The wet weather had left me hankering for a nice big piece of chocolate cake, accompanied by an equally large pot of tea. I have my standard list of favourite, never-fail chocolate cake recipes, but wanted to try something new this time. George’s Chocolate Nut Cake, a recipe from Stephanie’s Cook’s Companion, was the result. Wishing I had chestnut flour on hand, but settling for the almond meal already in the cupboard, this cake turned out light but very moist, with that wonderful lick of alcohol becoming more pronounced the next day.
If one cake is good, then two is a tastebud tango, I decided. Armed with a handful of mandarins, the obvious way to transform them into wedges of cake was to utilise Nigella’s Clementine Cake recipe. What are clementines anyway, but a type of mandarin. And what is Nigella’s recipe, but a variation on Claudia Roden’s Middle Eastern Orange cake; an oft mentioned, much loved and much copied recipe. What has previously stopped me from making this cake has been that starting paragraph that goes something along the lines of, “Boil your oranges for two hours..”
Originating from South East Asia (like myself), mandarins are one of my favourite fruits. Like all citrus fruits, they are high in vitamin C. This fruit has loose, easy to peel skin (the dried form of which can commonly be found in chinese grocery shops) and sweet juicy segments. When I was growing up, I remember mandarins featuring heavily during Chinese New Year celebrations. This, I’ve been told, is because, apart from symbolising health and happiness, the chinese word for “mandarin” is also phonetically similar to that of “gold”.
So if you can get past the 2 hours of boiling that is required to kick start this recipe, I assure you, the results are well worth the wait. I quite like the idea of using the whole mandarin, harnessing all it’s citrussy flavour. Cooking the fruit first enables it to be blended completely with the rest of the ingredients and eliminates the bitterness of the pith. This mandarin cake is immensely pleasing in an aromatic, moist and flavoursome way, and is my contribution to this week’s WHB, hosted by Paulchens Foodblog.
Mandarin Cake :
3 mandarins (about 375g total weight)
250g ground almonds
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
Put the mandarins in a pan with some cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 2 hours. Drain and, when cool, cut each mandarin in half and remove the pips. Blitz the mandarins in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and process to combine.
Preheat the oven to 190ÂºC. Pour the cake mixture into a buttered and lined 21cm tin and bake for an hour, when a skewer will come out clean; you’ll probably have to cover with foil or greaseproof after about 40 minutes to stop the top burning. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin before removing.
George’s Chocolate Nut Cake :
250g chestnut flour, ground hazelnuts or ground almonds
1/2 cup Dutch cocoa
9 eggs, separated
350g castor sugar
30ml cold espresso coffee
60ml tokay, muscat or other fortified wine
1 tablespoon pure vanilla
50ml olive oil
grated zest 1 lemon
small pinch of ground cinnamon
small pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 150’C. Lightly grease a 26cm springform tin. Sift chestnut flour and cocoa into a bowl. Beat egg yolks with sugar until thick and pale. Lightly fold flour mixture into egg mixture. Add coffee, half the tokay, vanilla, olive oil, lemon zest and spices and fold in carefully. Beat egg whites to soft, creamy peaks and fold in gently. Bake in prepared tin for about 40 minutes until cake still seems a little moist in the middle. Allow cake to cool in tin for a few minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Moisten the cake with remaining tokay before serving.