked through you can remove the tray so that the pastry can colour without is puffing up further. Do not proceed to the next step until the pastry is completely baked through.

    4. Remove the top tray and paper and bake a further 5 minutes or until the pastry is deep golden brown all over. Don’t be tempted to remove the pastry from the oven early. Allowing the pastry to bake to deep golden brown will not only result in a superior texture but produces a beautiful caramel flavour that lingers on your tongue long after eating it.

    5. Immediately after removing from the oven carefully slide the pastry onto a chopping board and use a serrated bread knife to divide it into two equal pieces, these will form the top and base of the slice. Turn the oven back up to 220C/200C fan assisted, place one half of the pastry back onto the lined baking tray and dust generously and evenly with icing sugar. Return the dusted half of the pastry to the oven and bake for 5-10 minutes or until the icing sugar has melted into a glossy coating on the pastry. This is a fancy process produces caramelised puff pastry. While it gives a lovely sweetness and shine to the pastry, it is by no means necessary. If you’re a little nervous of burning yourself or just don’t feel up to the task you can skip this step completely, allow the pastry to cool completely before cutting it into two equal pieces and moving on to step 6.

  • 6. Once the pastry is completely cooled carefully slide the pastry onto a chopping board and use a serrated bread knife to divide it into two equal pieces, these will form the top and base of the slice. Place one piece onto a baking tray or flat plate and prepare the creme patissiere. Rather than pouring it into a plastic container as instructed in the recipe, pour it directly over the pastry and spread it as evenly as you can with a crank handle palette knife or dessert spoon. This will form the base of the slice. It’s vital that you follow the creme patissiere recipe exactly to ensure that it is thick enough to spread over the pastry without running off the edges.

    7. Refrigerate the base until the creme patissiere is set and completely cooled. If there is any warmth at all in the custard before you move to the next step you will end up with a melted puddle of whipped cream.

    8. Add the cream, rum, sugar, vanilla and skim milk powder to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to stiff peaks. Spread the cream evenly over the surface of the creme patissiere and place the remaining piece of puff pastry, shiny side up, over the surface. Gently press down over the top of the slice with your hands to ensure that the cream makes contact with the pastry over its entire surface. Return the slice to the fridge for 30 minutes to set the cream. The skim milk powder will stabilise the cream, helping it to stay whipped and firm for much longer than it would without it. However it does need the 30 minutes of resting time to properly set so that you don’t end up with a squishy mess when you’re trying to cut the slice.

    9. Using a serrated knife and wiping after each slice, carefully trim all four edges off the slice so that you can see the beautiful layers of cream and custard and the golden flakes of the pastry. Use the serrated knife to cut the slice into 8 equal pieces (or as many or few as you like), and dust the tops generously with icing sugar to serve. Place a strip of baking paper or another stencil over the slice before dusting then remove it afterwards to make the best use of your beautiful shiny pastry.

    This slice is tastiest and the pastry is most crisp on the day of baking, but it is still good to eat up to 2 days later if stored in a sealed container in the fridge.

    Crème Pâtissière

    Ingredients 3 medium egg yolks 60g caster sugar 2 tbsp cornflour 25g unsalted butter 250g full cream milk ½ tsp vanilla paste

    Method

    1. Place the yolks in a medium size bowl and set the whisk inside it, the sugar, cornflour and butter each in separate small bowls. You will make a far better custard if you weigh everything beforehand. Creme patissiere is always best when made quickly, and being unprepared is likely to result in a burnt or curdled mess.

    2. Add the milk to a small saucepan with the vanilla and bring to the boil over a medium heat, whisking occasionally. As the milk starts to simmer and gets close to boiling quickly whisk the sugar into the yolks, followed by the cornflour. Adding the sugar to the yolks too soon will “burn” the yolks and the creme patissiere will be grainy. Whisking in the sugar and cornflour separately reduces the chance of lumps.

    3. When the milk is at a rolling boil quickly remove it from the heat and pour approximately one third of the milk into the yolks. Whisk to combine completely and then pour it back into the saucepan. 

    4. Return the saucepan to a medium heat and whisk until it comes to the boil again. Whisk like mad as the custard boils for two minutes then remove from the heat. The creme patissiere will thicken so it can be tricky to saucepan the boil, keep an eye out for big bubbles that splutter. 

    5. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the butter, continue whisking for two minutes. The extra whisking will make the creme patissiere beautifully smooth and spreadable rather than setting like a jelly. 

    6. Pour the creme patissiere over the pastry base and spread as evenly as you can with the back of a spoon. Press cling wrap over the surface to stop a skin forming as it cools.

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