If you visit here regularly, then you will know that coming across anything baked is a bit of a rarity here. There's good reason for that. Firstly, I'm just not very good at it - simple as that! And secondly, I have an absolute horror of ending up with a backside that is three axe handles across, and so having tins full of baked goods kicking around the place to tempt me seems to be not such a good idea.
However, I was visiting friends for dinner last night and I offered to bring a cake for dessert. Quite what possessed me to offer to bring a cake, given my lack of "baking pedigree" I'll never know, but the words had unbidden tumbled out of my mouth, and there was no taking them back. What's more, I had the added challenge of having to come up with something gluten free to suit the intolerances of one of the guests.
Since I needed to dive into one of those seldom-used cookbooks languishing on my bookshelves for my contribution this week to Cookbook Sundays, I thought that I might try the Chocolate Nemesis cake from the River Cafe Italian Kitchen by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers - a recipe I've had bookmarked to try for ages. However, once I had the book down off the shelf and was flicking through it I came across this recipe for Almond, Orange, Lemon and Whiskey Cake. Since I love just about anything lemony, and ground almonds took the place of flour this seemed like an an obvious choice.
Unfortunately, citrus fruit is not really at it's best here right now, so a bit of improvisation was called for. The cooked cake is dredged in a syrup made up of, amongst other things, the juice of 3 oranges and 4 lemons, each of which should yield approximately 320 ml (10-1/2 fl oz) of juice. Well, with the best will in the world, and even after microwaving them for a minute to release the juice a little more, the lemons which are available here right now are never going to surrender that much juice. In fact my oranges also didn't deliver as much juice as expected either, so I padded the whole lot out with some tangelo juice.
The syrup recipe also called for the inclusion of whisky, which I didn't have on hand. I did have, however, have a couple of bottles of "44". You may remember me telling you about this orange & coffee flavoured liqueur about a year ago, when I first set it to steep.
In short, an orange is poked all over with 44 holes. Each of those holes is then studded with a coffee bean. The coffee studded orange is then put into a large glass jar, to which 44 sugar cubes are then added, and the jar topped up with a litre of vodka. The jar is then stored in a dark place, and given a bit of a shake every day for 44 days. Now this is where I departed from the original instructions. I gave it a shake every day for 10 days. It was then subjected it to a 6.3 earthquake, causing the bottle to be jettisoned like a missile across the room with great force. The bottle was then left to roll around the floor, miraculously unbroken, and subjected to a further 2641 after shocks. Next it was packed into a box, and transported to a dark storage place. It was then subjected to a further 1107 after shocks, before being put onto a truck and transported 600 kilometres across the South Island. Finally, after six months, and way more shaking than was originally intended, it was ready to unpack, decant and enjoy - it was definitely worth the extra effort, but hard to imagine being able to recreate that. The resulting liqueur is a beautiful pale caramel colour, deliciously syrupy and "orangey", and the coffee adds a delicious almost "chocolatey" complexity to the flavour and a certain "warmth". I like to store it in the fridge and drink over ice, and I have used it in many instances where an orange flavoured liqueur has been called for.
Anyway, I have digressed. In the absence of whisky I chose to use this in the syrup for the cake. It was a perfect match to the almond and citrus notes of the cake, both in terms of flavour and aroma. This cake is an absolute breeze to make; and it is wonderfully moist and intensely flavourful after its syrup bath. This is also quite a large cake and easily gives 8 generous pieces - could probably even serve 10 to 12 people at the end of a large meal. That said, it is actually a very light cake, and three of us had no problem polishing off a large piece each. I served it with creme fraiche, garnished with some of my Seville Orange Spoon Sweets and some fresh cherries.
This is one of those wonderful cakes that actually makes me feel like perhaps I can bake after all, and it will definitely be at the top of my list next time I need to bring cake. I hope you'll give this a try.
Almond, Citrus & "44" Cake Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Rose Gray & Ruth Rogers from
Serves at least 8
gluten free, vegetarian
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
For the cake:
8 large free-range eggs, separated
200g (7 oz) caster sugar
grated zest of 2x oranges
grated zest of 2x lemons
300g (10 oz) ground almonds
For the syrup:
600ml citrus juice
(any combination of oranges, lemons, tangelos)
75g (3 oz) caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
500ml (17 fl oz) orange liqueur or whisky
creme fraiche or mascarpone
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a 25cm (10 inch) diameter cake tin, and line the base with baking parchment.
In a large bowl, beat the sugar and egg yolks together until pale and fluffy. Add the grated orange and lemon zest, and the ground almonds. Stir until just combined. In another large bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Add a couple of large spoonfuls to the almond and egg yolk mixture, and stir quite vigorously to loosen the mixture. Then add the rest of the egg whites and gently fold in.
Pour the mixture into the cake tin, and bake in the preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes until set.
Meanwhile, make the syrup. Put the citrus juices, sugar and cinnamon into a pan, set over medium heat, and simmer until slightly reduce. Add the liqueur or whisky. Simmer for another minute or two, then remove from the heat.
Once the cake is ready, remove from the oven and, while still hot, prick the entire surface with a pointed knife. Pour the syrup over the cake, making sure all the liquid is absorbed into the cake. You may not use all the syrup (I used about two thirds of it).
Leave in the tin until completely cooled before turning out.
Serve with creme fraiche or mascarpone.
I'm sharing this recipe with Cookbook Sundays - I hope you'll stop by and see what my friends are cooking. Maybe you'd even like to dust off some of your own cookbooks and join in.