Birthday cakes are, almost inevitably, chocolate–based in my family. It is undoubtedly the default option, beloved by everybody, not least by the birthday celebrants. This year, however, we were to celebrate the mother’s (January) birthday on an unseasonably bright February day and – unusually – I wasn’t in the mood for chocolate baking.
After a discussion with my normal cooking-partner-in-crime, the Little Sister, and inspired by the amount of citrus fruit in the shops, I went down the orange and almond road instead, making a light but very moist cake. It seemed, at the time, to be the season for lighter cooking – an idea promptly destroyed by subsequent appearances of hail, ice and snow.
With things warming up this week in North Cork, it might be time for the cake to make another outing. Being so moist, it keeps well, not that you’ll have too many problems with that. To serve it as a pudding, we scattered the top of the cake with the seeds of a pomegranate and drizzled it with natural yoghurt. Pomegranates may be out of season now but orange segments wouldn’t go amiss instead. The tart freshness felt like a real antidote to the necessary heaviness of most winter cooking. With there being a real stretch in the evenings, it’s time to start enjoying food for spring!
Orange and Almond Cake
Buttermilk or natural yoghurt – 250mls
Light muscovado sugar – 200g
Eggs – 2
Cointreau or another orange liqueur – 1 tablespoon
Plain flour – 200g
Baking powder – 1½ teaspoon
Bread soda – 1 teaspoon
Sea salt – 1 pinch
Ground almonds – 40g
Finely grated rind of 1 orange
Juice of two oranges – 100ml approx
Caster sugar – same weight as the orange juice eg 100g
Preheat the oven to 180ºC (170ºC) fanbake. Oil the sides and bottom of a 25cm springform tin.
Whisk the buttermilk or yoghut and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, and the Cointreau, beating the mixture well.
Sift the plain flour, baking powder, bread soda and salt on to the wet ingredients, add the ground almonds and whisk until the batter is just combined.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes (25-30 for fan ovens) until the cake is well risen, golden brown and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before carefully removing it from the tin. Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, juice the oranges, combine with the caster sugar in a heavy based saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved and allow to simmer for a couple of minutes until the syrup coats the back of a spoon. Using a skewer, prick the top of the cooled cake and pour over the hot syrup.
Serve sprinkled with pomegranate seeds or orange segments and with dollops of natural yoghurt.