Christmas is a compromise. I have family in London and Wigan and Shropshire. Jon has family in Scotland, in Surrey, and Worcestershire. And this year, his mum and dad rented a house in Somerset for a party, so that went on the mileometer too.
The house, utterly beautiful with its grey stone dusted with a light frosting of snow, had everything that you might need for a classic murder, including a library and candlesticks. And there we were, in laws all together. It was a perfect set up.
Luckily, other than a few competitive games of bridge, things were calmer and more peaceful than we had any right to expect.
Due to deliberately not bringing appropriate footwear to go on bracing walks, I was able to stay in by the Aga and bake and listen to the radio and chat to Jon’s mother about her plans and hopes for the new year. We drank tea, and nested.
Christmas is busy, but to be able to take five minutes out of the bustle with a piece of cake and a cup of tea – or, better still, a glass of brandy, and to feel peaceful and grateful, well, not to get too hallmark card about it, that’s what the season’s all about isn’t it?
Enough said, really.
This cake comes from a Nigella Lawson recipe, and I’ve been making it repeatedly since I discovered it because there’s something incredibly satisfying about boiling whole fruit, processing them to bits then turning them into a baked good. It just seems so unlikely.
I also have a friend who doesn’t eat dairy, so I make this for her birthday, which, luckily, falls at the beginning of January when there’s something of a glut of clementines, tangerines and even – and it was delicious, though a bit more sour – Seville oranges.
I confess that if I can’t find seedless clementines, and often I can’t, I use tangerines. Nigella suggests de-seeding the fruit before chopping, but poking around in orange goo seems less than joyful to me, so I avoid it where possible.
I also cook my cake for less time than she indicates – maybe I just prefer my cakes a little more dense and moist, or maybe I’ve had contrary ovens. Who can say.5 tangerines (about 375g) 6 eggs 1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar 2 and 1/3 cups of ground almonds 1 tsp baking powder (if it’s been open for longer than three months it’s useless and best avoided)
Put the tangerines in a pot with cold water to cover, bring to the boil, and cook for 2 hours. Drain and cool.
- Finely chop the skins, pith, and fruit in the processor or by hand.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C)
- Butter and line an 8-inch (21 centimeter) springform pan with parchment paper. (I used a silicone one without buttering and lining and it worked fine.)
- Beat the eggs. Add the sugar, almonds, and baking powder.
- Stir in the chopped tangerines.
- Pour into a tin and bake
- Nigella suggests baking for 50 minutes, covering the top to prevent burning after 40. I usually find that 30 minutes – sometimes 35, in which case I cover the top – is plenty. Keep testing. A skewer should come out clean.
I left my cake plain, but Nigella suggests dusting with icing sugar, and I used to make a version with a glaze made out of confectioners sugar (icing sugar) and orange juice, but I now think it’s a bit sweet.
Nigella recommends eating the cake a day later – mine was gone in an hour.