S and I are huge book lovers. We love spending hours exploring bookstores. It doesn’t matter if the establishment in question is a brand-spanking new megastore or a quaint out of the way second-hand store. We each love different kinds of books. S loves chancing upon cool children’s books, collecting wacky etiquette books, and appreciates, in a way I will never will, works by Jane Austen. I’m a fan of fantasy and hard sci-fi, graphic novels, obscure political works, Bruce Chatwin and John Irving. When it comes to fiction, I’m more partial to American authors while S has a passion for English writers (she is, though, finally about to read The Great Gatsby). The one category of books that we do agree on, passionately and whole-heartedly, is cookbooks.
We have, according to some friends, too many cookbooks. At last count, we have somewhere between 400 and 500 cookbooks. Our shelves are so overstuffed that while we once had a rather well-organized system, now we simply shove books wherever we can find an empty and available space. That means that some books sit above others in ways that would have once embarrassed my extremely pernickety wife.
With so many cookbooks, we haven’t, of course, cooked all of the dishes from them. That would probably take several lifetimes. We also own several books from which we have never cooked any dishes. That doesn’t, however, mean we don’t intend to. A good number of our books are flagged with thin, narrow post-it notes (before I got married, I would have probably dog-eared the pages, but doing that today would earn me a reprimand from the, as mentioned, pernickety wife). Whenever we buy a new book, both S and I take turns flipping through it, flagging recipes we want to try sometime in the near future. Over time, as we go through a specific book more than once, we’ll add more and more post-its to its pages. Some books end up looking rather festive, with dozens of yellow, orange and white ears sticking up from their pages.
One book that has several such flags is Jane Lawson’s Grub. S and I have previously written about some of this talented Aussie foodwriter’s other works. We’re big fans of Lawson’s books and her very easy to use and delicious recipes. When we bought Grub a couple months ago, we were thrilled by the number of yummy-looking dishes that filled its pages. One recipe in particular that I flagged and constantly pestered S to make for me was Lawson’s macadamia cake with lime syrup. I’ve probably asked her to make me this dessert, along with Lawson’s jaffa cake (also from Grub) and a couple of other “honey, why don’t you make these for me” dishes, at least once a week since purchasing the book.
When I came home from my latest work trip, I was thrilled to find, sitting on our dining table, smiling up at me from under a glass dome, the above-pictured macadamia cake. S had prepared it for me as a welcome home treat and boy was it good!
Macadamia cake with lime syrup
from Jane Lawson’s Grub
200g (1.25 cups) macadamia nuts
185g (1.5 cups) self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
200g unsalted butter, softened
230g (1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
80ml (1/3 cup) milk
170g (3/4 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
3 teaspoons finely julienned lime zest
80ml (1/3 cup) lime juice
1 tablespoon rum, optional
Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius (315 degrees F). Grease a 25 cm (10 inch) wide, 9cm (3.5 inch) deep, non-stick bundt tin or other scalloped-edge ring cake tin.
Very finely grind the macadamia nuts in a food processor or in several batches in a blender, then tip into a mixing bowl. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda over the top and combine well.
Beat the butter and sugar using electric beaters until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and lime zest. Mix in half the flour mixture, then half the milk. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and milk, until all the ingredients are well combined. Spoon into the prepared tin and smooth over. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake is dark golden and comes away slightly from the side of the tin. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean.
Allow the cake to rest in the tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, before inverting onto the rack to cool completely. (If you tip the cake out of the tin before this time it may collapse.)
To make the lime syrup, put the sugar, lime zest, lime juice and 125ml water in a small saucepan and stir over high heat until the sugar has dissolved. Boil for 5 minutes, or until slightly syrupy. Lift out the lime zest with a fork and set aside as a garnish. Take the syrup off the heat and stir in the rum, if using.
Brush the syrup over the entire cake surface. Decorate the top of the cake with the reserved lime zest and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. The cake keeps well — wrap it in plastic and store at room temperature for a few days, or refrigerate for a week (or even freeze for up to 1 month).