Apricot almond cake w/ apricot-cassis cream

Apricot almond cake

I love the idea of a cake with apricot glaze – I always have. It’s strangely associated with some childhood notion of sophistication in edible form. Strange, because I can’t remember the actual moment that I ate an elegant cake with an apricot glaze. I can remember plenty of battenburg cakes, wrapped in plastic like the block of modeling clay that they resembled. They had a layer of apricot glaze under their oddly chewy marzipan layer. I loved them! But I’m sure I never thought of them as elegant. The truth is, whether sophisticated or not, a layer of apricot makes sense in a cake! It adds a pleasant fruity tartness that offsets the sweetness of whatever else happens to be in the cake. This cake happens to have almonds – a classic match with apricots – and bittersweet chocolate, which adds its own version of bitter-with-sweet, to complement the apricots.

Inexplicably, I became semi-obsessed with making apricot-cassis cream. I thought about a million different things to make, but I kept returning to this. So I turned to my new BFF, the pastry cream, and I added a purée made of apricots and cassis, and then folded in a little lightly whipped cream. I thought it was very nice with the cake – I don’t think I’ve ever had pastry cream or any of its subsidiaries alongside a cake before, but I thought it was a lovely combination of textures. You could easily eat the apricot cream on its own as a mousse, with some crispy cookies!

I just can’t not share this! It’s a song called Apricot, by the Armenian Navy Band, and it has my Malcolm dancing around the room in his pjs.
Continue reading


Champagne mango tart (with cardamom pastry cream and ginger-shortbread)

Champagne mango tart

The Guardian recently had an article about alphonso mangoes. They sound magically delicious! They also sound like champagne mangoes, and I thought they might be the same thing. When I did a little research I learned that they’re closely related, but not the same. Alphonso mangoes come from India. Champagne mangoes come from Mexico, and they’re also called Adolpho mangoes. I love that! I love that they have people names, and that they’re close relatives. Can’t you just imagine a family reunion of mangoes from all over the world? If mangoes were people they’d be bright and sweet and pleasant, with just enough of a piquant edge to keep them interesting.

Champagne mangoes are ripe and cheap around here at the moment. They’re also irresistible. They have a mild, sweet taste (you can see why they’re also called “honey mangoes.”) They have small pits and pretty, velvety flesh, not at all stringy. I wanted to make a fresh little tart that would show them off nicely without overwhelming them. So I made a ginger-shortbread shell (which would taste good on its own as a cookie, as it happens!) And I made a pastry cream flavored with vanilla and cardamom. Pastry cream is my kind of custard. It has a little bit of flour in it, which means that you don’t have to worry too much about letting it curdle. And if it does curdle, you can process it till it’s smooth again. And – you know when it’s thick. There’s no doubtful “Is that coating the back of the spoon? What does that even look like? Should I be using a metal spoon or a wooden spoon? Will it get thicker, or will it just get RUINED?!?!” (I’m a nervous custard maker.) When pastry cream is thick, it’s thick.

Everybody liked the tart, even the littlest food critic, Isaac. And, you know, it’s just fruit and milk! Right?

Here’s Mango Meat by Mandrill. I love this one!!
Continue reading