Cake for a Friend

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Last week my friend and fellow blogger Lara, who blogs as Thornberry, asked me to make a cake for her book group.

We have a semi-regular play date on a Tuesday morning so our 5 year olds can get play while we drink coffee, eat cake and do some knitting and crochet.  The last time we got together I made an apple tea cake from a recipe of my great-aunty Alma.

It’s a deliciously moist cake topped with slices of apple and dregged with sugar and cinnamon before baking.  It was one my grandmother would make for her friends when they came for afternoon tea.  My brother and I would be lucky enough to get a piece when we visited a few days later.  It was always spread thickly with butter or served with lashings of cream as Granny claimed it was “a bit dry”.  It never was, but no-one complained.

A few weeks ago I had made an orange semolina cake with blood orange syrup for Father’s day.  Lara was lucky enough to get some of the leftovers.  So when her request came, she asked if I could make an orange cake or and apple tea cake.

I still had some blood oranges left from making Marathon Maramalade and had been thinking about making a flourless orange cake with them.  I suggested this to Lara and she was happy with the idea.

I used Stephanie Alexander’s recipe from Cook’s Companion for Claudia Roden’s Middle Eastern Orange Cake.  It’s always moist and delicious but notoriously hard to get to cook all the way through without burning the edges.  I followed Stephanie’s advice to use a tin that allows for the batter to be no more than 6 cm deep.  I also lined the sides of the tin with three layers of baking paper to offer some protection to the sides of the cake.

I used 4 small blood oranges in a pot of water and cooked until tender.  The recipe said 2 hours but as my oranges were small and thin skinned so they only took an hour.  I removed them from the pot and cut them into quarters so they’d cool quicker.

When it came out of the oven, the cake was cooked perfectly all the way through and didn’t sink in the middle.  I really wanted to cut a slice and have a taste, but as it was for an order, I couldn’t!  I thought about dusting the cake with icing sugar but as it was to be served later it would have melted. The other option was an orange icing but upon further investigation, the pantry was bare of icing sugar.

I finally decided to make blood orange compote to serve with the cake as a little something extra on the side.  Segmented oranges and orange zest were placed in a bowl.  I made then a light caramel to which orange juice was added then poured over the top of the fruit and allowed to cool.  I’m told it tasted “superb”.  Thanks to Lara for the great photos.

I have a few blood oranges left and it’s my partner’s birthday in a few days.  I think I’ll have to make another Flourless Blood Orange Cake so I can get a piece!

 

Make cake while the sun shines (twice cooked is twice as good)

Today has been a gorgeous spring day in Melbourne.  I’ve always loved the “in-between” seasons, spring and autumn. The cool crisp mornings that give way to sunny warm afternoons.  It makes me just want to get into the garden and pull up the weeds that have thrived in the winter rains.  Instead I’ve been in the kitchen, driven by the small nagging voice of my 5 year old daughter.  “I want ice-cream, mummy”.  I’ve been trying really hard to refrain from buying things from the supermarket.  Instead I make it at home.  Mostly it’s mayonnaise, more on that another day.

Instead of going back out to the shop to buy cream for ice-cream, I remembered a Nigella Lawson recipe from delicious Magazine I’d made sometime ago.  It has no cream in it, only egg yolks, milk, sugar and lemon rind.  All these things I had.

So having made the custard for the gelato di crema, I was left with egg whites.  Usually I put them in a container in the fridge with good intentions of doing something with them.  They then languish at the back of the shelf until discovered some months later as the source of that mysterious bad smell in the fridge.  Not today.  Today I decided to make pavlova.  I used a mish-mash of various recipes.  The result was a concoction of 5 egg whites, a cup of raw organic sugar ( ground in the food processor to somewhere between caster and icing sugar), a pinch of cream of tartar, 2 tsp of white vinegar and 2 tsp of tapioca starch.

I baked the pavlova in the oven at 160C for about 40 minutes then turned it off and let it cool down in the oven whilst I went and did the after-school pickup.  When I came back and opened the oven about and hour later, I was somewhat disappointed with the results.  It was crust, but when touched it broken and seemed to be very thin.  There was also a lot of weeping going on and not by me!  I had undercooked it or not whisked enough after the sugar went it.

After it was cooled I put it into and airtight container to await the return home of my pav-loving partner.  When I took it out again a few days later it was very wet and not looking the best.  My choices: bin it or rebake.  So back into the oven it went, for about half an hour, I can’t tell exactly, I forgot to set the time (something I do a lot).  I was alerted by the smell of something cooking and when I opened the oven, I remembered I was trying to save the pav! By this stage it was nicely brown and crusty so the oven went off and I left the pav to cool again.

Some of you may remember I had collected a large box of blood oranges from my defacto-cousin-in-law a little while back.  Being early spring here in Melbourne, I just couldn’t bring myself to buy strawberries to top my twice cooked pavlova.  I like to use what’s at hand where possible.  I’d been reading Maggie Beer’s “Maggie’s Table” and had come across her recipe for Blood Orange Curd.  “Why not?” I thought.  It would be a bit like an upside down lemon meringue pie, only with blood orange.  So I preceded to follow her recipe, but being nervous about curdling it, I took it off the heat and but it into a bowl in the fridge to cool.  it seemed a bit runny but I hoped that was because it was hot and a rest in the fridge would thicken it.

A few hours later I returned to check and the curd was still runny.  Under-cooked again! What was going on.  So this time I did away with the bain marie and put the curd into a saucepan and recooked over gentle heat until it thicken.  It tasted good but lacked the citrus punch I wanted to compete with the sweetness of the pavlova, so I zested a blood orange and added it to the curd.  This vastly improved the flavour, however next time I’ll add more juice.

When the curd was cold, I slathered it over the top of the pavlova, and served it with a good scoop of lemony gelato di crema.  Delicious!