Monday, October 02, 2006

Orange & Almond Cake

I seldom make sweet things except for special occasions. Dinner Sunday night was special enough for cake because it was the last night I'd see Vicki in London this trip before she jets back off to Singapore. We were joined for dinner by David. The three of us have known each other for the longest time - we shared a house when I very first came to London more than 20 years ago and we've been friends ever since, dining together frequently. I still find myself looking forward to the next time because it is invariably fun. The lovely boyfriend was the fourth and I think it's fun for him too - if it's not at least he gets to eat cake!

I'd made coq au vin as the main dish - it's a meal to make for special people because it takes time over two days before it is ready. The work is all done early on so by the time guests arrive you are free to join them in a glass of wine and the latest gossip. Perfect. I found the recipe for this cake in Rose Prince's 'The New English Kitchen' as an adaptation from Anna del Conte who is one of my favourite writers so I was sure it would be a good.

The almonds I bought from Brindisa - fat creamy heart shaped discs, Marcona almonds are native only to Spain. They are a wonderful nut, smooth and juicy with a sweet finish and good for you too, being rich in nutrients and mono unsaturated oils. They are well worth seeking out, and pounded to a rough crumb they produced a fine, moist cake.
This simple, elegant cake is good enough to turn me into a cakey pig - I'm already thinking about when I can make it again.

Orange & Almond Cake

150g/5oz blanched almonds, whole or flaked
3 eggs, separated
150g/5oz golden caster sugar
60g/2oz potato flour
1 1/2 oranges
a pinch of salt
30g/1oz butter, softened
icing sugar for dusting
crème fraîche for serving

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3. Chop the almonds in a food processor, or finely by hand, until they have a crumb-like texture. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and creamy. Add the almonds and the potato flour. Grate the zest of the whole orange into the mixture, then add the juice of 1 1/2 oranges.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with the salt until they form stiff peaks. Fold them into the orange and egg mixture. Butter a 20cm/8 inch round cake tin - use all the butter; when it cooks it will be absorbed into the cake and form a delicious crust. Pour in the mixture and bake for 50 minutes, until the cake has shrunk from the sides of the tin and feels springy when you press the surface with a finger. Unmould the cake and cool on wire rack. Dust with icing sugar.

Serve on flat plates with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Potato flour is a very fine squeaky flour that I buy in Asian food stores - either Taj stores in Brick Lane or Wai Tan on Electric Avenue though I suspect you can probably get it in a good Italian deli like Camisa in Soho.

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