Nigella’s Lemon Meringue Cake

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Time flies when you’re having fun. Somehow it is 14 years since I finished my maths and music degree at university. I was lucky at university to end up living with, being on the same course as and joining the same choir as some lovely people and I am even luckier that we are still in touch and try to meet up as often as life will allow us. In the last year our group has expanded considerably with the addition of four babies so it was high time we had a gathering to introduce the new additions and catch up on everyone’s news. I had planned on making a raspberry meringue cake but when we got to Aldi yesterday rapsberries were £2.79 and lemons were 49p so the decision was made that lemon meringue cake would be the cheaper option!
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Christmas Yule Log

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This recipe was inspired by my dad who spotted a photo of a rather impressive yule log on Twitter and sent me the link to it. I’ve never made a yule log before so decided this was the year to give it a go. There are a whole host of recipes on the Internet but I decided to go for this Nigella recipe as it had good reviews.
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Rocky Road

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As a teacher the summer term is normally my favourite time of year. Sunshine, sports days, less stress, the count down to the summer holidays. Unfortunately it’s not quite working out like that at the moment. It’s been a busy few weeks so I thought I whip up a batch of rocky road to keep us all going. I also made some banana muffins but these were an EPIC failure (both in looks and taste) so I’m not even going to post them (yes, they really were that bad!)

My introduction to rocky road came about 6 years ago when I used to work with a teacher who made THE most amazing cakes. She would make a batch of rocky road which she’d bring in and they would be gone in minutes. We were pretty much obsessed with them in the staff room and they were always requested. This was my first attempt and I think future attempts will need a little refining. The beauty of it is that it requires no baking. When you look at recipes on the Internet you will find all sorts of different versions with different ingredients. The combinations and possibilities are endless. Do you go for rich tea biscuits or digestives? Milk chocolate, dark chocolate or both? Fruit or no fruit? Nuts or no nuts? I opted for a simple Nigella recipe from the BBC website that you can find here. There is also a Christmas version as well. I decided to add some glace cherries as I had some that needed using up – Mr Birdie was not keen on these and has advised me that in future raisins would be a better addition (this has been noted!)
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Having a cracking time – Nigella’s Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

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We had our friends Emma and John over for Sunday lunch today so it was time to try a new dessert. The lovely Emma is pregnant so that meant cheesecake was out. I am a bit scared of tarts (pastry – eek!) so decided that following the success of my previous pavlova it was time to try a different pavlova. I have been wanting to try Nigella’s cappuccino pavlova that featured in her Nigellissima Christmas special last year (you can find the recipe on the BBC website here or on her website here) but decided that as the sun was shining maybe something a little bit more summery/spring-like was required. After a bit of research I found Nigella’s recipe for chocolate raspberry pavlova and decided that this was the recipe to try. It’s from her Forever Summer book and can be found on her website here.

Ingredients:

For the chocolate meringue base:
6 large egg whites
300 grams caster sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder (sieved)
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
50 grams dark chocolate (finely chopped)

For the raspberry and cream topping:
500 ml double cream
500 grams raspberries
3 tablespoons dark chocolate (coarsely grated)

Method: 
1) Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Using a plate (or ruler) draw a fat circle (approximately 23cm in diameter) onto the paper ready for the meringue,
2) Using an electric whisk or free-standing mixer beat the egg whites until satiny peaks form (Now here I ran into trouble – my egg whites just didn’t do what I wanted them to do. I had separated the eggs, wiped and washed the bowl but sadly my confidence evaporated as I was left with a foamy blob rather than satiny peaks! I can only think some rogue egg yolk had sneaked its way in. I persevered anyway but think my meringue suffered.)
3) Beat in the caster sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over the cocoa, vinegar and the chopped chocolate and carefully fold in.

4) Mould on to a baking sheet in a fat circle to fit the 23cm circle drawn on the baking parchment. Smooth the sides and top. (As my meringue wasn’t quite right this was quite tricky. This was what mine looked like before it went in the oven.)

5) Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 150C/ gas mark 2 and cook for about 1 – 1 1/4 hours. When it’s ready it should look crisp round the edges and on the sides and be dry on top. When you prod the centre it should feel slightly squidgy. Turn off the oven, leave the door slightly open and leave the meringue to cool completely. As you can see I had some serious cracking issues. I’m not sure what I am doing wrong but I have had this problem twice now – it was cracking during the cooking rather than afterwards. I thought that it might fall apart completely but luckily it held together. If anyone can shed any light on why I am such major cracking issues I’d be very grateful!

6) When you’re ready to serve, invert it onto a large plate (ideally flat-bottomed). Whisk the cream until thick but still soft and pile it on top of the meringue, then scatter over the raspberries. Coarsely grate the chocolate over the top and sprinkle over.
7) Enjoy! It is delicious and was a big hit. The meringue is chewy and the cream and raspberries are the perfect topping. I would definitely recommend and make this again.

Happy baking,

Dil :-)