Wednesday, July 13, 2005

My Mother’s Birthday Cake

Right now, my kitchen kinda looks like a citrus tree vomited in it. In the feel-good blue colander are my Seville oranges, there are blood oranges in the white bowl, and in that fab silver fruit bowl are some regular navel oranges and mandarins. (By the way, there is another fruit basket in the kitchen, with even more mandarins, bananas and kiwi fruit). My dad’s addicted to mandarins, you see, so we’re always well-stocked.


47. A Moorish Cake

Last night, after the difficult day of looking for supplies, I started on Mum’s birthday cake. The Moorish Cake is in the Basics Etc. chapter, and is basically an orange-flavoured almond sponge with an orange syrup poured over after baking.

You have to start by mixing icing sugar and egg yolks, beating until pale and creamy. I thought that this was going to be hard work, but the sugar almost instantly dissolved in the yolks, so only a light beating was required. However, once you add ground almonds and orange zest, it gets extremely thick and is really difficult to stir. (I used blood orange zest from the three reddest oranges, and it was amazingly easy to grate off!)

Then you whisk up some egg-whites, which I did in a Kitchen-Aid, and slowly fold them into the thick, thick almond-egg mixture. It was so thick that I had to go very slowly, only folding in one large spoonful of whites at a time. It was only after about 5 spoonfuls that I could tip in the rest of the whites without fear of them collapsing under the dense weight of the almond and eggs.

I was about to grease up my mum’s old rum baba mould, when she rang…

Mum: Sarah, I see a ceramic brioche-type tin, only $14.95. Do you want it?
Me: Yes please! But where are you?
Mum: Cozhina on Whitehorse Rd… this is about 5 minutes from our house
Me: Oh right.

So she came home, 5 minutes later, tin in hand. I’ve heard horror stories about the Moorish cake getting stuck in tins, and breaking up when taken out, so I was very careful, and buttered the tin very generously, and then sprinkled it with castor sugar – just in case.

lubed-up tin, recipe and whisk in background

And… PHEW! After the stipulated hour of baking, the cake came out fine.

Relatively clean tin

As you can see, the cake is quite flat, so perhaps not as immediately impressive as I’d hoped, but a wide and flat cake will be easier to share amongst 11 people than a tall and thin one.

I left the cake to cool overnight, and did the syrup today, in the afternoon. I have since realized that you’re supposed to pour the syrup over the cake as it cools, rather than once it’s completely cold, but it’s too late to do anything about it now.

Blood-orange halves – very soft and easy to squeeze

The carnage. Yesterday I cut my finger opening a tub of creme fraiche, and whilst I was squeezing the oranges today, some juice came into contact with the cut. OWWWWW!

The syrup is just sugar, blood orange juice and a cinnamon stick, which you boil for about ten minutes until reduced and syrupy. Once it’s cool, you add lemon juice.

Impossibly Scarlet Syrup –very, very tasty… I tried some, it’s gorgeous.

Yesterday at Victoria Market, Mum stumbled across these lovely strawberries, so I used them to decorate the cake. And I brushed them with some leftover syrup to get that shiny-gleam thing happening.

The cake

I know it smelled brilliant coming out of the oven, and I hope it tastes good... but for now I gotta get back to preparing tonight's special birthday dinner!


Anonymous said...

Hey Sar- Miss B here... just had to say that cake looks great. I can't believe your mum found a brioche pan only 5 mins from your house!!! BTW she sounds like a gem to help you out on all your ingredient sourcing missions!!

Karen said...

Lovely cake. Fascinating to see your photos of the process. Thank you.