Garden Inspired Sponge


Sometimes the inspiration behind my recipes can come from the most unusual places. Many times when I am writing a recipe I’m recalling a childhood memory or possibly a dish I have tasted while holidaying abroad. The inspiration for this very beautiful cake creation, pictured above and below, came to me while weeding my herb garden last week, which tends to be a place I go to for tranquillity during the hustle and bustle of my busy days. The summer after we built our home my father planted us the most impressive vegetable, fruit and herb garden. He spent most summer afternoons caring for the vegetables and fruit and always provided me with an abundance of delicious organic produce. Each year the vegetables would need to be re-sown however now six years later the fruit bushes and my lovely herb garden is still growing strong. It is said that some herbs, and especially rosemary, should be planted in memory of a loved one. My garden will forever more be full of happy memories and so very special to me, as it was my dear late father who first turned that soil. For the first time this year, I have bought the seeds and together with Diarmuid and the children we are keeping “Grandad’s Garden” alive.
Even after the hard, cold winters many of the perennial herbs burst into bloom each spring. One such herb is my lemon thyme; similar to the thyme we have come accustomed to in many a savoury dish. The beauty of the lemon thyme is its versatility; both savoury and sweet dishes can benefit from this sweetly scented herb. While weeding between my lemon thyme I noticed one of my little ducks, almost hidden beneath a clump of raspberry canes. She was staring in my direction yet motionless. I thought perhaps she was sick so I bent down to take a closer look, upon which I was met with a gentle yet determined hiss. It turned out that under her were half a dozen eggs and she was very closely guarding them. My hens are often clocking yet this is a rarity for my little ducks.

 As I returned to my weeding the lemon scent that filled the air led my thoughts to cake, well to be fair my thoughts are never too far from cake. My ducks provide me with beautiful fresh eggs which make the most magnificent sponges. Then I thought how wonderful it would be to pair this delicious lemon thyme with one of my sponges. I wasn’t going to disturb my feathered friend for my collection of duck eggs, so hen eggs it would be for this baking plan. Weeding ceased and armed with a large bunch of lemon thyme I was kitchen-bound, hands washed and my cake creation was put into action. This cake recipe is based on my Duck Egg Sponge recipe from my book Apron Strings; however, this one has some additional garden inspiration. I guarantee you that this cake is scrumptious and perfect for enjoying on a sunny summer's day.

Summer Sponge filled with Lemon Curd and topped with Mango, Blueberry & Lemon Thyme

5 fresh free-range hen/duck eggs, approx. 350g, in shells
175g Caster sugar
175g Plain Flour, sieved

250mls cream, whipped
25g icing sugar, sieved
1tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp Lemon Curd
1 ripe mango, peeled and sliced
150g blueberries
5/6 sprigs of lemon thyme

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/fan 180c/gas mark 6. Butter and flour two 8” sandwich tins then carefully line the base with two circles of parchment paper.
2. Whisk the eggs and sugar together for about 7-10 minutes until thick and fluffy.
3. Carefully fold in the sieved flour.
4. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
5. Turn the cakes out carefully onto a wire rack and leave to completely cool.
6. In a bowl combine the whipped cream with the icing sugar and vanilla extract.
7. Place one cake on a serving plate and spread with a layer of lemon curd. Then top with half of the sweet vanilla cream and an even layer of the sliced mango and a few blueberries.
8. Place the second cake on top. Top with the remaining sweet vanilla cream, sliced mangos, and blueberries. Strip the leaves, and if there are any, the flowers too from the lemon thyme and generously sprinkle over the fruit. Leave a few sprigs intact, to decorate. Serve straight-away otherwise the cake with comfortably sit in the fridge for a few hours.