White Nectarine, Thyme and Limoncello Cake

White Nectarine Thyme & Limoncello Cake | From The Larder
So it’s been 12 weeks and 1 day since my life changed forever. Like all first time new mothers I have been completely clueless, terribly overwhelmed, joyously happy and apocalyptically exhausted – all within the space of 5 minutes on any given day.

White Nectarine Thyme & Limoncello Cake | From The Larder

So I had a baby. A gorgeous, healthy baby boy who has taught me that I should never bank on having any free time ever to indulge myself with kitchen frivolities. It’s all Me Me Me with him – how rude!

White Nectarine Thyme & Limoncello Cake | From The Larder

So that pretty much explains why it’s been an absolute age since I’ve last posted but believe me I’ve been thinking about writing a little something in this space every day and just as I’ve been getting excited about it and begin planning something the baby wakes and chaos reigns once more.

White Nectarine Thyme & Limoncello Cake | From The Larder

This post has been a labour of love, a month long desperate need to make this recipe, whereupon I finally threw caution to the wind over the weekend. I grabbed non-existing time to buy ingredients, remember to bring the butter to room temperature, bake, make the icing, fail at the icing, re-attempt the icing, quickly ice the damn thing, work out how to use my new photographic lights since by this time it’s midnight and there ain’t no natural light left, try and remember where the hell I had put my camera lenses then snap snap snap until I was falling asleep at the tripod. Thank goodness I had Luke around to see to the baby’s every whim otherwise the butter would have got to room temperature like last weekend and then… well that was it – no cake.

This was only the first hurdle to overcome though as I followed this up with a full week of snatched moments to take the photos off the camera, wang them up on the laptop, make them presentable and finally furiously scribble a few words down. Honestly a lack of sleep means I can barely finish a sentence in real life with the best of intentions so how I thought I would coherently ramble on here for a few paragraphs is anyone’s guess. Seriously, I’m probably spewing rubbish – I have no idea. Still, I have done it – yay!

White Nectarine Thyme & Limoncello Cake | From The Larder

Now, I’m no stranger to cake but being a new mum seems to marry up entirely with stuffing yourself with as much cake as humanly possible at all hours of the day and night. I’m fully aware by the way that this may just be my own personal experience. Getting up for night feeds goes hand in hand with a huge wodge of cake at my side channelling the sugar directly to keeping my eyelids open and my baby at bay. So I have made and eaten, bought and eaten and also been brought and eaten an awful lot of cake these past few months. Therefore it seemed that no other recipe would be right to celebrate my first post après baby with a cake recipe. Plus I always astound myself that with the amount of cakes I usually bake every week that so few of my creations have ended up on the blog. This is definitely something I am planning on rectifying my friends. Far too many of my favourite bakes have been given short shrift with nary a mention on here.

White Nectarine Thyme & Limoncello Cake | From The Larder

I have loved baking and eating this cake in particular as it has been a divine extravaganza. A late summer blowout, if you will, of lemon and thyme buttermilk sponge, pillowed together with a fresh thyme and limoncello laced mascarpone cream and loaded with sweet juicy white nectarines.

White Nectarine Thyme & Limoncello Cake | From The Larder

It’s a beautiful monster of a cake, perfect for cake lovers everywhere as well as new mums.

White Nectarine Thyme & Limoncello Cake | From The Larder

White Nectarine, Thyme and Limoncello Cake

300g unsalted butter, at room temperature
460g caster sugar
6 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1½ lemons
1 heaped tablespoon thyme leaves
460g plain flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¾ teaspoon sea salt
300ml buttermilk
1 tablespoon limoncello
4 white nectarines, cut 2 of them into cubes and 2 of them into thin wedges

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and line and grease 3 x 9 inch round cake tins.
  2. Beat together the sugar and butter until pale, light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating on a low speed.
  4. Add the vanilla extract, lemon zest and thyme leaves and stir in.
  5. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together.
  6. Add the flour alternately with the buttermilk, adding the flour in three additions and the buttermilk in two (begin and end with the flour), scrape down the sides of the bowls as needed and mix until just combined.
  7. Pour the batter equally across the cake tins and bake for about 35 minutes until an inserted cocktail stick comes out clean.
  8. Once the cakes have been removed from the oven and taken carefully out of their tins, brush the limoncello over the top of the sponges then leave to cool.

To Make the Thyme and Limoncello Mascarpone Cream:

1200ml double cream
Large sprig thyme
500ml mascarpone
5 tablespoons icing sugar
4 tablespoons limoncello

  1. Pour the double cream into a large saucepan along with the sprig of thyme. Heat until the cream is just starting to think about boiling then remove from the heat. Let the thyme infused cream cool in the fridge until cold (or overnight if you wish).
  2. Remove the thyme from the cream and whisk until the cream forms soft peaks.
  3. Add the mascarpone, icing sugar and limoncello and mix together until combined, the cream will probably stiffen up a little more but be careful not to overmix.

To assemble:

  1. Place the first cake layer on a cake board then slather the cream generously over. Press half of the cubed nectarine into the cream then once you have filled your layer smooth over a little more cream on top.
  2. Add the second layer then repeat with the cream and nectarine.
  3. Add the third layer and slather over the rest of the cream, decorating the top with the nectarine wedges and thyme sprigs.
  4. For the naked cake effect, just smooth the cream billowing out of the sides of the cake layers using a palette knife.

Escape (The Pinã Colada Cake)

(Escape) The Pina Colada Cake
One of the film websites I read recently had a feature where all the contributors had written about the worst tropes which are fallen back on time and time again on film and TV. One particular entry on this list decried the timeworn use of characters dancing in the kitchen. The writer said it was clichéd, unrealistic and twee. ‘C’mon, who does that?’ they lamented. Well, I do as it happens. I do it a lot to boot and I don’t mind who knows it. Obviously.

The two examples of this common trope which immediately spring to mind are at the end of Mermaids which I re-watched last week where they wiggle along to ‘If You Wanna Be Happy’ whilst setting the table. This scene not only led me to become obsessed with that song when I was young, but also made me desperate to be part of their wackadoo family. As a sidenote, I was extra surprised and saddened to hear of Bob Hoskins’ passing a few days ago as it felt like I had only just seen him on top form, I had forgotten he was in Mermaids and on my re-watch his was the performance I enjoyed the most. Such a wonderful actor.

The second example is in the classic episode of Dawson’s Creek when the gang all band together to save the Potter B&B by dancing around the kitchen at breakfast time. Of course their dancing seduces the grouchy critic Mr Fricke into thinking that the Potter B&B is the best place he’s ever stayed in the world and they get a stellar write up. Works every time; Four in a Bed take note. I refuse to believe that these moments are embarrassment ridden or cheesy but they certainly serve as encouragement for me to dance more, for better or for worse.

Pina Colada Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

In our house we love to dance badly everywhere, the poorer the dancing is the better. We throw ourselves around to the radio first thing in the morning, in the sitting room to perk us up on a Saturday afternoon and most importantly and significantly for this post, in the kitchen. Whilst waiting for butter and sugar to cream, whilst thumbing through cookbooks and most common of all when we are doing the washing up. It is the only thing that makes the dreary chore remotely bearable.

From his very first afternoon in our house whilst we were making the Sunday lunch Puppy has found our love of crazy dancing the best thing in the world. All I have to do is start to shimmy a little bit in time with Katy Perry and he has jumped up ecstatically, paws reaching for my hands so we can prance round the kitchen absurdly like a couple of escaped lunatics. The cats aren’t as impressed.

There are a few songs which absolutely guarantee a good old bop, our current favourite is Pharrell Williams’ Happy which is just invokes such joy but also sends me into fits as it goes hand in hand with those gosh darn hilarious minions. A particular favourite though, and you’ll be happy to know I am now coming to the crux of the matter, is Escape (The Pinã Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes. We always put it on when feeling gloomy to cheer ourselves up. As soon as its opening drum beat kicks in Puppy immediately assumes the Tom Cruise from Cocktail swagger, well if Tom Cruise were tiny, furry, four-legged and drunk; still he has the charm in spades.

Pina Colada Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

I was obviously listening to this song when I dreamt up this cake and the thought of it makes me smile, not just because it’s delicious but it also incorporates all the happy-go-lucky flavours of sunshine and paradise. It reminds me of dancing round my kitchen with my family and most importantly, it has glace cherries.

I have made this cake several times now and usually when I make something repeatedly I like to tweak things here and there, perhaps modify the icing, take a layer out, change the decoration. This incarnation though was perfect the first time I baked it and I have made it the same way ever since, even down to the number of cocktail umbrellas on the top.

This cake was made this week for a double celebration, it was a request from my husband whose birthday it was a few days ago and I also wanted to include it here to mark my official 99th post. Now, many people may choose to celebrate going into triple figures but hey I like 99. Plus it’s the bank holiday so I wanted to make sure this recipe was on offer to you should you want to make it and dream you are escaping to a tropical island.

Pina Colada Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

Escape (The Pinã Colada Cake)

Coconut and Malibu Cake
Adapted from Dan Lepard’s recipe in Short and Sweet

150ml coconut milk
50g unsweetened desiccated coconut
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
60ml Malibu
300g caster sugar
250g unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
275g plain flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder

  1. Heat the coconut milk until boiling then remove from the heat and stir in the desiccated coconut, vanilla and Malibu. Leave to soak for 30 minutes so the coconut softens.
  2. Meanwhile heat the oven to 180°C then line and grease 3 x 20cm round sandwich tins.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer on high for about 5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time until evenly combined.
  5. Sift the flour with the baking powder. Fold into the butter, sugar and eggs alternately with the coconut mixture until just incorporated.
  6. Divide between the tins and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Pineapple Curd

1 227g tin pineapple chunks, whizzed up with juice in blender
3 egg yolks
2½ tablespoons cornflour
75g caster sugar

  1. In a small bowl blend the cornflour with a bit of the whizzed up pineapple until it’s formed a smooth paste.
  2. Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and stir constantly on a medium heat until it begins to boil. Turn down heat and keep stirring as it thickens. Remove from heat and leave to cool.

Pineapple Frosting

8 egg whites (or 240g egg whites)
400g caster sugar
540g unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into cubes
¼ teaspoon salt
250g pineapple curd

  1. Heat egg whites and caster sugar in a bain-marie, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature has reached 160°F.
  2. Remove the egg whites and sugar from the heat and pour into a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks.
  3. Change the attachment to a paddle attachment. On a low speed add the butter slowly cube by cube. When you have almost added all the butter the mixture will curdle curiously. Do not fret – this is supposed to happen. Just continue to add all the butter. Once the butter is totally incorporated the frosting will miraculously become a smooth velvety consistency.
  4. Add the salt and the pineapple curd. Mix in quickly and lightly.

Decorate the cake with toasted desiccated coconut, sun-dried pineapple, glace cherries and cocktail umbrellas.