The Bakes

Eggless Peaches and Cream Vanilla Sponge Sandwich

Of the dozens of ways to make a sponge, most make use of an egg or two, or three, or maybe even a boxful. Here there are none.

But it’s not just about what this sponge does without. It’s also about what it does with. Yes, it has the expected flour, caster sugar and butter, but it also has the more unexpected condensed milk, orange juice and vinegar.

As for the filling, what could be more peaches and cream than peaches and cream?

Pompe a l’Huile

This is a sweet and fragrant brioche made with olive oil instead of butter, with the combined flavours of orange zest (incorporated into the dough) and fennel (sprinkled over the egg glaze). Soft, chewy, and a little more dense than a normal brioche.

Originating from Provence, this is traditionally served as part of The Thirteen Desserts at Christmas. Representing the sitters at the Last Supper, fresh fruit, dark and light nougat, almonds, figs, raisins and walnuts are placed on the table for three days. (Easter comes to Christmas.) There are usually two loaves, one for Christmas Eve, the other for breakfast the morning after.

Cassata alla Siciliana

This is our classic celebration cake of choice for Christmas.

A rum-infused ricotta filling, laced with shards of dark chocolate, chopped glace cherries and toasted almonds, is sandwiched between three layers of a sherry-soaked Genoise style orange-zest-speckled sponge.

All smothered beneath a layer of cream cheese frosting and marzipan, topped with almond paste fruits, a scattering of glace cherries and slithers of candied citrus peel.

The thinnest of slices usually suffices.

Swiss Meringues

A light marshmallowy middle, inside a firm, crisp and glossy shell.

I mixed together 115g egg whites and 225g caster sugar over a pan of simmering water until the sugar was dissolved and the mixture was warm but not hot. Then a 15 minute whisk, spooned out and sprinkled with flaked almonds. Baked for 45 minutes at 120 fan, then left to cool in the oven.

Apple, Walnut and Cinnamon Cake

‘Help yourself’ read the invitation next to a basket of Bramley Apple windfalls.

No sooner carried home from the autumn afternoon walk, than peeled cored and grated to become part of the ever-so-simple everything-in-a-bowl Mary Berry special.

With the crunchy sugary walnuty crust and the moist cinnamony fruitiness beneath, the combination of texture and flavour is beautiful.