Vruchtentaart met Vla - Fruit Cake with Custard

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Vruchtentaart met vla ... it's Dutch for fruitcake with custard, for if I should call it fruitcake, one would expect the old English classic. Not this one, though. This is a refreshing summery cake, enriched with cool thick custard and accented with summer's bounty: kiwis, strawberries, blackberries and canteloupes.

Tante Lily came to cook in our place one day and made a cake such as this for Mama's birthday, one of the many desserts for the buffet. This cake stole the show, not only because it was light and fruity, desirable qualities of desserts in the tropics, but also because it was decadent in its own way, rich with custard, unlike the many other buttercreamed cakes on the table.

The cake recipe is a rich and dense one. While you can choose a lighter vanilla cake, there are merits to pairing this decadent cake with fruity accompaniments. As for the choice of fruits, you can just about play with the possibilities. Stone fruits, melons and berries are excellent options. But I draw the line at apples, bananas and citrus fruits, just don't go there. And who's to say you can't have an all-berry or an all-peach cake. 

There is a light coating of agar on top of the fruits which serves to plant the fruits firmly on the cake, preventing an avalanche as you slice into it, and also to prevent the fruits from drying out and discolouring. You definitely want to start making the agar after the cake has been fully assembled. It's an added bother, but will definitely extend the aesthetics of your baked good.

Whether for a summer birthday, a garden party, or any festivity, you can be sure this vruchtentaart will be as beautiful as it is unique. 

Vanilla Cake
10 eggs, room temperature, separated
2 tsp cream of tartar
50 g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
150 g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
250 g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tsp vanilla extract
200 g (1-2/3 cup) all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder

1. Butter and line 3 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper on the bottom.
2. Preheat the oven to 175C or 350F.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites on medium speed until it starts to froth.
4. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and continue whisking until soft peaks form.
5. At this stage, start adding the 50 g of sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until the egg whites come to stiff glossy peaks.
6. Transfer this meringue to another clean, large bowl.

7. Replace the whisk with a flat beater and give the bowl a good wipe, then beat together the butter and 150 g of sugar for about 10-15 minutes, till pale and fluffy.
8. While waiting, sift the flour with the baking powder into a medium bowl.

9. To the butter and sugar mixture, add the yolks, one at a time on a slower speed, followed with the vanilla extract.
10. On the slowest speed, add the flour in four additions, mixing just until no visible lumps remain.

11. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer, and with a wooden spoon or a large spatula, fold a third of the egg whites to the batter.
12. Gently fold the rest of the meringue in.
13. Divide the batter among the cake pans, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
I placed one on the top rack and two on the lower rack, swapping them after they have risen.
14. Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before inverting it on a cooling rack to cool completely.

50 g (4 heaping tbsp) custard powder
1000 ml (4 cups) UHT milk
100 g (1/2 cup) sugar, or to taste
1 vanilla bean, scraped (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)

1. In a saucepan, boil custard powder and milk.
2. Add vanilla and sugar, stirring constantly.
3. When done, turn off heat and cool in a larger pan filled with cold water, keep stirring so as not to set the custard.

Agar Glaze
10 g (1 pack) clear Agar (I use Swallow)
720 ml (3 cups) water
25 g (2 tbsp) sugar

Make agar only when cake is assembled.
1. In a small saucepan, combine agar with cold water and sugar.
2. Cook till it boils.
3. Turn off the heat, keep stirring so it doesn't coagulate.

4 cups of cut peaches, plums, cherries, pineapples, strawberries, blueberries, or the like.

1. Invert one cake layer onto a serving platter.
2. Spread a little less than a third of the custard on top.
3. If desired, place half a cup of fruit (diced small) on the top of the custard.
4. Top with the second cake layer.

5. Repeat layering with the same amount of custard earlier and optional fruit.
6. Place the last cake layer on top.
7. Pour and spread the rest of the custard on top, letting it drip over the sides.
Work quickly, this stuff can set and thicken.
8. Arrange the rest of the fruit on top of the custard.

9. At this time, the agar glaze can be made, stir to cool, then slowly pour on top of the fruit and to the sides to set the fruit and prevent them from discolouring.
10. Refrigerate a few hours or overnight.

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