Those of you who know me even slightly will know that I love baking. Funnily enough I don’t eat much cake but I just love the process of making one, from the weighing out of the ingredients, the mixing and folding, the amazing alchemy that goes on in the oven as the cake rises and browns, then the finishing it off in a cloud of icing sugar. And of course when friends come over a home made cake is a real treat to share over a cup of tea and plenty of news and gossip. This weekend I am hosting a Macmillan coffee morning, of course to raise money for a worthwhile cause but also as an excuse to bake my heart out. This whole orange and almond cake is a real winner, and has the bonus of being gluten and dairy free so even the pickiest eaters can enjoy a slice. It’s simple to make, stays moist for days and freezes perfectly, even cut into slices. It’s a big cake and will happily double as a dessert with berries and a scoop of cream(preferably clotted, I say!)
Whole orange and almond cake
It really helps if you have a kitchenaid or other tabletop mixer, or failing that a hand held electric whisk as it is crucial to whisk the eggs and sugar until they are thick and light and this will take at least 5 mins, or a bit longer.
Cuts into 12 good slices
3 untreated oranges
3 large free range eggs
300g caster sugar
300g ground almonds
few drops almond extract
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
few drops almond extract
handful flaked almonds
1 Heat the oven to 160C/fan 140C/Gas 3. Oil and line the base of a 22cm round cake tin. Put 2 of the oranges into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 mins, then drain and re-cover with water(this will reduce the bitterness of the oranges). Bring back to the boil and simmer for 30 mins;drain and cool.
2 Coarsely chop the whole oranges, removing the pips. Blitz the whole oranges in a food processor to a fairly fine pulp.
3 Whisk the eggs and 200g of the sugar in a tabletop or handheld electric mixer until the mixture is light, pale and leaves a trail when the whisk blades are lifted.
4 Carefully fold in the orange pulp, the ground almonds and the baking powder, then add the alomnd extract and fold together lightly. The whisk blades are perfect for this job.
5 Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.Scatter over the flaked almonds and bake for about 50mins to 1 hour until the cake is firm to the touch and golden brown. Meanwhile make the syrup.
6 Put the remaining 100g of sugar in a small pan with the juice from the remaining orange. Bring to the boil, stirring, then boil for 2-3 mins until it forms a light syrup. When the cake is cooked pour the syrup evenly over the cake and leave to cool in the tin completely.
7 Take care when turning the cake out of the tin as it is quite fragile. You can dust the edges of the cake with icing sugar for a final flourish.
It’s got to be Norwegian cloud cake. I’ve made it twice now for lunchtime guests and it’s gone down a storm. Not surprising really as the layers of rich sponge baked with meringue and sandwiched with lightly whipped cream and summer fruits is a real crowd pleaser. And anyone who knows my recipes will trust that when I say it is simple to make I am not kidding. The sponge is a bung-it-all-in-a bowl-and-beat one, the meringue, ok the meringue takes a bit of care, but only a little bit, the rest is a cinch. I always make the spongy meringues the day before and sandwich them together a couple of hours ahead of serving to give all the componant parts time to get to know each other. Then you can just get on with having fun with your friends and forget about it till serving time. If you can’t fit all the fruit in the centre just serve it on the side for spooning over. And I know we are told not to be a show off but once in a while it feels good.
Norwegian cloud cake
FOR THE CAKE
100g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g caster sugar
100g softened butter
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk
FOR THE MERINGUE
4 egg whites
100g each caster and icing sugar
2 tbsp flaked almonds
50g white chocolate,optional
FOR THE FILLING
500g summer berries
1 tbsp icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 tbsp vodka, optional
300ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/Gas 4. Line two baking sheets with baking paper and draw a rectangle on each, 10cm x 22cm. Turn the paper over and fix to the baking sheets with a little butter on each corner.
2 Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, add the remaining cake ingredients and beat for 2-3 mins until light and fluffy. Spread half the mixture evenly over each rectangle.
3 To make the meringue whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until it forms stiff peaks, Continue whisking while added the sugars to make a stiff heavy meringue. Spread half the meringue over each cake mixture, spreading it over the edges to enclose it. Smooth one meringue flat and form swirls and peaks with the other. Sprinkle the almonds over the peaks.
4 Bake the cakes for 30 minutes until the meringue is golden and crisp. Leave to cool on the baking sheets.
5 Break up the chocolate if using and melt in a small bowl over hot water or in the microwave. Drizzle over the almondy meringue Jackson Pollock style.
5 Tip the berries into a bowl, halving or slicing any that are large, and sprinkle with sugar, and vodka if using. Stir well, then leave to macerate until the juices flow, about 1 hour.
6 To assemble the cake whip the cream with the vanilla to stiff peaks. Set a sieve over a bowl and strain the berries, reserving the juices. Invert the flat meringue cake onto a wire rack, peel off the paper and put on a flat plate meringue side down. Spread with cream and then cover with berries. Invert the other cake, peel off the paper and put on the cake meringue side up. Dust with icing sugar and serve cut into thick slices with the reserved juices in a small jug for pouring over.
With only three ingredients and no tedious stirring involved, this is the easiest most luscious ice cream you will ever make. Simply whip up some cream, fold in a jar of lemon curd( if you have made your own that’s great but a good quality bought one will do fine) and a little lemon zest, tip into a container and freeze. That’s it. No ice cream maker needed and the resulting ice cream will be smooth and creamy and you can scoop it straight from the freezer. So what are you waiting for?
At this time of year I am often seduced into buying a pineapple as they always look so exotic and cost so little for their size. I take it home and arrange it carefully in the fruit bowl where it sits being admired until it is way past it’s best. I think it’s laziness on my part as it always seems such a faff to prepare it. But I vow to change my ways and have now devised a great no-fuss way of cutting it up. Then to keep things simple I love to roast it with a few warm spices and a splash of orange and serve it warm. Any leftovers also also good eaten straight out of the fridge with a spoonful of yogurt.