I really like mums. I didn’t always particularly though. When my friends and I were unruly teenagers skulking in parks after dark and knocking back gutrot that bore so little resemblance to actual vodka that it was labelled “vodka flavoured beverage” in basements, parents – our own and and others – were to be strictly avoided lest they… Actually I’m not sure exactly what, it was just the implied threat of having to have a conversation or something I guess.
As I’ve grown older I’ve come to realise what a joy it is that my nearest and dearest generally come as packages; somehow I lucked out on the friends-with-cool-mums lottery. They’re a trove of good recipes amongst plenty of other things and I grew to look forward to catching up with them whenever I came home to visit from overseas whether the dearests happened to be there or not.
The other day I was the lucky recipient of a slice of a cake that makes my top five delicious cakes of all time. People, I have eaten a lot of cake during my time on this earth and I tell you, if I that does not an authority make (plus! I chose nine out of nine flavours correctly the other day in a blind taste test of sweet, salty, sour and bitter!) I do not know what would.
The cake has a sort of golden caramelised shell that comes from baking it in an oven that starts cold, combined with the syrup that gets poured over it as it’s pulled from the oven, and a nubbly yet moistly yellow interior that comes from almond meal and the soaked-in syrup. It smells of souks and caravanserais minus the ordure. I made it for my best friend’s birthday this past weekend and I shall make it again, doubling the recipe this time, before the week is through. It didn’t make it past day one but I imagine that it is a very good keeper. It sort of reminds me of an exotic version of this yoghurt and lemon cake, though it doesn’t have any yoghurt in it.
Thanks Deb, for making Joe, and for this cake. The jury is still deliberating about which is better, though he may scrape in on technicalities, just.
Also, some lovely people (remember La Meune?) I used to cook for are starting an online business selling cinnamon. If you want a free sample, you can get one sent to you if you complete the short questionnaire, do it! You know you want to, you like free stuff, right?
Were you unruly as a teenager?
Warm Tunisian Orange and Almond Cake
I suppose some might this call this a homely cake (and I do mean homely, not homey) but I think it’s rather beautiful in its own subtle way. While it’s perfect as-is, a dollop of mascarpone would be a welcome way to make it a little more dessert-like if you’re into that sort of thing. If you double it, you should probably just use an extra half teaspoon of baking powder (ie: a teaspoon and a half, not two). It could be easily made gluten-free if you replaced the breadcrumbs with a gluten-free flour or maybe just more almond meal – I imagine it was originally a way of using up leftover bread.
For the cake
40g (1/3 cup) dried breadcrumbs
200 g (9/10 cup) caster sugar
100g (2/3 cup) ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
200 ml (4/5 cup) sunflower oil
4 medium eggs
Zest of one orange
Zest of half a lemon
For the syrup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons orange juice
50g (1/5 cup) sugar
½ cinnamon stick
5 – 6 cloves
2 star anise
Lightly grease a 21cm springform cake pan and line with baking paper.
Put all the dry ingredients in one bowl and in another bowl beat the eggs lightly, then beat in the oil.
Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and beat well then pour into the prepared tin and place in a cold oven.
Set the oven to 180 celsius (350 fahrenheit) and bake for 1-1 and 1/4 hours until risen and browned.
Meanwhile, put the ingredients for the syrup into a pan, slowly bring to the boil and cook for a couple of minutes without stirring.
When the cake is cooked take it out of the oven and pour over the syrup while it is still hot, leaving the spices on the cake to decorate. Leave to cool a little before removing from the tin.