Saturday, December 03, 2005

Here comes the sun!

I celebrated the first glorious day of summer by going to the beach. Sadly, by the second day of summer, the weather was rather munting, and thus not suitable for outdoor activity. I celebrated this day by baking a cake.

186. Almond and Orange-Blossom Cake (Cooking in Advance)

"For no real reason, I think of this as a summer version of the sticky gingerbread".

This cake is yet another orangey, almondy, intentionally shallow and unspongey cake in Nigella's repertoire of such cakes. In How to Eat, there's the Moorish cake, which I made for my mother's birthday this year, and of course, the clementine cake. I've also made the similar-yet-different orange cornmeal cake from Forever Summer, which I liked very much. Ooh, and there are the Spanish macaroons from How to be a Domestic Goddess, whose prime ingredients are ground almonds and orange zest.

I think she must love the whole Moorish vibe, hence her prediliction for these cakes, her saying (somewhere) that Moro is her favourite cookbook, the other Middle-Eastern style recipes she publishes (especially in Forever Summer), and those funky plates and glasses she has on the Nigella Bites program.

Back to this cake, though. Making it is really very undemanding, especially considering how exotic the name is. It's just a case of mixing the ingredients successively in a KitchenAid and then baking it. Nigella says to use a 21cm springform cake tin, but adds, "if the only one you've got measures 23cm then that'll do, or anything between these figures, but no bigger". I was lucky enough to receive the Nigella Lawson Living Kitchen set of three cake tins for my birthday this year, and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to break them in. Now, there isn't a 21cm tin in that particular set, only 20cm, 23cm and 25cm, so I went for the 23cm one. This was the wrong move! I so should have used the 20cm one. The batter did look worryingly shallow as I scraped it into the tin. But not to worry, as the fragrant, delicious aroma of the cake baking wafted out of the oven, I knew it would be delicious no matter what its dimensions were.

After baking, you have to let it cool, wrap it in foil and leave it for a day or two before eating it. I wrapped it up late last night, and retrieved it from its packaging tonight for Mum and I to have as dessert. I wasn't sure if I'd been too impatient with it - perhaps it is even better after two days - but we certainly enjoyed it.

Check out how thin the cake was...

From an aesthetic viewpoint, I'd much rather have had a smaller, thicker cake than the large, thin one that came out. From the culinary viewpoint (which is the more important one, in my opinion), it was lovely.

I was advised (very strongly) by a friend to serve it with crème fraiche and strawberries. Alas, Safeway was totally out of crème fraiche, so we went ahead with just the strawberries, which I macerated in orange flower water and castor sugar (again, on the suggestion of a friend). The strawberries and the cake went together really well. I think the Moors (or should I say "Moops"?) would have been proud.

Slice of cake with macerated strawberries

But does it continue to improve over time? And is it better served with crème fraiche? There are 6 slices left, and I suspect I shall find out very shortly...


Ange said...

Sounds delicious though I dont have this book so will have tyo try out the Orange Cornmeal Cake from Forever summer

ageos said...

Nicely written! I have made this before and loved the taste and texture. I made this today for my great aunts 90th birthday. (she doesn't like chocolate?!) I forgot how flat it is. i made mine in a 23cm tin. however am planning to make 2nd cake now a join together with whipped cream enhanced by orange blossom water. I was planning to decorate with almond flakes and orange curls but like the idea of strawberries (anything for some extra height) so will do that now instead thanks!