I recently rediscovered a cake that was a happy part of my childhood, although we never made it, rather bought it from a tannie* in the coastal town of Hermanus over the weekends.
Called Jewish tart, it’s a wonderful assembly of biscuit layers sandwiched together with custard. Yep, just that. I only knew of the recipe in one South African cookbook (one of the Wenresepte) and upon further research on the internet the ingredient lists were all so similar I have come to the conclusion that there is after all only one source.
I don’t know why the tart is called Jewish, no Jewish cookery websites have cakes anything like it, and unfortunately I think the story behind the recipe has been lost with time. If you do know more about this cake – please comment!
An advantage of this cake is that it gets better the longer it stands, because the custard is just moist enough to turn the biscuit crumb-y, but not soggy, leaving you with better results tomorrow and even more impressive ones the next day. Which leads to the biggest problem with this cake, that every time you tend to return to it, it’s mysteriously much smaller than before, or in our house this was the case!
The recipe makes more than enough. Originally you are supposed to make 6 biscuit layers, but if you can make more then do – bigger cake makes more for everybody! Adapted from the original ( Huisgenoot Wenresepte).
300g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
240g castor sugar (brown castor sugar is interesting to use too)
250g butter, soft
Custard: (or any thick custard according to a personal recipe)
250g castor sugar
40g plain flour
1 vanilla pod, scraped
Set oven on 180C. Start with the dough: beat the butter and sugar together. Sift the first three dry ingredients together, then add to the butter mixture when it has creamed. Add the 2 eggs and form into a smooth dough. Divide the dough into 6-8 equal balls, and roll them out, cutting even-sized circles. Bake them as you go, 2 at a time, for about 10 minutes, depending on your oven. Cool on wire racks.
For the custard: Heat the milk with the vanilla pod to infuse. Beat the eggs and sugar together, sift and beat in the flour and add the warm milk whilst beating to temper the mixture, then add the warm mixture into the hot milk, and stir on a medium heat to cook the mixture and thicken the custard. You know it’s ready when you can’t taste ‘raw’ flour in the custard anymore, and its super thick and you can’t stop ‘tasting’ it. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap (to prevent a skin forming and cool down to roomtemperature.
To assemble, start with a biscuit base, spread custard over in an even layer and repeat until you run out of biscuit bases and end with custard on top. Finish with a dusting of cinnamon.
Look, I couldv’e styled mine better, but with the combination of a broken camera and a hungry sunday lunch crew it wasn’t gonna happen. So we ate it (all) immediately instead!