Harlequin and A Happy New Year!
My paternal Grandmother never cooked. I never saw her cooking, nor do I recall ever having tasted something cooked by her. And every time she offered to lend a hand in the kitchen, it was the least talented or helpful of all that one could hope for. She would talk, she would sing, she would tell stories about her days as a theatre prompter, but for the love of her, she did not like to bustle around the kitchen one bit. And I think it’s a good thing she followed her heart and didn’t force herself to the kitchen life.
However, there is one culinary contribution of hers to my life and that is a cake recipe she brought my mother. This cake, she said, was traditionally served on New Year’s Eve; by whom and when is a mystery, but the recipe quickly became a NYE staple around our house. The Harlequin with its sweet jam filling wedged between moistened cake layers and candied fruit topping as a whole is unarguably greater than the sum of all its parts. You will need to plan a day ahead before serving it, as the glaze needs a whole day to set.
I can’t remember celebrating New Year’s Eve in my life without this cake; my mother makes it every year even to this day. Below is the recipe and I promise it’s as delicious as it’s easy to make. And may you have a wonderful New Year filled with light and love!
For the dough:
250g/1 cup butter, at room temperature
150g/1½ cups powdered sugar
A pinch of salt
200ml/1 cup full-fat sour cream
Seeds scraped from ½ vanilla bean
Grated zest from ½ lemon
500g/2 cups flour
With the aid of a mixer, beat the butter with the powdered sugar and salt. Add the eggs, the sour cream, vanilla and lemon and beat until well combined. Add the flour and mix with a spoon until combined. Shape into a disc, cover in cling film and refrigerate for one hour.
Preheat oven to 170C/ Lightly flour your counter and divide the dough into 5 even pieces. Roll the first one until you obtain a rectangle of about 12 x 20cm/5 x 8 in. Slide the rectangle onto a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes; it should be light golden-brown and feel rather firm to the touch. Slide the baked rectangle onto a cooling rack. Repeat with remaining 4 pieces. Allow baked rectangles to cool thoroughly for about an hour.
For the filling:
120g/4 oz. strawberry jam
120g/4 oz. apricot jam
120g/4 oz. sour cherry jam
120g/4 oz. raspberry jam
OR 480g/16 oz. any jamor mixture of jams you prefer
Mix together the jams and reserve.
Lay the first baked rectangle on a serving dish, place 1/4 jam mixture on top and spread evenly, without pressing. Place the second baked rectangle on top of the jam mixture and continue until you run out of baked rectangles. Place a sheet of baking paper on top of the last rectangle and use a heavy chopping board to weigh down the cake. Leave at room temperature for 2 hours.
For the glaze & topping:
4 egg yolks
100g/1 cup powdered sugar
Seeds scraped from ½ vanilla bean
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
30g/1⁄4 cup almonds, roughly chopped
30g/1⁄4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
A handful of mixed dried and/or candied fruit, such as cranberries, sultanas, dates, pineapple, ginger etc
Shaved dark chocolate
With the aid of the mixer, beat egg yolks with powdered sugar until pale yellow and creamy. Add vanilla and lemon juice and beat well. Pour the glaze over the cake and sprinkle with the toppings of your choice. Leave the cake on the kitchen counter at room temperature for 24 hours, this will dry the glaze and allow the cake to set. Place in the fridge until ready to serve.