Sunday, December 11, 2011

Boiled Citrus Cake



Boiled Citrus Cake Photo by Steve Shanahan

First published Canberra times 9 December 2011

Po of Masterchef has done one like it, so has Maggi Beer. I think Maeve O’Meara has created one as well. You might have guessed, it’s the boiled orange cake. Or in my version, boiled orange and lemon cake. This is slightly different to the original, adding lemon for sourness. This cake is based on a classic Middle Eastern recipe where almond meal and citrus fruits are abundant and form the basis for the ingredients.

This is an interesting recipe, as the structure of the fruit changes by boiling it whole, reducing the bitterness produced from the skin and pith. It’s a modest looking cake, even rustic, that packs a huge punch with its strong citrus flavour that lasts in your mouth long after it’s gone.

The recipe became popular many years ago by the well known cook and author Claudia Roden when it was published in her A new book of Middle Eastern Food back in the late 1960s. The classic Italian Olive Oil cake is a similar version that uses this technique, although I am not a fan of the strong olive flavour. This classic cake has recently re-emerged and now makes regular appearances on café and bistro menus.

I think it is one of my favourite food finds for the year, because of its unexpected flavour and the need for limited use of utensils, as it’s completely prepared in a blender.  This is a cake that improves with age and retains its moist texture without drying out.

You do need to prepare this cake in advance in order to cook the citrus fruit for 2 hours. If you don’t allow this time, the skin on the fruit will still be bitter. I like to cook the fruit the night before, having the fruit cooled and when I’m ready to bake the cake the following day.

After making this cake regularly, I recently experimented with the recipe and substituted a lemon instead of an extra orange. It gave the cake a cheek pinching sourness that was balanced by the honeyed mascarpone. This is worth a try if you like sour lemon flavours. Another variation to the original recipe is to pour warm chocolate ganache over the cooked cake, giving it a jaffa flavour.

The cake is great served warm or cold and is absolutely perfect with mascarpone, honey and almonds. It really is a wonderful cake to take to any occasion and its citrusy flavours makes it an ideal festive cake. It will appeal to the gluten intolerant and those watching their carbs, just watch out for the mascarpone that goes with it.
  
2 oranges, or 1 lemon and 1 orange
7 whole eggs
250g caster sugar
270g almond meal
1 tspn baking powder
1 tbsp of extra caster sugar
icing sugar for dusting

Wash the citrus fruit and cook unpeeled in a pot of boiling water for 2 hours. Drain the water, allowing the fruit to completely cool. Do this ahead of time.

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line the base of a 20cm spring-form cake pan with baking paper.

Break the eggs into a food processor or blender, add the 250g of caster sugar and blend together.  Over a bowl, break up the two cooled oranges, removing and discarding any seeds. Place the oranges including the juice and skin into the egg mix in the blender. Blend together to a smooth consistency. Add the almond meal and baking powder and blend again till smooth.

Pour the cake batter into the greased pan and sprinkle the top with the extra caster sugar. Bake for about 1 hour to 1¼ hours until the cake is golden brown.

Remove the cake from the pan when cool. Dust with icing sugar to serve with a dollop of mascarpone, a drizzle of  warm honey and roasted, slivered almonds.