Orange and almond cake, spiced orange segments with a decent doff of pumpkin spiced Cointreau cream
The kitchen is usually gifted with a bowl of citrus and the glow of orange is fairly essential through all the seasons. Sometime as key players, often to garnish or to lift a dish with juice and the wondrous, highly fragrant, sweet oily zest which so often brightens dishes and cocktails. Once armed with a sharp knife even a tired old bowl of citrus comes back to life, zested and the succulent textured segments are removed from tiring, bitter, pithy over coats it’s party time for the palette and Mojitos for the rest!
I remain steeped in my failing campaign “It’s still Autumn” and realise that it will soon be kicked to the kerb. The crispy leaves are becoming slippery and sodden. On the subject of which the Grandmother-in-law of one of my ‘legal beagles’ slipped on some soggy leaves and has had a fall, fortunately there are no broken bones but she required complete bed rest. So a cross-section of the family hopped into an SUV and drove to the care home to make a surprise visit. There were 8 family members altogether including 4 children aged between 9 and 14 years old. The youngsters went bounding through the door, as ever, to see Great Granny only to find her horizontally and most actively involved with her beau. Great Granny is 96 and her toy boy a mere 89.
Conveniently the children are collectively keeping a” fly on the wall” visual record of their family get-togethers for prosperity, so all was captured on their media. Documenting their time spent with Great Grandmama on their phones etc as part of a family archive, one of which is to be used as a school project. Sweet eh? I am further let to understand that after the shrieks stopped the unfaltering Great Granny made the quote of the year “Was I expecting you today my dears?”
Homogenised seasons? No thanks. Like a bed time story I treasure the beginning, middle and end of the each season which brings an appreciation of the wealth of goodies to be brought to the table per say. There’s rarely head scratching about what to cook. The abundance of Autumns jewel-coloured gifts will not ignore pumpkin and hence I include my version of pumpkin spice (having been nudged and cajoled by a follower or three from the Americas). The ‘pumpkin situation’ involves my peevish cinnamon denial. Why? Simply because everything tastes the same for 6 months of the year! So this is how I shake it up and break it down a little.
The perennial Autumn staple, a blend of sweet pumpkin spice, shaker style.
I tablespoon of icing or golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 a teaspoon of each: ground mace, ground nutmeg, allspice, ground cinnamon,
1/4 ground cloves, teeny tiny flay of table salt.
Mix or grind but I leave the cinnamon chunky and too large, it will taint the sugar but not fall through the holes of the shaker this way, less is more at this time. Store in a jam jar or better still a sugar shaker to dredge apple fritters, pies or crumble, baked apples or dust a firmly foamed cappuccino, however much you love cinnamon, as do I, it can utterly swamp and overwhelm all other tastes and flavours. I urge you to try this mix with a little cinnamon initially increasing to a teaspoon of ground cinnamon as the season progresses, I use a little more clove too.
That sorts out the shake and now for the cake.
Orange and almond cake.
Boil a couple of oranges in a pan cover with water, bring to the boil and let them simmer until soft which can be a 30-50 mins usually. I use an oversized, inverted lid to stave evaporation. Allow to cool once soft, I prefer to leave them overnight. The yield should be about a 1 lb of fruit (450 g if you must). Remove any pips, roughly chop and then wallop the pieces into a processor. To this add 8 oz golden caster sugar ( 225 g- if you must) and 9 oz of ground almonds ( 250 g seems we must ) a scant teaspoon of ground ginger, a teaspoon of decent vanilla paste, a pinch of salt, with the processor running, add 6 fresh eggs one at a time. Yes, the ones shown are ‘blue shell’ hens eggs. Into a 9″ ( oh you work it out ) silicone pan for me but more often a loose bottomed tin. Medium oven, bottom shelf for 20-30 minutes, then scatter with sliced almonds, check as it may need a tin foil hat for the remaining 20-30 minutes all of which will depend on your oven, just test with a toothpick if it comes out cleanly you’re good to go. Cool briefly, remove from the pan and store on a plate rather than cooling rack so that it retains its moisture.
A flourless and fat-free cake that will rise and softly fall back into itself.
Caramelised orange segments
Working over a dish, remove the zest and then cut away the pithless segments with a sharp or fruit knife, squeeze out all the juice and discard any stray pips.
Over the heat dissolve 4 oz -100 g white caster sugar into 50 ml of water, stir briefly in a pan over a gentle heat, then bring to the boil to a suitable golden brown caramel. Remove from the heat . Add the juice carefully as it could hiss and spit quite violently, stir to combine and then leave to cool for 10-15 minutes before adding the segments. Cool to room temperature and then chill.
Infuse with star anise to make to make a beguiling caramel soak for the orange segments. Store in the refrigerator but serve at room temperature with the moist cake, using some of the caramelised syrup to drizzle.
Last but by no means least
The pumpkin spiced Cointreau cream
To 300 ml of whipped cream, add 1-2 tablespoons of icing sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste, 1 teaspoon of the spiced dust a little of the orange syrup and any remaining zest, similar of Cointreau or orange essence to suit personal preference. Simply whip the cream adding the above, in rough proportion, toward the end.
Caramel shards twisted and pulled from some dry caramel, the remains of which were blitzed with some of the almond slices to make a crunchy crumb, half the cake demolished by the writer and tea boy but shown are segment shapes of cake, topped with orange, dressed with the crumb, then drizzled with the syrup for your delectation.
Or: make the cake and oranges, cut a wedge as its best served warm with a colossal dollop of the cream!