When I was young, my mother would often make banana cake for me and my brother. Her version was wonderfully moist, buttery and delicious; it was and still is one of my favorite childhood treats. These days, though, my wonderful wife S makes it for me. My mother has long since hung up her apron. The odd thing is that while I love banana cake, I’m not really a big fan of bananas. At least not in their natural state. Batter one and deep fry it and I’ll happily gobble it up. Purée it and use it to flavor a batch of gelato and I’m a happy camper. But give me a raw banana and I’ll probably leave it on my plate. I guess I’m kind of weird. I like fruit flavors but don’t like most fruits.
Another fruit-flavored cake my mother would make–a variation of her banana cake–was a lovely aromatic and light orange cake. She didn’t make this cake, however (and much to my chagrin), as often as she did the banana version. I like oranges you see. It’s one of the few fruits I enjoy eating. And I love orange-flavored foods. Whether it’s sorbet or duck, I have a thing for foods enhanced with this sweet, tangy and sticky fruit. Recently, I’ve discovered an amazing orange cake. PS Café‘s flourless orange cake is stunning. Served warm with some vanilla ice cream, it’s one of the reasons I keep returning to this super trendy restaurant. I’ve also learnt that it’s incredibly (some might say ‘frighteningly’) rich. Over a recent dinner, one of the café’s owners let slip that each of these deliciously moist and tasty cakes uses 20 egg yolks.
Wanting to create a slightly healthier orange cake at home, I recently poured through S’s and my ever-expanding cookbook collection. After reading a few recipes in a number of different books, and partly because I had just met the man, I decided to try Damien Pignolet’s Serious Orange Cake recipe, from his sexy cookbook French. The cake–especially (well, mostly) because S helped out–was relatively easy to put together and was really delicious. The syrup, spiked with Cointreau, that is soaked into the cake gives it a yummy, slightly moist texture. Because I’m a sucker for all things “à la mode”, I follow PS Café’s service style and serve it slightly warm (i.e. nuked in the microwave for a few seconds) and with some of S’s fantastic homemade ice creams.
Serious Orange Cake
1 orange, weighing around 150g, washed well and diced, pips removed
150g self-raising flour, sifted
a small pinch of salt
180g butter, melted and cooled a little
60ml orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1-2 tablespoons Cointreau
Preheat the oven to 170ºC. Grease and line a 24cm diameter springform cake tin with baking paper. Place the diced orange in the bowl of a food processor with the sugar and process until very smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions. Add the flour and salt and combine for 30 seconds. With the machine running, add the butter all at once. Transfer to the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes; test for doneness by inserting a bamboo skewer–it should emerge clean and dry.
While the cake is cooking, make the orange syrup. In a small saucepan, combine the orange and lemon juices and the sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add the Cointreau to taste and simmer for 1 minute more.
When the cake is ready, remove from the oven but leave in the tin to cool for 5-10 minutes. Use a bamboo skewer to pierce the cake all over, then slowly spoon the syrup over the cake and leave until completely cool before turning out.