Strawberry Lemon Curd Cake

 

Cake Packets

A couple of weeks ago, our community held our annual International Day and Spring Fair.  This is an extravaganza where all of our various expat groups, alongside our host country, pull out the stops on their national pride.  There is a parade of national dress and flags, and then the highlight is two gymnasiums of food tables selling servings of favorite dishes from all of our representative countries.  You can very likely end up with a plate full of injera and kim chi, with a waffle on the side.  It’s weird, but fun.

The British table this year, rather than stooping to bangers and mash, sold tiny jars of lemon curd.  You can see my now empty lemon curd jar in the photo background below,  wearing its gingham cap. Having the occasion of a school bake sale, I made a couple of loaves of this moist, flavor-intense cake.  You could use any type of fruit.  The recipe calls for blueberries, but we have strawberries, and  I can imagine it with peaches or even figs.  We’re down to the dregs of our lemon season now, but next winter, when everyone is giving away their lemons again, I will use more  juice in batches of tangy lemon curd.

Both of the following recipes are from BBC Food Recipes, the British-speak just enhancing the mood.  I didn’t ice my cakes because they were so moist and nice without it.

 

Lemon Curd

  • 4 lemons, zest and juice
  • 200g or 7oz caster sugar
  • 100g or 31/2 oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 3 free-range eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  1. Put the lemon zest and juice, the sugar and the butter into a heatproof bowl. Sit the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl. Stir the mixture every now and again until all of the butter has melted.
  2. Lightly whisk the eggs and egg yolk and stir them into the lemon mixture. Whisk until all of the ingredients are well combined, then leave to cook for 10-13 minutes, stirring every now and again, until the mixture is creamy and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  3. Remove the lemon curd from the heat and set aside to cool, stirring occasionally as it cools. Once cooled, spoon the lemon curd into sterilised jars and seal. Keep in the fridge until ready to use.

 

Lemon Curd Cake

  • 175g softened butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 500ml tub Greek yogurt (you need 100ml/3½ fl oz in the cake, the rest to serve)
  • 300g jar good lemon curd (you need 2 tbsp in the cake, the rest to serve)
  • 3 eggs
  • zest and juice 1 lemon, plus extra zest to serve, if you like
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 200g punnet of blueberries (you need 85g/3oz in the cake, the rest to serve)
  • 140g icing sugar
  • edible flowers, such as purple or yellow primroses, to serve (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 160C or 320F. Grease a 2lb loaf tin and line with a long strip of baking parchment. Put 100g yogurt, 2 tbsp lemon curd, the softened butter, eggs, lemon zest, flour and caster sugar into a large mixing bowl. Quickly mix with an electric whisk until the batter just comes together. Scrape half into the prepared tin. Weigh 85g blueberries from the punnet and sprinkle half into the tin, scrape the rest of the batter on top, then scatter the other half of the 85g berries on top. Bake for 1 hr 10 mins-1 hr 15 mins until golden, and a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean.
  2. Cool in the tin, then carefully lift onto a serving plate to ice. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and stir in enough lemon juice to make a thick, smooth icing. Spread over the top of the cake, then decorate with lemon zest and edible flowers, if you like. Serve in slices with extra lemon curd, Greek yogurt and blueberries.

Lemon Curd Cake, 2

 

Mother Guilt

Apples 4

The term “mother guilt”  is usually associated with a mother, like the character Mom on A Prairie Home Companion, who intentionally puts a few twists on the screw of her child’s heart for the gratification of receiving, albeit grudgingly, affirmation of his love or confirmation of a visit.  I think I am talking about the reverse of that, though.  I am talking about the almost unbearable sweetness of a child who recognizes a dream of a parent and makes an effort to connect with her about it.  Whether because it has become a shared passion or just because the child knows it is significant, the connection is dear.

Ten years ago, our family bought a small farm on Lummi Island.  Our West Shore homestead came with a simple farmer’s house, 5 acres of hay, some outbuildings, and several old fruit trees.  The one pictured below is part of our family.  At least 50 years old and perhaps another half that much, this tree nearly kills itself each summer producing loads of tart, green,  softball-sized fruit.

Apple Tree

When we renovated the farm house, I considered this tree in all seasons, and created a baking counter with casement windows that could swing wide open and practically bring the tree indoors.  In summer, deer come by in the afternoons to eat the groundfall apples and nap in the shade, I think listening to classical music from the CBC, while I am cooking.

Baking Counter

We have only been able to live the life we envision on this farm in snippets because we work overseas and can only be there for six weeks in the summer and possibly a couple more in the winter.  Our oldest son, though, went to university in the nearby city and has been able to live on the island or commute there on weekends for several years, now.  Even though this place can be a challenge to maintain sometimes, he loves what we love about it and has begun living the life we would live which includes growing our own food and preserving it.  I bought a heavy-duty dehydrator a few years ago and in the fall,  Gabel painstakingly cuts the apples into slivers and sees them through the drying process.  Then what does he do with the bags and bags of dried apples?  Like a cat who has proudly pounced upon a mouse, he brings them to me, all of them.

When the boys came to Tunis for Christmas, their backpacks were a hit and miss of items we had put on our wish list for them to bring, but Gabe did put in eight small packets of his freshly dried apple crop.  I have been saving them here in the freezer, but now Gabe is heading back this week.  He has finished what he has been pursuing here in Tunis and is ready to get a jump on a summer job, register for summer school, and get our farm back in shape.  We’re having some of the friends he has made through his Arabic school over for a dinner of his favorite foods, tomorrow.  We will have pinto beans, Mexican rice, dried chile salsa, goat cheese tamales, and a cake, featuring his hand-dried apples.  Imagine, feeding his friends, from several different countries, cake, made with the fruit from the heart of our home?  These are heavy apples, indeed.

Dried-Apple Cake

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting)

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil (If you possibly can, use extra-virgin olive oil instead.)
4 large eggs
3 cups reconstituted dried apples
1 cups coarsely chopped nuts (I used toasted hazelnuts, also a NW specialty)
1/2 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans. Line bottom of pans with baking paper. Butter and flour paper; tap out excess flour.

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in apples, nuts and raisins.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans, and bake the layers for about 40 minutes each, or until a tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Turn out onto racks. Peel off baking paper; cool cakes completely.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.

To assemble, frost the top of one cake, place the other cake on top. Frost the sides and top, swirling decoratively. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to set up frosting.

Barely Sweet

If you read my blog astutely, not that I expect you to, but you may have noticed that I posted Allan and I went on a trip to Slovenia and Croatia.  Now, I had every intention of giving day by day coverage of our discoveries, but I forgot the charger for my camera and I burned out the battery on day 2.  Without photos, let’s face it you don’t have much of a blog.  I took some pictures with Allan’s phone and I may dribble those out over time, but I missed the big photo op.

But maybe it’s better this way.  Maybe Slovenia and Croatia just became part of me and I will reveal how they changed me through small revelations.  That is actually true, and I noticed that tonight.  I always have a quart of strawberries in my fridge these days because they are so beautiful and abundant in Tunisia, right now.  We don’t eat much dessert at our house, but the weather has turned chilly again, and the sea is stormy, and Allan and I aren’t feeling our best, so our son made a gorgeous chicken soup with homemade dumplings for dinner.  I decided I could at least contribute a little cake to have with our strawberries.  I saw a recipe today for a cornmeal cake, which I hoped would be like just about every dessert we had on our trip:  barely sweet.  The desserts were heavily fruit laden, think strudel,  with just a hint of sweetness.  I commented several times that the dessert could almost be a side dish.  This cornmeal cake has that very touch of sweetness and a really nice corn crunchiness (I used a coarsely ground cornmeal), while being fork tender at the center.  It was just what I wanted to have.

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Cornmeal Cake with Strawberries

From Fresh From the Farmers’ Market by Janet Fletcher

  • Unsalted butter and cornmeal for preparing the pan
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 6 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan with 2-inch sides, then dust with cornmeal, shaking out excess.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the cake flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
  3. With an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy.  Add sugar gradually and beat, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice, until creamy and light.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add lemon zest.
  4. Combine milk and vanilla extract.  With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with milk.  Beat just until blended, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice.  Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
  5. Bake until top is golden brown and firm to the touch, 35-40 minutes.
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Poppy Seed Cake with Grilled Peaches

Ten days from today, we’re on our plane flying home to Lummi Island.  This is my last week to cook through some ingredients that I don’t want to leave until I come back in August.  Last summer, when I returned, our household helper informed me (you should have heard that multi-lingual exchange accompanied with pantomimes) that some of my spices had termites so she threw them out.  I would have found that a little unbelievable except one week later, my son was about to sprinkle some pimente forte on his pizza when he noticed that little white things were wiggling in it and threw it away, too.  That local chili powder is almost too hot for humans to eat, yet it is a perfect breeding medium for bugs?

I had a large quantity of poppy seeds after spending my winter vacation in Prague and Germany.  Using them at the rate of a teaspoon here and there wasn’t even making a dent in my stash.  I needed a recipe that was pretty much based on poppy seeds.  I found this one that had been developed by caterer Vered Guttman and which was printed in the Washington Post.

Poppy Seed Cake

12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan, at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour, plus more for the pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup plain unsweetened applesauce or yogurt
  • 7 ounces (about 2 cups) twice-ground poppy seeds (see following notes)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan.

Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat on medium speed for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the flour and the baking powder in a small bowl.

Reduce the mixer speed to low; add the butter and applesauce, then gradually add the flour mixture and the twice-ground poppy seeds to form a very wet batter. Pour into the pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only crumbs. Transfer the pan to a wire rack; let the cake cool completely before removing the springform ring.

For this recipe, you have to double grind about 2 cups of whole poppy seeds in a coffee or spice grinder.  It actually takes some intensity to break them down.  As you might imagine, they are so round and hard they just whirl around for a few seconds until some heat builds up in the grinding chamber and they gradually start to crack.  Here is the contrast of whole poppy seeds and what they look like after one grinding.

Then, this is the color and consistency after the second grinding.

Now, what does that remind me of?  Let me see?  Of yes, a cat litter box!  When you start to get that clumping consistency, you’ve got what you’re grinding for.

I made this whole cake on Sunday morning and then took it to two parties, one barbecue lunch and one garden dinner.  When I told the other guests the quantity of poppy seeds in the cake, I could feel their nervousness.  I knew they were wondering if it is OK to eat pure ground up poppy seeds and if they were going to become high as there were some jokes about not taking a drug test in the next week.

I did some research to find out what effect on health or nutrition poppy seeds have.  I was surprised to learn that they contain actual nutrients and aren’t just decorative.  Here are the highlights:

Health benefits of poppy seeds

  • Poppy seeds contain anti-oxidants.
  •  The seeds are especially high in oleic and linoleic acids which help lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increase HDL or “good cholesterol”.
  • Poppy seeds’ outer coat is rich in dietary fiber.
  • Dietary fibers bind to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in the colon, further helping lower  LDL cholesterol levels.
  • The seeds are an excellent source of B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid.
  • Poppy seeds contain good levels of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc, and magnesium.
  • Dried poppy seeds contain very small levels of opium alkaloids when consumed in food, producing minimal effect on the human nervous system.

This cake is a real surprise.  It looks like it is going to taste like chocolate, but it tastes of molasses and buckwheat flour, two ingredients absent from the recipe.  It is very moist and keeps well for a few days.  We had it with these grilled peaches and the caramel sauce was key to pulling this dessert all together.

Cinnamon-Grilled Peaches

Ingredients

  • 4 large ripe freestone peaches (I peeled them, first)
  • 8 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks (I used actual licorice sticks- nothing to do with the candy)
  • 8 fresh mint leaves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt

Directions

Rinse the peaches and blot them dry with paper towels. Cut each peach in half and discard the pit. Then, cut each peach into quarters. Using a pointed chopstick or metal skewer, make a starter hole in the center of each peach quarter, working from the pit side to the skin side. Skewer 2 peach quarters on each cinnamon stick, placing a mint leaf between the 2 quarters.

Combine the butter, brown sugar, rum, cinnamon, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Let the glaze boil until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes.

Prepare and preheat the grill to high. Brush and oil the grate. Next, place the skewered peaches on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side, basting with the rum and butter glaze. Spoon any remaining glaze over the grilled peaches and serve at once.

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Italian Breakfast

The Italian style of eating sweets for breakfast is a little challenging for me.  I need to have protein for breakfast:  eggs, cheese, nuts,  something of that nature.  If I start my day with a lot of fluffy carbs, I’m starving and possibly in tears in about an hour.

Every morning we join the other guests in the cozy kitchen at our farm.  Nadia, the owner, and Maggie, an assistant, are often folding the line-dried laundry from the day before.  It creates such a homey atmosphere.

In the kitchen is an assortment of freshly baked goods. There will be a warm cake and one or two varieties of croissants along with yogurt, fresh fruit and cereal.  I zero in on yogurt and fresh fruit and sample just a little of the baked goods.  The morning we had Buckwheat Cake, however, I felt like I was eating something supportive.  This is a typical Northern Italian recipe called Torta Di Grano Saraceno.  Even though it contains a heavier flour and ground almonds, the cake has a light crumb.  Maggie cut her cake in half and filled it with raspberry preserves.

It is perfect with a cappuccino, but in case you don’t know this, it is considered gross to have milk in your coffee past noon in Italy so cappuccinos and lattes are only for morning.

Buckwheat Cake

Serves 16

Ingredients

1 cup whole almonds, blanched or natural ( 6oz/175g)
1 ½ cups buckwheat flour ( 200g)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 large lemon, zested
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature ( 6oz/175g)
1 ½ cups sugar, divided ( 300g)
¾ cup milk ( 180ml)
4 eggs, at room temperature, separated

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/175°C Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast until golden and fragrant, about 10-12 minutes. Cool completely.
  2. Grease a 9-inch/23cm springform pan and set aside. In a food processor or clean coffee grinder, grind the almonds as finely as possible with 1/4 cup (50g) of the sugar. In a medium bowl, stir together the ground almonds, buckwheat flour, salt, cinnamon, lemon zest and baking powder.
  3. In another bowl, beat the butter and 1 cup (200g) of the sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the dry mixture alternately with the milk until everything is well combined.
  4. In a mixing bowl, whip the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup (50g) sugar until they form stiff, glossy peaks. Stir one-quarter of the whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then gently fold in the rest. Scrape the batter into the greased pan, smoothing the top.
  5. Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, covering the top loosely with foil if it begins to darken too quickly. Cool the cake for ten minutes on a rack, then carefully remove the outer ring and cool completely. Cut the cake in half, horizontally, and spread with preferred jam.  Dust with powdered sugar before serving..

Brown Sugar Pavlova with Strawberries

We have had a dribble of strawberries already, but being a seasoned Tunisian resident, I’ve lived here over a whole year now, I didn’t bite on the first buzz-bomb strawberry that caught my eye.  No, I know we will still have some strawberries in May and I remember making strawberry jam in March last year, so I was waiting.  I come from a strawberry-fulfilled county in Washington State.  I know, however, that the first strawberries you see in June are from California and taste like sheetrock.  You have to wait until the local berries are almost spoiled before you can get the really good ones.  Don’t get me started on the year my county was practically dumping strawberries into dumpsters they had such a bumper crop and our local Trader Joe’s had a pyramid of California strawberries in their store.  I didn’t go in that store for about two years after that.
            We live by local harvests here.  Can you imagine something so pure and wonderful?  When you see strawberries in the market, you can buy them and they will be sweet and full of the tastes of earth and sunshine.  I still can’t believe it.
            I am a big-time strawberry shortcake devotee, but only if every ingredient is homemade and real.  For these gentle, hand-raised strawberries, I made a special, but wholesome, pavlova, bearing the warm flavor of brown sugar.  The pavlova layers were a little crisp and chewy on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside.  Piled with layers of whipped crème fraiche, and strawberries, it was a winter delight, especially as it was pouring rain outside.
 Brown Sugar Pavlova with Strawberries
adapted from Gourmet Grilling, 2011
For Meringue
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1 cup superfine granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. distilled white vinegar
3/4 cup egg whites (5-6 large eggs) at room temperature for 30 minutes

For Berries
2 1/2 lb strawberries, trimmed and quartered
2 Tbsp granulated sugar

For Cream
1 1/3 cup creme fraiche
Make Meringue
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F, rack in middle.  Lightly butter 3 (8-inch) round cake pans and line with rounds of parchment paper.  Dust sides of pans with confectioners’ sugar, knocking out excess.
Pulse superfine sugar, brown sugar, and cornstarch in a food processor until well combined.
Stir together vanilla and vinegar in a small bowl.
Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt , using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks.  Increase speed to medium-high and add sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time.  After all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute more.  Add vinegar mixture, then beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.  Spoon meringue into pans (about 2 1/2 cups per pan) and smooth tops.
Bake until meringues have a crisp crust and feel dry to the touch, about 1 hour (insides will still be moist and marshmallow-like).
Turn oven off and prop door open slightly, using a wooden spoon if necessary.  Cool meringues in oven 1 hour.
Run knife along sides of cake pans and carefully turn meringues out of pans.  Carefully peel off parchment (meringues will be fragile and may crack further).  Carefully turn right side up.
Toss berries with sugar and let stand at room temperature until ready to use (up to 1 hour).
Assemble Dessert
Beat creme fraiche using an electric mixer until it just holds soft peaks.  Put 1 meringue on a serving plate and spread 1/3 of whipped cream over it.  Spoon 1/3 of fruit (with juice) over top.  Repeat layering with remaining meringues, cream, and fruit.

Sticky Date Pudding

            Me dates ‘ave gone soft.  If that isn’t a constant concern for cooks.  We buy dates by the hank here.  They’re still on the stem and bundled together, almost like a skein of yarn, and they taste like caramels.

But they are dusty when you bring them home and need a rinsing.  Usually they dry right out and have an ongoing shelf life, but this particular batch isn’t drying so well and they have gotten a bit sticky.  So naturally, I thought of making another (also see Whole Orange Cake) Australian housewives’ staple dessert:  sticky date pudding.  You do know that a pudding is nothing more than a cake in British/Australian speak, so don’t let it intimidate you.

I first fell in love with this cake at a little Australian café in KATHMANDU, of all places.  The restaurant was opened by an Australian couple who were trying to adopt a Nepali child.  This turned out to be one complete genre of expat we frequently met in Nepal.  Others were Buddhist students, missionaries, ancient hippies, mountaineers, and entrepreneurs, along with diplomats and aid workers.   As the adoption process lingered on, this family decided to save the wear and tear on their family and just move to Kathmandu and open a restaurant, what they knew how to do.  The name of the restaurant was The Red Dingo.  I remembered this by association as it was right around the corner from another expat favorite, a Mex-Nepali restaurant called Lazy Gringo.  What made that restaurant Mex-Nepali you ask?  I guess it was mostly because all of the cheese they used was yak cheese, but there were other indicators, too.   The Red Dingo, however,  was quite un-Nepali which made it fun to visit now and then.  Inside the ceiling to floor glass windows were black and white tiles, a blackboard with the daily menu, and lipstick red leather sofas and chairs where you could sit with several friends and pretend that you were being very urban and First World.
 They always had sticky date pudding on the dessert menu.  I know myself well enough by this time in life to understand how completely I am lured in by caramel sauce.  Is anyone else defenseless against a sauce of butter, sugar, and cream?  I thought so.  The caramel sauce poured all over the date-studded cake causes the whole thing to just melt together.
Sticky Date Pudding
Serves 8
Description: lose

Ingredients 

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Description: ticky date pudding
Sticky date pudding
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1 1/2 c.  pitted dates, chopped 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 1/2 cups boiling water 
1/2 c.  butter, softened 
1 cup brown sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
2 eggs 
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted 
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt


Caramel sauce 
1 cup brown sugar 
3/4 c.  thickened cream  or creme fraiche
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/4 c. butter
Method 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line the base of an 8-inch springform cake pan. 
Place dates and baking soda into a bowl. Pour over boiling water. Allow to stand for 20 minutes. 
Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well
after each addition. Using a large metal spoon, fold through date mixture and flour until well combined. 
Spoon mixture into prepared cake pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center 
comes out clean. When cool enough to handle, place plate under cake. Open springform pan side and remove it
. 
Make sauce:
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until sauce comes to 
the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 2 minutes. 
Pierce pudding all over with a skewer or large-tined fork. Pour 1/2 cup of warm sauce over warm pudding. Let 
stand for at least 10 minutes before cutting into wedges.
Serve with remaining warm sauce.

Finished cake swimming in caramel sauce.  I love the air hole indicating the sauce is soaking way inside.

Next time your dates go soft (not an idiom) you know just what you can do with them.

Whole Orange Cake

Thanksgiving is coming up this week, but we won’t be at home for Thanksgiving Day.  Having Thursday and the connecting Friday off from work creates an irresistible draw to do some regional traveling.  I’ll tell you later in the week where we will be.  Never-the-less, I feel like doing some festive cooking.
We are just on the cusp of orange season.  I won’t add them to the What’s in Season list yet because they’re still a tinge green and a tiny bit sour, comparatively, but the scent of oranges does conjure the holidays, in my mind.
I’ve been waiting a few weeks to try this whole orange cake.  It seems to be an Australian country wives’ recipe, but I had to do so much converting that this recipe is mine now.  If you want to check the original or if you prefer metric measurements, here is the link.  Otherwise, you should just trust me.  I am very much in the mood for a cake with the marmalade-like brightness this cake implies.  Ground almonds will temper that mood enough.  Then, it will be soaked in an orange rind and dessert wine syrup.
We stock our wine cellar at a winery not far from Hammamet called Domaine Atlas.  Pictured below is the actual Bredy wheelbarrow of wine cases we bought the last time we were there.  Mind you, we entertain a lot.  Each time we are there, we stick in a few bottles of their dessert wine which comes in clear,  unlabeled bottles. The Australian recipe calls for botrytis-style dessert wine.  Botrytisis really a controlled decomposition process which is why it is fondly referred to as “noble rot”.  I don’t know how noble our local product is, but it is suitable for sipping and cooking.

When I took this photograph, I had in mind one of those magazine set ups like oranges + almonds + dessert wine using actual plus signs, but I don’t know how to do all that so the key ingredients are  just all there mingling in a group.

Whole Orange & Almond Cake with Dessert Wine Syrup


Ingredients (serves 8)
3 large oranges 
Melted butter (to grease  pan)
5 eggs 
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
2 cups almond meal 
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder 
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups dessert wine
1 tsp. thyme, lavender buds, or Herbes de Provence (optional)
Double cream, to serve
Method
1. Place 2 oranges in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over high heat. Drain. Return oranges to the pan and repeat process (this will reduce the bitterness of the peel). Return oranges to the pan once again and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, adding more water when necessary to keep oranges covered, for 1 hour or until oranges are very tender. Drain. Set aside for 2 hours or until cooled to room temperature.
2. Preheat oven to 325′ F. Brush a round 8 inch cake pan with melted butter to lightly grease. Line the base with parchment paper. Cut oranges into quarters. Remove the white cores and any seeds. Place in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.
3. Use an electric beater to whisk the eggs and 1 cup of the sugar in a large bowl until thick and pale. Stir in the orange puree. Add the almond meal, flour and baking powder, and stir until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan and use the back of a spoon to smooth the surface. Bake in preheated oven for 1 1/4 hours or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly.
4. Meanwhile, use a zester to remove the rind from the remaining orange.  Juice the orange and place in a medium saucepan along with the rind, wine, remaining sugar and herbs. Place over low heat and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until syrup thickens slightly. Remove from heat.
5. Turn cake onto a wire rack over a baking tray. Spoon the hot syrup over the warm cake. Set aside for 30 minutes to cool. Cut cake into wedges and place on serving plates. Drizzle with any remaining syrup and serve with double cream, if desired.