Just over a year ago, on holiday in Schull in Co. Cork (or "Pirate Schull", as the DinnerBabies call it), we were brought to the marvellous Blairscove House and Restaurant near Durrus in west Cork for dinner. It still lives in the memory, it was absolutely fabulous - glorious setting, excellent food, good company; a really enjoyable night.
Anyhow, the starters and desserts at Blairscove are served buffet style so you can help yourself. The desserts were particularly gorgeous; there was a super tasty little raspberry mousse served in a small kilner style bottle, a jelly of summer fruits that was so delicate, and a spiced Moroccan style orange cake that my brother felt was the star of the show.
I always thought that it should be something I should be able to recreate, as it wasn't a million miles from Nigella Lawson's damp lemon and almond cake that I make regularly, as it is similar in style. So I was quite excited to hear Ray D'Arcy interview the chef Clodagh McKenna on his radio show on TodayFM earlier this summer and waxing lyrical about the spiced Moroccan orange cake she'd brought in!
So, I got googling and I found the recipe, and it is now a firm favourite in the repertoire. Again, like the lemon and almond cake, it is a great dessert (especially as you can keep the leftovers of both cakes to enjoy after the guests have disappeared, wrapped in tinfoil and they actually get nicer over a few days). The orange cake is great for those guests who are less fond of the distinct almond flavour of the lemon cake. I made the orange cake to bring for this year's trip to Schull, with that very idea in mind, that we could have it for dessert across a few days. However, greedy guts that we are, it didn't make it past the first day as the four of us sat down and ate the whole thing in one sitting! No higher praise than empty plates though, so that was good. And I did get a couple of runs in, to offset some of the damage - and as a result of that, I've got back to running slightly more regularly and have now entered some runs as a goal, so all in all it was a good result.
Here's the recipe, it's simple and gorgeous.
MOROCCAN SPICED ORANGE CAKE
(Clodagh McKenna, from her website)
(Clodagh McKenna, from her website)
- 50 g slightly stale white breadcrumbs (about 2 slices of bread, crusts cut off - you don't want dark flecks in your cake!)
- 200 g caster sugar
- 100 g ground almonds
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 200 ml sunflower oil
- 4 eggs
- Finely grated zest of 1 large unwaxed orange
- Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
- Whipped cream or Greek yogurt, to serve (optional)
For the citrus syrup
- Juice of 1 unwaxed orange
- Juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
- 75 g caster sugar
- 2 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Line the base of a 20.5cm (8in) round and 5cm (2in) deep tin with greaseproof paper, then grease and flour the tin. Mix the breadcrumbs with the sugar, almonds and baking powder. Whisk the oil with the eggs, then pour into the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the orange and lemon zest. Pour the mixture into the tin, place in a cold oven and turn on the heat to 180C, 350F, Gas 4.
- Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the cake is golden brown. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a plate.
- Meanwhile, make the citrus syrup. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and bring gently to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved completely. Simmer for 3 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves from the syrup.
- While the cake is still warm, pierce it several times with a skewer, then spoon the hot syrup over the cake, allowing it to run into the holes. Leave to cool. Spoon any excess syrup back over the cake every now and then until it is all soaked up. Serve with whipped cream or a dollop of thick Greek yogurt, if wished.
And it now occurs to me, as I try to link to the lemon cake - I haven't posted that recipe here ever! As this is the most common dessert I make these days, I feel I have to remedy this, so here's that recipe too.
Damp Lemon and Almond Cake
(Nigella Lawson, “How to be a Domestic Goddess”, pg. 12)
Nigella says, in the book:- "I love lemon, I love almond, so this for me is cake nirvana. Perhaps it should be in the fruited cakes section, but the citrus element, though intense, just melds with the almonds to give a slab of damp, dense, sharp-toned meltiness. It is a plain cake, but gloriously plain.
If you can, leave this cake wrapped in a double casing of foil for a couple of days before eating it: both its sharpness and its melting dampness will increase in the waiting."
- 225g soft unsalted butter
- 225g caster sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 50g plain flour
- 225g ground almonds
- ½ teaspoon almond essence
- Grated zest and juice of two lemons
- 21-23cm Springform cake tin, lined on the bottom
- Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until almost white.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a quarter of the flour after each addition. When all the eggs and flour have been incorporated, gently stir in the ground almonds, then the almond essence, lemon zest and juice.
- Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake at for about 1 hour. I say “about” only because ovens seem to vary so violently, I’ve cooked this in one oven when it was finished after 50 minutes; in another when it needed 1 hour and 10 minutes. Whichever, after about 30 minutes you may well find you have to cover it loosely with foil; you don’t want the top of the cake to burn.
- The cake is ready when the top is firm and a skewer, inserted, comes out cleanish: you want dampness, but no battery goo. Take the cake out and let it stand for 5 or so minutes in the tin. Then turn it out onto a wire rack and leave til cool. (NB – loosen with a palate knife before opening the spring)
- Then, preferably, wrap well in tin foil and leave it for a couple of days. Push some icing sugar over the cake through a fine sieve or tea strainer (I don’t bother) when serving. I can’t stop myself murmuring “raspberries” to you, either.
The recipe above is verbatim from the book – here’s my note, the smaller springform tin is better, the one I use is 8½” / 20½cm