Raspberry Mascarpone Layer Cake

A tram conductor approached me the other day.

"Where are you headed? What tram are you waiting for?" Unmistakably Irish.

"109 Boxhill," I politely replied.

"Oh I think you just missed one. Here's the Hoddle street Tram! How far are you going?"

"To Victoria Street."

"Oh well then I guess you will have to wait for the 109 then."

"Yes, that's fine, I don't mind," I smile back, well at least I think I've smiled back. I really don't remember or maybe I wasn't aware of how I looked.

The tram assistant mutters something I didn't quite catch.

"Sorry, what was that?" I inquire, still politely.

"I said you don't need to be dead to be stiff!!" he says, with complete and determined eye contact.

Oops. His intensity, combined with my social awkwardness makes me laugh, and that seems to illicit a smile out of him too.

We start talking about my background.

"Were you born in Australia? It sounds like it, that means you're more Australian than I am!

"How long have you been in Australia?"

"Forty-two years."

"Oh, well thats longer than I've been alive!"

"Do you know that Vietnamese comedian, he used to be on the telly a lot but I haven't seen him recently." He asks.

"You mean Anh Do, he is incredibly funny."

"Yes he is very good with his words, you never expect the things that come out of his mouth.

You know I used to be a tram conductor. I would make jokes, make people smile and laugh. It was good, it would make the day go faster. But I never talked much when there were lots of Asians and Vietnamese people on the tram. Not because I was racist, because I didn't think they'd have the same sense of humour that I did.

But one day I decided to make some jokes, and you know what? I think they have more of a sense of humour than we do! They became my best audience.

So you can never really judge someone can you? You can never really tell or predict what they will be like before you get to know them."

Of course not. Of course I agree. Of course I believe you should never judge a book by its cover. But everyone slips up once in a while.

My tram arrives while I think about what he has just said. Get to know people. Give them a chance. Listen and observe and learn. Resist judgement. Think about all the things and all the people and all the events that influence us. How can we possibly know every little thing another human being has been through? Has experienced? Has met with?

I should have said thank you. For his warmth and his easiness and his unintentional piece of advice.

But I didn't.

He said goodbye to me and said "Have a good life."

And I said "you too" with my socially awkward laugh once again.

But I really hope he does have a good life filled with lots of cakes.

This cake is just so much love. I've made it for Sonia, Theresa, Sean and Anna now for their birthdays. It is a hit every time. To decorate, scatter some fresh raspberries on top and dust with icing sugar. But here, as raspberry season is well and truly over I used frozen raspberries for the filling and the left the top of the cake plain and ungarnished. It still looks great with a ring of bright candles on the top!

Raspberry Mascarpone Layer Cake
Adapted from Gorgeous Cakes by Annie Bell
Makes 1 x 23cm cake

6 medium free range eggs, separated
250g caster sugar
350g ground almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, sifted

250g mascarpone
25g icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g raspberries (frozen or fresh), coarsely mashed (and some fresh ones to decorate if desired)

150g icing sugar, sieved
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice, sieved
Pink food colouring, paste or liquid

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius fan forced or 200 degrees celsius normal oven. Butter two 23cm round cake tins with a removable base and line the bottoms of both with baking paper cut to fit. To make the spongey part of the cake, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until it becomes slightly paler. Whisk the egg whites with a stand mixer, and electric mixer, a hand whisk or your fingers (not recommended) until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture in three goes. Gently fold in the ground almonds and baking powder on top of this.

Pour two thirds of the sponge mixture into one of the tins, and the remaining third into the other. Tap both tins on the counter gently a couple of times to release and larger air bubbles. bake the bigger cake for 30 - 35 minutes and the smaller one for 20 - 25 minutes. To check if they're ready, they should be a lovely golden brown colour and if you insert a toothpick into it, it should come out clean. Remove the collars from the cakes and leave them to cool.

To make the filling, blend together all the ingredients except for the raspberries. When it's all combined, fold in the raspberries with a light hand so that you get some pink and white streaks between the raspberry pieces.

To make the icing, mix all the ingredients together in a separate bowl and tint it with the food colouring to your liking.

Assemble the cake by cutting the bigger sponge in half. Turn the top half of the bigger sponge upside down onto the serving plate for the base. spread half of the filling on top of this, leaving a 2cm border around the edge. Place the smaller cake on top to form the middle, then spread the remaining half of the filling on top of this, once again leaving a 2cm border. Place the bottom of the larger cake upside down as the top layer, then spread the icing on top of this. It will flatten out to be all smooth and shiny by itself so don't worry too much!

Serve as is, or with a sprinkling of raspberries and icing sugar.

Keep learning, keep loving


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