Because at Christmas you can go crazy: “crazy” spiced orange cake

Christmas spiced orange cakeA month before Christmas, my parents came to dinner and my mom started browsing through the newly arrived edition of GoodFood. She flicked through the pages and then suddenly stopped, proudly announcing she had found the dessert she wanted for Christmas. Glancing at the recipe I quickly understood it was the decoration she was interested in, and not so much the cake underneath. So I decided to mix-and-match and I opted for Mary Berry’s spiced whole orange cake with orange mascarpone icing for the cake with an adaptation of the GoodFood icing recipe on top. Luckily, I was able to recruit my sister to help me out with the decorations (she made all the Christmas trees). You can of course just opt to make the cake, as with all of Mary’s recipes, it’s a fast and easy all-in-the-bowl cake mix. Here’s how to make it:

For the cake:
Grease and line two 20cm round cake tins with baking paper (if you only have one, bake in 2 batches or put everything together in a 24cm tin and stick to 3 layers instead of 4). Place 1 whole orange in a small saucepan, cover with boiling water and boil for 30 minutes, or until soft. Leave to cool (I recently read you get the same result by putting the orange in the microwave for a few minutes but I haven’t tested it yet). When the orange is cold, cut in half and remove any pips.

Preheat the oven to 160 C. Roughly chop the orange and blend, including the skin, in a food processor until medium-chunky in texture (if you don’t have a food processor, just use a hand mixer) and set aside, reserving two tablespoons for the icing.

Put 275 g self-raising flour in a large bowl with 2 tsp baking powder, 275 g sugar, 275 g softened butter, 4 eggs, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp mixed spice. Blend in a food processor or with an electric hand whisk until just smooth (be careful not to over-beat the mixture). Then, carefully stir in the pulp that you have set aside (all except the 2 tbsp for the icing), then divide between the two prepared tins and level the tops.

Bake for 35 min, or until well risen, lightly golden-brown and shrinking away from the sides of the tins. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Peel off the baking paper.

For the icing, place 50 g softened butter in a mixing bowl and, using an electric hand whisk, gradually beat in 175 g icing sugar until smooth. Add 250 g mascarpone cheese and whisk together until smooth and creamy. Add the 2 tbsp reserved orange pulp and mix until smooth.

Slice each cake in half to make four layers (if you only used 1 larger tin, try slicing it in 3). Divide the icing into four and then stack the layers of cake – icing between each layer and finishing with icing on the top.

For the crazy Christmas icing:
Beat 2 egg whites with 1 tsp lemon juice and 2 tsp liquid glucose in a mixing bowl. Gradually sift in 300 g icing sugar, beating all the time until you get stiff peaks. Swirl it thickly over the cake and let it drop down the sides a bit to create a “snow” effect. For the Christmas trees, the recipe suggested making a pistachio paste, but you know me: too much work so I went for the shortcut and just opted for marzipan instead (adding some green food colouring – in my case a mix of yellow and blue – to get the right colour). Tip: when colouring marzipan, where plastic gloves or you will go to the party with green fingernails… once the colouring is thoroughly kneaded in, it won’t give off any colour anymore. To make the trees, roll small balls and flatten them, stack them from larger to smaller and finish with a cone shape. Enjoy!

Almost the end of summer: goosberry and orange drizzle cake

Gooseberry and orange drizzle cakeI really love gooseberries, but they are quite hard to find. A lot of people have or used to have them in the garden so supermarkets don’t stock them very often. But last week I was lucky: I noticed the supermarket had some gooseberries and I immediatly bought some! Then I had to figure out what to do with them. A friend was coming over for dinner so I decided a gooseberry cake would be perfect. I wanted to test a recipe from my Polish cookbook, but then I noticed it had proofing in it and would take too long, I wanted the quick and easy type, so I turned to my trusted GoodFood recipes and found this one. It turned out to be really delicious! Here’s how to make it:


Heat oven to 160 C. Butter and line a 20 x 30cm traybake tin with baking parchment (I didn’t have one, so I used my round tin).

Put 225 g butter (softened, just microwave it for 20-30 sec if it comes from the fridge), 225 g sugar, 225 g self-raising flour, 4 eggs and the zest of 1 orange (you’ll need the juice for the frosting) in a bowl. Beat thoroughly with an electric whisk until creamy and smooth. Stir in 225 g gooseberries, then spoon into the tin and level the surface. Bake for 35 mins until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

While the cake is in the oven, stir the orange juice and 140 g sugar together, spoon over the surface of the warm cake and leave to cool and set. Enjoy!


Getting funky: crouching tiger, hidden zebra cake

Crouching tiger, hidden zebra cakeThe cake for those who don’t know what to choose: plain vanilla or chocolate? Simple cake or glam bake? This is a bit of everything! I found the recipe in Lorraine Pascale’s Fast, Fresh and Easy Food cookbook, one of my favourites lately. Needless to say our guests were very impressed and it went down a treat! It contains some orange zest as well for a fresh touch and because Lorraine uses oil instead of butter, it stays very moist. I’m sure you can easily keep this cake for up to a week, but it all got eaten before I could put that to the test… Here’s how to bake it:

Preheat the oven to 160 C and line the bottom of a 23 cm springform (or 24, whatever you have is fine) with baking parchment. Oil the parchment and the sides with vegetable oil.

Put 250 ml sunflower oil (or other flavourless oil – not olive oil as it has too much flavour and you will taste it in the end result) in a large bowl with 100 ml semi-skimmed milk, 250 g sugar, 4 eggs and a few drops of vanilla extract and beat everything together well. It’s best not to use an electric whisk as it will introduce too many bubbles. Pour 400 ml (or 400 g, that’s the same) in another bowl.

Sift 175 g self-raising flour and 1/2 tsp baking powder in bowl 1, mix well and set aside. This is your vanilla mix. Sift 125 g self-raising flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 25 g cocoa powder in bowl 2, add the zest of 1 orange and mix together well. This is your chocolate mix.

Now for the zebra effect: put a tablespoon or dollop of the vanilla mix in the middle of the tin. Then, using a clean tablespoon, put a blog of the chocolate mix  in the middle of the vanilla one. Keep doing this, alternating between vanilla and chocolate, until you used up both of the cake mixes (if you prefer, you can also use 2 piping bags instead). Bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean (my cake needed a little longer, but I can’t say how much as I completely forgot the cake in the oven and rescued it just on time).

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 5 min before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy while listening to the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon soundtrack.

Use up left-over cocoa powder in a sachertorte or brownie. Use up left-over orange juice in an OJ and raspberry ice lolly,  an orange, blueberry and polenta loaf or a raspberry and orange tiramisu.

Ready for summer: polenta, orange and blueberry loaf

orange and blueberry loafI’ve been away from my blog for a few weeks and with good reason: I was on holiday! And yes, the weather was nice, we had a great time, we visited a lot but managed to relax and as always it was way too short… The relaxed feeling was gone all too quickly once I struggled through the pile of mails at work so it’s back to another relaxing hobby: baking. By now you probably realised that blueberries, along with raspberries, are among my favourite fruits and in this cake they almost pop in your mouth as you eat it. I found the recipe in a recent GoodFood magazine and as always it tasted delicious.

First, heat the oven to 140 C and line a loaf tin with baking parchment. Put 100 g polenta, 200 g self-raising flour, 140 g sugar, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 140 g softened butter and the zest of 1 orange into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. If you don’t have a food processor or if, like mine, it decided to break down, just get your hands in it and rub the butter through the mixture until you get the same result (it won’t take long, I promise). Combine the juice of 1/2 orange with 1 egg, then pour this into the dry ingredients and pulse until the mixture forms a ball of dough (or get your hands in it again to achieve the same result).

Push half the dough into the lined tin and scatter with half of 200 g blueberries. Cover the berries with the remaining dough and finish with the remaining berries. Bake for 1h10 until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 min before transferring to a wire rack. Cool completely before eating. If you want, you can freeze the cake (or pieces of it) as well: wrap in a double layer of foil and pop in the freezer. Defrost for at least 3 h before eating. Enjoy while listening to Summernights, the ultimate Grease classic.

More blueberry recipes

> Blueberry cheesecake gateau
> Blueberry crumble cheesecake
> Blueberry muffins
> Blueberry pancakes
> Summer fruit cake

Use up your polenta: light lemon drizzle cake

Summertime: raspberry and orange tiramisu

Raspberry and orange tiramisu
Raspberry and orange tiramisu

Another favourite of mine, and even more so of my grandmother, and a great and fresh variation on tiramisu. This recipe from the Italian chef Aldo Zilli comes from one of my trusted GoodFood magazines which I slightly adapted (less alcohol mainly, Brits have a tendency to drown stuff in alcohol). Not only does it look great, it really tasted absolutely delicious too! This recipe serves about 8 people. If you can’t find raspberries, you can use whatever other berries that are around. You only need egg yolks in the recipe, but there is no need to throw away the whites: you can easily freeze them for later. Just defrost them before use (for when you crave some meringue or macaroons).

Put 175 g caster sugar and 6 egg yolks in a heatproof bowl and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk them until pale, creamy and doubled in volume (about 5 min). Remove from the heat an whisk for another 1 min to cool. If you feel like being lazy and just mixing the sugar with the yolks without the simmering: don’t, I tried it and failed…

In another bowl, beat 284 ml pot double cream, 500 g mascarpone and 2 tbsp vanilla extract until combined. Fold or gently whisk this mixture into the creamy yolks (or vice versa, just put them together in the biggest of the two bowls).

Combine 100 ml freshly squeezed orange juice (I’m sure from a bottle will work just as well) with 50 ml Grand Marnier, then dip in half of 24 sponge fingers or ladyfingers (just buy a pack) and arrange them over the bottom of a serving dish. Pour over half the creamy mixture, then top with 350 g raspberries (save a couple for the decoration). Add a second layer of dipped cookies and the rest of the mixture and finish by dotting over the remaining raspberries. Cover and chill for 2 hours or overnight. And check on it every now and then, because last time I made a batch for my grandparents, my grandmother was spotted with a small spoon already secretly tasting it in between courses before it made it’s way to the table! Enjoy!