Most us, while fond of food, have a deep-seeded yearning towards one item in particular. For me, this is the bite-sized treat, the French Fancy. For as long as I can remember, these delicious cakes have been my all-time favourite dessert. One of my earliest memories is being at the kitchen table, chowing down on a pink Fancy. Sure, there have been times I’ve seen them on the shelf and haven’t pounced… but this is usually a day or so after I’ve take a box of them to a secluded place and wolfed them down. However, in recent years the quality of Fancies has dropped. The recession has led to the sponge becoming more aerated, the icing more sugary, the buttercream being thinner. I tried switching brands but the quality of the new ones was inconsistent. Cue despair. Time to take action and make my own!
What You’ll Need:
- 170 g Caster sugar
- 170 g Self raising flour
- 170 g Butter
- 3 Eggs
- 1 Egg
- 150 g Icing sugar
- 25 g Flour
- 90 ml Milk
- 1 tsp Vanilla essence
- 400 g Icing sugar
- Cocoa powder
- Lemon juice
- Vanilla essence
- Dark chocolate
It’s rather intimidating trying to make something yourself after years of devotion to someone else’s creation. There’s a lot of internal pressure to not only make it right, but also to make it better. The student has grown weary of the Master’s teachings. They’re no longer giving me what I need. One small mistake will leave me with a sense of failure and vulnerability. Where I would once hid myself away to devour a box out of greed and delight, failure would lead to the same situation only it would be to hid my shameful creation from the world. In short: no pressure.
For the sponge, set the oven to 200°C. Beat the eggs and sugar together. Then mash in the butter, Sieve in the flour and mix well. Pop it in the oven. So far, so good.
Now for the filling. This is what makes the Fancies the shining examples of glory that they are. Am I worried? My Dad, a fellow Fancy enthusiast, pokes his nose into the kitchen. He looks at me with hollowed eyes. Nothing is said but everything is implied: you get this wrong, you’re out of here, kid! Whisk the whole egg with the icing sugar until creamy and fluffy. Sieve in the flour and beat it in too.
Put the milk on the stove and heat until it’s steaming. Then pour it into the egg mixture and place it over a low heat. Mix as though the devil were standing on your shoulder screaming in your ear to go faster. The texture should change almost instantly to a thick, custard-like paste. Stir 2 tsp of vanilla essence into it and then leave to cool.
The sponge should be ready. Allow it to cool for about 20 – 30 mins. While you’re waiting, turn your attention to the icing. Divide the icing sugar into three bowls (approx 100 – 150 g per bowl). Add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice and a pinch of salt to one and stir in well. The sugar should clump together in a sticky ball at the centre of the bowl. Gradually add water to this until it is still very viscous but now level. In another bowl, add a couple of tablespoons of cocoa power, a dash of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Do the same as with the previous. For the final bowl, add a teaspoon of vanilla essence and a couple drops of pink food colouring. Then do as you did with the previous flavours.
When the sponge is cool, slice it into small cubes (approx 2 cm²).
Leave it to stand another few minutes. Then fill a piping bag with your Fancy topping. Carefully put a small mound of filling on each cube.
When this is done, fill up a basin with warm water and make a Bain Marie for your icing. This will soften it enough to drizzle over your Fancies without actually diluting the icing mixture. Let the bowls of icing sit in it for a few minutes and then begin spooning it over your work. It’s getting close to Judgement Day…
Leave them to set. You may need to top up some of the icing on the lemon and vanilla flavoured Fancies as the icing might be very thin over the filling. After about 30 – 40 mins, melt 25 g of dark chocolate. Using a fork, drizzle it over the Fancies. Wait anxiously for it to set.
Place on a nice plate for added aesthetics and then present to the parental magistrate. Wait.
Without a word, he reaches for another one. Then silently leaves the room; success – but only just. I needn’t clear out my wardrobe but I’m on thin ice for pulling such a reckless stunt. The kitchen needs to be left spotless. The Fancies can be left on display for familial grazing throughout the day. I have proven myself.