This is the kind of cake that I like. It's not all fussed up with cream and decoration, it uses entire fruit, it is not over-sweet, it uses nuts in place of flour, it improves after a couple of days - in short it is more than the sum of its ingredients. The cake recipe is adapted from a Claudia Roden recipe for a Sephardic Jewish orange cake. I add polenta and the juice the oranges were cooked in and when I have it in the kitchen, saffron. In fact the musky bittersweet taste of the saffron is what makes the cake memorable, but if you don’t have it the cake will still wow you and yours with its moist, crunchy “orange marmalade” bitter orangey taste.
Sometimes I make an orange syrup, pierce the cake with a skewer and see how much it absorbs. I have also covered it in a cardamom flavored dark chocolate ganache for a birthday cake, which was a divine combination indeed. Sometimes I eat it for breakfast with strong tea. Sometimes I have a nip of sherry with it vicar. I haven’t adapted the recipe for lemons but perhaps I should? It would suit lemon and lavender flavoring well.
The cake is one of those naturally gluten free cakes which I like. Although I do bake quite a few gluten free items, the recipes that never relied on wheat flour in the first place are (naturally) always better!
Before the “How To”, a quick word on quantities and a quick math lesson. When assessing recipes and wondering if your battered old cake tin will accommodate the cake mix, whip out your calculator/ flex your excel skills! The recipe below is for a 20 cm circular tin... Say the sides are 4cm (and this is a mousse cake method so it will not rise on cooking)…we need the volume, so first the base area ..that's pi x radius squared ie 3.142x10x10 = 314 cm squared. And now the volume …multiply by the height…so we have 314x 4 = 1257 cm cubed of cake mix. So if you had a square tin that was 18cm x 18cm x 4cm that would give you a volume of 1296 cm cubed and work out fine.
INGREDIENTS for a circular 20cm cake tin
1 orange plus the juice it was boiled in
125g Ground almonds (I blitz them in a blender and I often use almonds with the skins on)
65g polenta (“malai”)
120g Sugar (I have used honey but you need to increase the almonds as this is quite a liquid mix to begin with)
a pinch of saffron
Wash and boil the orange unpeeled, in water to cover for 1 1/2 hours or until it is very soft. Let cool then cut open, remove the pips and turn into a puree in a food processor adding the water that is left from the cooking pan – approx. 75ml of cooking juice.
Beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until they are foamy. Really do keep whisking until they leave a trail from the beater.
Fold in carefully, so as to just amalgamate the ingredients but not knock out all the air from the mixture. Pour into a cake tin with a removable base that you have buttered or oiled.
Bake in a preheated moderately hot 160C convection/ 180C non convection oven for about 1 hour. Check by inserting a skewer – it should come out clean. If it is still very wet, leave it in the oven for a little longer. Cool in the tin before turning out. (I once was in a hurry and turned it out when it was still hot, burnt my fingers and dropped the entire creation on the floor…so please people! “do as I say not as I do.”
By Rachel Sargent, Guest Writer
Rachel Sargent is owner of The London Street Atelier, which organizes cookery classes, private dinners and offers catering. More about it here.
(photo credits: Rachel Sargent)