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Bre Graham's Thousand-Layer Heart With Rhubarb And Cardamom Custard

by Bre Graham

Bre Graham is a food writer and editor. Her debut cookbook, Table For Two is out now — she shares a recipe for a cake perfect for Valentine's Day...or any other day really. Read her Q/A where she tells us more about the inspiration for her new cookbook.

Celebrate love: celebrate the kitsch, the cringe and the complexities of it all with a heart-shaped dessert that you’ll want to share with someone you love. The first time I made this was for a friend who was spending her first Valentine’s Day single after a big breakup. I wanted to make her feel better with something special. The crisp, light layers of pastry are sandwiched with a creamy, cardamom-spiced custard with pieces of bright-pink rhubarb to cut through the sweetness. Inspired by my favorite thing to order at any French pâtisserie, mille-feuille, which translates to “a thousand leaves”, my thousand-layer heart is heavenly and hopefully on the good side of kitsch.



1 egg

1 tsp icing (confectioners’) sugar, plus extra for dusting

Plain (all-purpose) flour, for dusting

1 ready-rolled sheet of all-butter puff pastry, about 350g (12oz)


3 rhubarb stalks, chopped into 2.5cm (1in) pieces

1 tsp caster (superfine) sugar

1⁄4 tsp finely grated zest and juice of 1 unwaxed orange


250ml (1 cup plus 1 tbsp) whole milk 3 cardamom pods, crushed

2 egg yolks

45g (1⁄4 cup) caster (superfine) sugar 1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)

1⁄2 tsp vanilla paste


Start by roasting the rhubarb. Heat the oven to 180°C fan (400°F/Gas 6) and place the rhubarb in a baking dish. Sprinkle over the sugar, orange zest and juice. Roast for 15 minutes, until tender but it still holds its shape. Set aside to cool completely while you make the pastry hearts.

Turn the oven up to 200°C fan (425°F/Gas 7) and line 2 baking trays with baking (parchment) paper. Whisk together the egg and icing sugar to make an egg wash and set aside.

Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll out the pastry with a rolling pin into a long rectangular shape, about half the width of the original sheet and 4mm (1⁄4in) thick. Draw a heart shape, roughly 15cm (6in) in diameter, on a piece of paper and cut it out. Lay the paper down on the pastry and use a knife to cut around the paper to make a heart shape, then repeat to cut out a second heart shape. Roll the remaining pastry out again, if needed, to cut a third heart. Place the hearts on the lined trays and brush over the egg wash. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden and crisp. Remove the top layer from two of the hearts to make a flat base for filling. Leave to cool on a rack.

While the pastry hearts are baking, make the cardamom custard. In a pan, simmer the milk and cardamom pods on a low heat for 10 minutes. Whisk together the egg yolks and caster sugar in a mixing bowl until pale and creamy. Add the cornflour and whisk again.

Strain the warm milk, discard the cardamom, and slowly add to the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Return to the pan and on a very low heat and whisk for 15 minutes, until the custard thickens to the consistency of thick Greek yoghurt.

Stir in the vanilla and let cool. Once cool, put in the freezer for a few hours to chill completely.

Assemble just before serving. Place one trimmed pastry heart on a plate and spoon over 4 tablespoons of the custard, then spread out evenly. Spoon over half of the rhubarb and syrup, then place the second trimmed pastry heart on top. Repeat with another layer of custard and rhubarb, finishing with the third pastry heart. Dust the top with icing sugar.