Did any of you grow up eating Marie biscuits or a variation of them? While these biscuits are seemingly plain, they come to life when dipped in either tea, coffee, or milk. And there is so much untapped potential in these biscuits, which is the subject of today’s blog. Below is an example of how you can turn ordinary biscuits, into extraordinary cake! Behold, the Lemon Blueberry Biscuit cake, with creamy Labneh and lemon curd:
The word biscuit is derived from the Latin words “bis cotus”, meaning twice baked, hence their initial popularity among the Romans. However, the creation of the biscuits we are familiar with today truly started during the Industrial Revolution, when the mass production of cakes and biscuits began. This type of biscuit in particular had an illustrious and globetrotting past. The Digestive biscuit was invented in 1892 by Alexander Grant in England. Around the same time, the Marie biscuit was created by a London bakery in 1874 to commemorate the marriage of the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia to the Duke of Edinburgh. Shortly after, the transformation of these biscuits into decadent biscuit cakes began. The popularity of both the biscuits and biscuit cakes spread to Ireland, Denmark, Spain, and Portugal, then hopped over to Arab countries in the Levant. To this day it is not unusual to see a Palestinian or Lebanese grandmother enjoying these biscuits with afternoon tea, with an extra biscuit cake wrapped in foil in the freezer in case guests come over.
What exactly is a biscuit cake? A biscuit cake is a type of no bake tea cake, where digestive or Marie biscuits replace the actual cake layers. The biscuits are either crumbled or layered, held together with a batter containing either condensed milk, pudding, or custard, then molded into a terrine or loaf pan. Many Arab home cooks also like to mold the cake into a cylinder and wrap in foil, so that it can be cut into slices. Some add optional dry ingredients to the batter like candied cherries, walnuts, pistachios, almonds, sultanas, or dried apricots. The cake has to set in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. The closest equivalent to this cake in America is the icebox cake.
While most biscuit cakes are made with chocolate, the following recipe uses an unlikely ingredient for the batter– Labneh cheese, or Arabic style kefir cheese. As Labneh is smooth, creamy and slightly tart, it pairs well with fruit purees and jams. In this case lemon curd provides a sweet and citrusy counterpoint to the labneh, along with fresh blueberries and crunchy pistachios. This cake is refreshing for summertime, especially when garnished with fresh berries, and can be frozen until ready to eat.
To see the easy technique of how to make this cake, and how a viewer letter literally made me cry with tears of joy, click on the video below:
Lemon Blueberry Biscuit Cake
*1 cup Labneh cheese
*½ cup lemon curd
*¼ cup sweetened condensed milk
*1 package rectangular petite beurre or Marie biscuits
*Chopped Pistachio Nuts
*Blueberries, Raspberries, or Strawberries
*Using a hand mixer, blend with labneh cheese and lemon curd until smooth. Add the condensed milk and blend until well incorporated. Put a piece of parchment paper in a bread loaf pan. Start by adding a large spoon of the lemon curd mix to the bottom, then line with 6 of the biscuits. Add another layer of the Labneh batter, and repeat layers until all of the batter is used up. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Once set, carefully flip the cake upside down and remove the parchment paper. Smooth the sides and top with a knife. If you wish you can add a layer of whipped cream on the top. Garnish with pistachios and blueberries, then serve.