Updated: Apr 18, 2019
Chocolate shortbread crust covered with blackcurrant preserve and homemade spiced rhubarb coulis. Both, blackcurrants and rhubarb, bring sweet and earthy taste to chocolate. The aftertaste is fresh and sharply cleansing, beautifully balancing the residual sweetness of rich chocolate crust. All is then topped up by meringue which is covered with shredded chocolate shortbread crust. The cake is baked at high temperature - the meringue goes light brown and firm on edges with crusty and delightful chocolate richness coming from the shortbread. With no doubt - this is and has been for a long time one of our favourite cakes.
In Poland this cake is baked in different ways. The rule of thumb is: there has to be a crust (usually white), then a layer of preserves or reduced fruit coulis, all is then topped up by meringue and covered with shredded (usually white) crust. When growing up, we had lots of blackcurrants and rhubarb (lots does not describe it - a sea of both!). I used to look at it as a labor time - busy few weeks of washing jars and making homemade preserves with mum. The efforts were quickly turning into joyous feast once first coulis and jams were tasted or incorporated into babkas and cakes. Mum used to bake this cake in that exact form - chocolate shortbread crust (with no baking powder), followed by a layer of blackcurrant preserves and homemade spiced rhubarb coulis. All was then topped up by meringue and shredded chocolate shortbread crust.
In terms of preparation - it will take you some 60 minutes to assemble the cake. Preparation of crust takes 5 minutes. The crust base is blind baked for 15 minutes. Leftover pastry is used to cover sides (no blind baking needed) and remaining part is grated on top of rhubarb and then on top of meringue. For this cake we are using a mixture of preserves (blackcurrant) and homemade rhubarb filling.
For a good bake here choose preserves which are thick and have blackcurrant fruit pieces in it (we used Bonne Maman). For the rhubarb layer - rhubarb is cut into smaller pieces, spiced up (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, sugar) and then reduced. It will take some 30 minutes to reduce fresh rhubarb and create jelly-like consistency. One big pack of strawberry jelly is added for thicker consistency and to speed things up. If you have more time at hand you may opt to prepare thick rhubarb coulis without using jelly - cook rhubarb with spices and sugar for 1 hour stirring occasionally. Set aside in cold place and then on the second day cook for another 30-60 minutes and set aside to cool before using. For meringue topping - take your time and lightly beat egg whites first, then add 1 Tablespoon of sugar at a time. It should take some 6-8 minutes to fully incorporate sugar. To finish the look, chocolate shortbread is shredded to cover the meringue. Once baked, remember to let the cake set at room temperature (keep in the tin) for at least 2 hours before serving.
Plesniak Cake Recipe
Yield: 16 servings
Tin: 23cm or 26cm round tin with removable base (spring form), pie dish or 22cmx33cm deep tray
Time: 60 minutes prep + 45 minutes baking
For the chocolate crust:
- 2 cups* (300g) all-purpose flour
- 200g unsalted butter, straight from the fridge, diced or grated
- 3 Tablespoons Dutch Cocoa
- 2/3 cup (80g) confectioners’ sugar
- 3 egg yolks, straight from the fridge
For the meringue:
- 3 egg whites, room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) caster sugar
- 1 Tablespoon clear lemon juice
Rhubarb and Blackcurrant Filling:
- 10 stalks (500g) raw rhubarb
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup (200g) white granulated sugar
- 1 strawberry jelly in granules (1 pack which sets 500ml liquid)
- 250g thick blackcurrant preserve (with blackcurrant fruit, the thicker the better), room temperature
*cup = 250ml cup
1. Prepare spiced rhubarb: Wash rhubarb, cut into 1cm thick pieces. Mix sugar with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Place rhubarb in a medium pot (with heavy bottom), mix in sugar with spices, add 1-2 Tablespoons of water and cook uncovered on medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the mixture to reduce and create jelly-like consistency. After half an hour add strawberry jelly granules and stir until dissolved. Cook for another 1-2 minutes on low-medium heat. Once done, you may opt to leave rhubarb pieces or blend it into a smooth coulis. Set aside in the cool place for the mixture to set. After setting, the mixture should be at least the same consistency as blackcurrant preserve (the thicker the better).
2. Prepare the crust: Sift flour with confectioners’ sugar and Dutch Cocoa. Add grated or diced butter and using pastry cutter (or food processor) combine the mixture until crumbly. If you don’t have a pastry cutter rub butter into the flour with your fingers, making flat pieces between your thumb and fingers (as if you were slowly snapping your fingers). Once the texture resembles coarse mixture (pea-sized butter pieces are OK) add egg yolks and swiftly form the dough. Split the dough in 3 - wrap 2 pieces in the cling film and refrigerate, you will use 1 part for the base. Line baking tin with parchment paper. Roll the pastry to form circle and place onto the bottom of the baking tin (or you can just fit in smaller pieces of pastry in the bottom of the tin and even out with a spoon or a glass). You will blind bake only the base. Place the tin in the refrigerator and preheat oven to 180C. Once ready blind bake the base for 15 minutes then set aside to cool. Once the base is cooled patch tin walls with the 2nd part of the dough 0.7- 1cm thick and going some half way up the tin’s wall. Place the baking tin in the refrigerator and in the meantime preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan oven).
3. Prepare the meringue: Beat egg whites on medium speed until soft and fluffy (1 minute), start adding sugar - one tablespoon at a time. It should take you some 6-7 minutes to fully incorporate the sugar. As a last step add clear lemon juice.
4. Assemble the cake: Take out the base from the refrigerator, spread the base with blackcurrant preserve, then place rhubarb jelly layer on top. Take out the 3rd part of the dough and divide in two parts. Grate one part of the dough on top of the rhubarb layer. Place meringue on top and grate the rest of the dough on top of the meringue.
5. Bake at 180C (160C fan oven) for 45 minutes. Once baked, take out from the oven and let the cake rest at room temperature (in the tin) for at least 2 hours before serving.
Jazz it up:
1. Fruit: plums, gooseberries, redcurrant - all are suitable for cake filling.
2. Pie: can be baked as a pie in pie dish. If you have blow torch you may opt to blind bake full crust and finish the meringue with the torch. It will taste slightly different, delicious nevertheless.
3. Deep tray bake: for 22cmx33cm deep baking pan multiply the portion by 1.5. Add 1 teaspoon of baking powder to the base for softer texture.
4. Crust: white or spiced crust work well in this recipe too. For white crust simply skip Dutch Cocoa, for spiced crust mix 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger together with flour before adding in butter and egg yolks.