24 October 2009

sunny side up

The first time I heard of a 'fried egg cake', it was when some friend at school invited me over. His mother had some leftover cake from a birthday, and there would even be said 'fried egg cake'.

As I am struck with the mixed blessing of an extremely vivid and active imagination, the prospect filled me with disgust and fascination at the same time. Of course, I agreed.

It was both a relief and a disappointment when the 'fried egg cake' turned out not to contain even a single fried egg. Instead, it only looked like a platter of fried eggs, with dozens of halved apricots shining like so many sweet yolks, sunny side up.

Over the years, I have come across countless versions of this cake, and probably every household in Germany has its own.

This is my take on the 'fried egg cake, and it actually is one of my favourites. I love the combination of a crispy, crunchy base, creamy but not too custardy topping with chunks of tangy fruit and the bright notes of apricot jam spiked with lemon juice.

Unfortunately, this is one of the few cases my wife and I wholeheartedly disagree - while a crunchy base for me is an absolute must, she can't stand it. Actually, she would prefer me not to blind bake the base at all, turning the whole thing into a spoonable dessert rather than a cake to be eaten in slices.

Well, as much as I adore her, no chance in hell with this cake. It's mine.

fried egg cake (sunny side up)
(one baking sheet of 16 decent helpings)

for the pastry base
500g all-purpose flour
250g cold butter in small pieces
100g unrefined cane sugar
10g vanilla sugar
a pinch of salt
1 egg

for the batter
600g creamcheese
100g sugar
2 tablespoons corn- or potato-starch
20g vanilla sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
3 eggs

about 700g canned apricots without sirup

2 tablespoons apricot jam
one teaspoon of lemon juice

Preheat your oven to about 180°C.

Combine all the ingredients for the pastry base in the bowl of your mixer. Using the whisk attachment, mix until crumbs form, about the size of coarse sand to small peas.
Once you are beyond the 'small pea' stage, it'll take only a few seconds more before the dough coalesces into one single, solid lump. Which isn't a real problem, but hard on your mixer and means additional work when rolling out the dough.

Line a high-rimmed baking sheet with non-stick paper. Pour in the crumbs and distribute them evenly, then press down (or roll out) and close any eventual gaps.
There's no need to form a rim as long as the baking sheet is high enough.

Bake blind for about 15 minutes, take out as soon as the first spots start to brown.

Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients for the batter except the eggs. Once the mix is smooth, add the eggs, one by one, always mixing until you have a smooth batter before adding the next egg.

Take out the base and pour the batter onto the hot pastry.
Please take note that this is the amount of batter filling my high-rimmed baking sheet as it should. That is, about a finger wide on top of the pastry. Your's may vary.

Put the apricots into the batter, with their rounded side up. Try to distribute them evenly across the whole cake.
Canned apricots can be a little difficult to get onto the dough 'sunny-side up', as the slippery bastards always try to end up the other way round. At least, that's what they do with me. If one of your apricots gets 'battered', take it out again and clean it under the tab - it'll just look odd and messy if you don't. (Actually, I always take more apricots than I need and eat those I dropped into the batter. Just between you and me...)

Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C and bake the cake until the batter is firm(ish) and starts to brown.
Traditionally, the batter should just set and shouldn't brown at all. But as I am one of those persons who like the fried eggs with a tiny, crispy golden fringe, I actually like it when my cake looks at least golden and not so anaemic.

Put the apricot jam into a small bowl and warm gently until runny.
A few seconds in the microwave should do the trick nicely.

Add the lemon juice and stir until smooth.
You could run the jam through a sieve at this point to get an extra-glossy finish, but I usually skip this part.

Take the cake out of the oven and glaze with the apricot jam while still hot.

Leave to cool slightly, then slice into squares. Best served warm and on its own, though still works nicely with vanilla ice-cream.

Keeps well for a few days, but gets messy when stacked. Try not to store in the fridge, as the jam glaze will attract even more moisture there and can turn the cake soggy overnight.

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