Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Fancy Schmancy

Do you ever get a sudden, irrepressible urge to bake? I did this morning, at about 9am when I was supposed to be getting ready to go to uni. Instead, I baked a cake which took longer than expected, and ended up missing my first class. Whoops.

301. Fancy Cake (Basics etc.)

The fancy cake is yet another one of Nigella's citrus-flavoured almond-based cakes.

39. Clementine Cake
47. Moorish Cake
Almond & Orange-Blossom Cake

It is basically the same as the Moorish Cake, (in fact, the Moorish Cake is a variation of the basic "fancy cake" recipe), but with different proportions of ingredients, and without the orange syrup. It's called "fancy cake" because it is made in a brioche tin, giving it a fancy shape. The actual cake mixture is quite simple - you beat egg yolks with sugar until light, then fold in almond meal, lemon zest and beaten egg whites.

I didn't have any lemons to hand, so I used the zest of a seville orange, retrieved from the icy depths of my freezer. Furthermore, whenever I make this sort of cake, I whisk up the egg whites first, and leave them, in their stiff peaks, to the side while I get on with the rest of the cake. This is to save washing up. You see, I use my KitchenAid mixer for all stages of this cake, and when you whisk egg whites, you need your equipment - the bowl and the whisk - to be scupulously clean. Doing the egg yolks first means that you need to wash and dry the equipment before beating the egg whites. Egg yolks, on the other hand, require no such lavish attention. If you do the egg whites first, you don't need to wash anything before you beat the egg yolks. You can just scrape the beaten stiff whites into another bowl, not worrying about the bits that remain on the equipment.

I've found that egg-whites don't come to too much harm if left out for a short period of time. In fact, back at my old job as a cook at Crown Casino, our soufflés were made up and portioned into ramekins in the afternoon, in the pastry kitchen on the opposite side of the complex. We'd transfer trays of ramekins of the raw mixture from the pastry kitchen to our own kitchen (none too delicately), and cook them to order in the evening, which could be as late as 10:30pm. They always turned out fine.

Anyway, the egg whites for this cake only stayed out for about 15 minutes. No worries.

Those of you with sharper memories will remember that when I made the Moorish Cake, I had a bit of drama going all over town trying to find a tin. In the end, I didn't use a proper brioche tin, but a brioche-shaped ceramic pudding dish. As you can see now, I have a proper brioche tin. And it was ludicrously easy to find. They're actually sold at The Essential Ingredient, only about $12, in the right size, and with non-stick surface. I found it, by chance, about a week after I made the Moorish Cake, and I felt quite the douchebag when I saw them.

So, the cake takes an hour to bake in a 160C oven.

After cooling in the tin for 10 minutes, you have to turn out the cake, which is not that easy, considering how many crevices there are on the tin. My only advice is to be patient and gentle with the cake. I used a butterknife and a plastic chopstick to wedge it out, slowly, and in one piece.

le gateau upside down

When I made the Moorish Cake, I served it upside down, which I think looks better, but Nigella does stipulate turning it up the right way, immediately.

I let it cool in the kitchen whilst I spent the day at uni, and ate it in the evening with my parents. I assume that you're supposed to serve this type of cake plain, but I couldn't bear the plain brown top (and was afraid the cake would be dry), so I topped it with strawberries which I'd macerated in castor sugar and orange flower water. And served it with crème fraiche, just as I did with the Almond & Orange-Blossom Cake.

It was fabulous, and not dry at all. There was a fantastic contrast between crunchy top and the fragrantly dense moistness within. I do believe you could make any egg-white leavened cake in a brioche tin to get the "fancy" thang happening, but I can't honestly see why you'd want to go past this one.

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