It's Yomtov and you want to make something special for dessert. You've scanned the recipe books but nothing excites you. Hopefully this gorgeous combination of slightly-spiced, easy-to-make sponge, super-moist with peaches, honeyed apples or mangoes, covered with a cloud of crisp chewy meringue will fit the bill. Or just make the cake and top it with streusel, but try the meringue recipe - it makes wondrous, toffee-flavoured meringues that never fail, or create a large meringue case which will keep for weeks wrapped in polythene or in a tin.
To accompany, serve poached nectarines. They look elegantly decadent sitting in a glass bowl and will wait until needed. Use one fruit per person. Place the washed fruit in a microwave-proof bowl add a tin of peaches or strawberries in juice, a dash of kiddush wine if you wish for an extra kick, even a split vanilla pod for a cheffy touch. Microwave for approximately 10 minutes and check for tenderness with a sharp knife - they may need another few minutes, in that case, turn them over and change their positions to ensure they have all had their bases in the liquid.
Now the cake - its moist secret is the one-and-a-half tins of peaches that are included in the mixture - the quantity make two cakes, but it's easy to make - a rubbed-in mixture that freezes well, so it is worth making twice the quantity; although the meringue topping will not freeze. If you prefer apple and honey, substitute the whole tin of peaches with 500g (1lb) peeled and cored eating apples and stew with the fruit and juice of the half tin of peaches, the juice and rind of half a lemon and a generous tablespoon of honey. Or for a truly exotic extravagant taste - well it is Yomtov - process two 400g punnets of prepared fresh mango with the juice and rind of one unwaxed lemon and a teaspoon of vanilla extract and crush two cardamom pods, remove the husks and grind with a mortar and pestle.
For the perfect meringue topping for one cake, a couple of tins of luscious toffee meringues and a meringue case, use eight free range egg-whites and weigh; each usually weighs 25g (1oz).
Then double the weight, eg approx 450g, 1lb of sugar, and add a pinch of salt. Now divide the sugar into half-soft brown and half-icing sugar - sieve both. (For one cake topping, two egg whites and an extra 50g, 2oz sugar divided in the same way will be sufficient). Whisk the egg whites, gradually adding both sugars until you obtain a very stiff meringue.
For meringues, either pipe them on to some flat tins lined with baking parchment or combine half the mixture with 200g (7oz) of raw flaked coconut toasted in a low oven for five minutes, flaked toasted almonds, or dark chocolate chips and drop dessert-spoonfuls onto the lined tins. Bake very slowly on the lowest oven setting 130C, 2 Gas ½ for three hours approximately - the meringues will become chewy- rich and will keep for weeks in a tin - if no-one finds them!
Makes two large cakes
1½ well drained tins of peaches in their own juice - save the juice for stewing fruit
Juice and rind of 1 un-waxed lemon
2 tsp, real vanilla essence
300g (11oz) soft margarine
450g (1lb) self raising flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon - or the crushed contents of 2 cardamom seeds, husks removed
200gms, (7oz) soft brown sugar
4 free range eggs - well beaten
225 gms (8oz) sultanas or other dried fruit
Flaked almonds for decoration if using the meringue recipe
Line 2 x 18cm (27 in) tins and set the oven on 160°C, gas 3 for 1½ hours.
Process or sieve the tinned peaches with the lemon juice and rind and vanilla essence - smooth or lumpy, depending on your preference.
Remove the puree and add the dried fruit to plump up.
Then process or rub the margarine, flour, spice, sugar mixture until soft.
Remove, place in a bowl and add the well beaten eggs, the peach mixture and the sultanas.
Drop the soft, fragrant mixture into the lined tins and chill while you make the meringue or streusel.
Gently cover the cake with meringue or streusel and bake until for at least one hour - cake covered with meringue will take an extra 30-40 mins - try with a fine skewer.