Almond, lemon and berry cake

2 weeks ago, as I was going through my kitchen notes, a yellowed piece of paper fell into my hands. There was a handwritten recipe on it, written in that basic style that a cook uses only for herself. I am sure you know the style, just so much information that you – and only you – understand what the outcome should be. Almond meal, lemon juice and sour cherries were involved. A google search didn’t bring up anything similar, so I have no idea where this recipe came from – if you recognize the recipe below, please let me know, I’d like to give due credit.

With the prospect of a dvd filled late-afternoon in our cool, air-conditioned bedroom behind closed shutters (this July has been brutal in Rome), I dared the idea of turning the oven on. The kitchen was already terribly hot (no AC here), so I thought “in for a penny, in for a pound” and cranked up the oven.

Since I was born with the CFR-syndrome* (and because I didn’t have everything at home and there was no way I was going outside to the 44°C / 111°F heat), I made some changes. The cake turned out lovely and I have since repeated the success and even made some little tweaks. This is an uncomplicated cake with a surprisingly multi-layered taste – the almonds give a slight crunch and a nutty taste, lemon juice and powder make it fresh and underline the berry taste.

Almond, lemon and berry cake
source: a little yellowed out piece of paper, with some changes by me

prep: 10 mins
bake: 40 mins
cool: 10 mins

all purpose flour, 135 g
baking soda, 1 tsp (5 g)
almond flour**, 85 g
citrus powder***, 3 tsp (substitute fresh zest)
butter, 185 g
sugar, 200 g
lemon juice, 60 ml (I obtained that amount from 1 very juicy big lemon)
Vanilla extract, 10 ml
eggs, 2
berries, 125 g (any berries you have or even sour cherries)

Heat the oven to 180°C / 360°F, line a loaf cake pan with heat proof paper (with overhang!) and butter it liberally.

Mix the flour, baking soda, almond flour and citrus powder/zest. In a casserole type pan, mix butter, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla extract, let it completely melt and dissolve on low heat. Add slowly to the flour mixture and mix with a spatula to just combine. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until completely incorporated. Fill the (runny) batter into the lined and greased pan. Scatter your fruit on top – no need to push down, they will sink!

Bake for 40 minutes (a skewer should come out clean). If you are using frozen berries, it will take up to 20 minutes longer.

Take the loaf pan out and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes. You can then remove the cake from the pan easily by just grabbing the ends of the lining. Eat at room temperature. Some whipped cream on the side is a lovely addition. Keeps in the fridge for at least 3 days (the longest we had some left over).

This is not a very fluffy cake, rather a bit on the dense and coarse side but not unpleasantly so. The size is just right to serve it to a couple of friends for coffee and maybe have leftovers for the next day. No one has been able to eat less than 2 slices!

* Can’t Follow Recipe
** so much better to make your own than buy: just pulse whole blanched almonds for 20 seconds in a food processor or similar. Some coarse crumbs are perfectly ok, it doesn’t have to be too fine.
*** Take an untreated, preferably organic citrus of your choice (orange, lemon, mandarine…), slice into really thin rounds and dry in the oven for a few hours at a low temperature with the fan on. When they are perfectly dry and crisp, grind them to fine meal / powder in the food processor. I made mine in the winter with perfect oranges and have been using it in pasta sauces and salad dressings. You can substitute fresh zest of the lemon you are using for the juice.

Chocolate-Orange Marmalade or Use Everything Twice

Chocolate-Orange Marmalade

After weeks of studying for an important exam and being sick, yesterday I finally made the candied orange peel strips I had seen over at Jen’s lovely blog use real butter (which I can recommend without hesitation; the blog as well as the statement). After simmering the strips for 40 minutes to “translucent” stage and lining them up on the rack, I was left with a big problem which Jen hadn’t mentioned: Around 600 ml of syrup full of orange flavor.

I don’t know if I wasn’t supposed to have this much leftover syrup, or if Jen considered it just too un-noteworthy, but I was smashed: The syrup tasted so orange-y, with such great bitter aromas, just a tad too sweet, I just couldn’t throw it away. Standing in front of the stove, looking at the pot with the remnants of the orange peel, I had an idea: I was going to dip the candied orange strips in chocolate after they had dried, I loved the combination, so why not add chocolate to the orange-syrup as well ?

Candied Orange Peel Strips

Well, I tell you (and T. can confirm), it was one of the best ideas I had lately. The final concoction, a perfect balance of orange and chocolate, bitter and sweet, is to die for. You can smear it on a slice of good white bread, you can fill little tartlets with it or just spoon it out of the jar as is. There is nothing in there that could spoil but I popped my jars into the fridge just to be on the safe side. I don’t expect them to go through a long test-period, though!

Chocolate-Orange Marmalade
own creation
makes about 4 cups

prep: 10 mins

leftover orange syrup from candied orange peel strips, ca. 600 ml
chocolate, 80% or more cacao, 250g

While the orange syrup is still warm, add the chocolate, broken into small pieces. Stir thoroughly, until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated with the syrup. Fill into little jars and keep in the refrigerator. Use as a bread spread or filling for tartlets, crepes, etc.

Note: Use very high percent bitter chocolate even though you may not like it on its own. Since the syrup is very sugary, the bitterness from the chocolate/cacao is most welcome in this combination.