Orange and rhubarb cake

One of the most annoying questions in the world is the one that begins with “What’s your favourite…”. It’s also one that I love to ask, not so much to get a proper answer but just to see the person’s reaction to it. How do you pick your favourite film (although that’s easy for me, it’s the one that I watched 5 times in 4 months), your favourite band or your favourite food? More importantly, how on earth are you supposed to pick your favourite cake?!

No one should ever have to choose between a moist chocolate cake, a fragrant orangey one or a beautiful, summery, fruity cake. Notice, I said fruity cake. Not fruit cake. Fruit cake makes me feel cheated –  you take a bite hoping for sweet, soft carbohydrate to satisfy your crave and you end up with dry bits of overly sweet fruit sticking all over your teeth. And there’s loads of them, you can’t even pick them out! Fruit cake should be banned.

Fruity cake, though, is a whole different story. I’m talking about the usual sponge cake turned into a lemon or orange cake, with real bits of real fruit (berries, please) or even banana to turn it into a decadent moist loaf. The beauty of it is that you don’t even need a recipe. The rule is simple: equal amounts (weights) of butter, sugar, eggs and flour, a teaspoon of bicarb of soda and one of baking powder, a splash of vanilla extract and your base is ready. (If you want real measurements, 3 medium eggs, 150 grams of sugar, flour and butter will do).

Now go crazy! Add lemon or orange juice and zest, fresh or frozen berries, chocolate chips, or mashed bananas. Just remember that if you add more liquid stuff you will need to compensate for it with a bit more flour. And if you add the bananas, double the baking powder as it will be harder to rise. If you’re a fan of nuts, replace half of the flour with ground almonds or hazelnuts.

This is my standard, no-fail cake recipe. The variation I’m sharing with you below comes from the Masterchef cookbook and, although this is the first recipe I’ve made from it, it has loads of good looking things and I will be using it more soon. It also looks like there is an identical recipe on the Waitrose website so I don’t even feel guilty for putting it up here. Did Waitrose steal it off the book? Or did the Masterchef contestant cheat a little? Who cares? It’s delicious.

Orange and Rhubarb cake

Ingredients (enough for a 23cm diameter cake)

400g rhubarb, cut into 2cm pieces
50g caster sugar

150 gr caster sugar
150g butter, softened
2 large eggs
75g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest and a juice of 1 orange

a handful of flaked almonds

Mix the rhubarb with the 50gr of sugar and leave on the side for 30 mins while preparing the cake mix.

Whisk the butter with the 150gr of sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs, the flour and the almonds and whisk until smooth. Stir in the orange juice, zest and vanilla extract and, finally, add the rhubarb and its juices and combine.

Butter and line a 23cm tin (or butter and flour a tray like I did), spoon the mix into it and scatter the flaked almonds over the top. Bake in a preheated oven at 190 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180 degrees and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until firm.

It’s lovely eaten by itself with a cup of tea in the afternoon. The cake is sweet and fragrant and the tart rhubarb balances it perfectly. As it’s not overly sweet, it’s also really nice served as a pudding with some cream, chantilly or custard.


Note: For the cake in the pictures above I have added some frozen berries as I had only a little bit of rhubarb – they worked nicely together.

Orange and Chocolate Cake

My love for Nigella is no secret- her recipes always produce great tasting food with not much fuss. But it’s more than that. Her shows are almost addictive, and her over-the-top, almost sexual attitude towards food makes them more fun. I doubt she actually does get up at 3 in the morning, makes some french toast and strawberry coulis and then, leaving the kitchen in a mess, goes back to sleep. I don’t believe it, but I like it. It would be fun if you could do it, not get fat and not wake up to find a filthy kitchen.

I’ve only got one of her books, Feast, although I’m coming to believe that Nigella Express is one of the must-have cookery books. I love reading Feast. I haven’t cooked much from it yet, but I’ve probably read it cover to cover. The way she talks about food would make anyone fall in love with it.

Last year I discovered her Guinness Chocolate Cake and loved it. So dark, with a great texture and the Guinness influence, although not strong, adds an earthy flavour to it. It’s become a favourite and everyone who has tried it has loved it.

A year later, I found myself looking for a recipe for another chocolate cake, for the same friend’s birthday. In Feast, I found the recipe for an Orange and Chocolate cake, a combination that I really like. It looks so simple, it’s almost worrying.

You see, what you have to do is boil some oranges, then pop them in the food processor, and then add all other ingredients in there too. Oh, and bake it. Gregg would stuff it in his mouth and then proclaim that “cooking doesn’t get easier than this”.

Orange and Chocolate Cake (from Nigella)

Ingredients

2 oranges, weighing approximately 350 gr
6 eggs
1 heaped tsp baking powder
50g cocoa
200g ground almonds
250g caster sugar
Half tsp bicarbonate of soda

optional: orange peel to decorate

Boil the oranges (whole) for about 2 hours or until soft. Cut them in pieces, get rid of any seeds or hard bits and pop them in the food processor. Meanwhile, line and butter a round cake tin (23 cm) and preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

Pulp them until smooth. Let cool for a bit (I left it in the fridge for a few minutes) and add all other ingredients. Mix until you have a smooth batter.

Place in the tin and bake in the oven for 50 minutes to an hour. When it’s ready, place it on a cooling rack and let it cool completely.

Have you noticed that it has no butter and no flour? Perfect for the gluten intolerant and, although I’m not going to pretend this is healthy, it’s certainly not as bad for you as other chocolate cakes. The oranges make it so moist you won’t able to tell there’s no butter in there and the taste is quite strong, unlike other orange cakes that only use juice or zest. You can make a ganache for it if you like but I don’t think it needs it. Some ice cream would be nice with it, although we had it plain and it was gorgeous.