Nigella´s famous cake and what happened afterwards

Or:How to Turn a Long and  Winding Recipe into an Easy Peasy One.

I must confess I have always been puzzled by unnecessary steps in cooking, particularly if such steps are reeeeeeaaaaaaaaaally long.

I learnt the hard way not to take what’s written on a recipe as if it was written in stone. (I am equally annoyed by unnecessary ingredients added to a recipe for no reason like, when they don’t change the texture or flavour of a dish. I will rant about this in another post. Keep waiting).

So what I do is this. First time, I follow the recipe. Second time, I start meddling with it. Believe it or not, sometimes omitting those (long) steps really works.

Unfortunately, one of the persons that does that is my beloved Nigella.

I’m all up for simple, speedy things, when I can. Shortcuts? I don’t mind. And if you work in a hectic restaurant kitchen, believe you me, ANYTHING that will make your life easier will be welcomed with wide open arms.

I love Nigella. Seriously, I do. You should realize it by the number of recipes by her I’ve cooked and posted on this blog.

But sometimes her recipes have THESE-UNNECESSARY-LONG steps which get me thinking: ‘Won’t I live longer if I just don’t do that?’

Like, for example, in her Rosebud Madeleines recipe, she recommends resting the mixture in the fridge for an hour and then at room temperature for another half an hour more. Why? Oh, why?

I let it rest at room temperature for 5 minutes and my madeleines turn out fine.

I should know since madeleines are pretty much the only sweet cakes I bake. (That is because my madeleine tin is the only one I have left. For now).

I had heard so many people talk about NIGELLA’S CLEMENTINE CAKE that I knew I had to try it. So when I went to Argentina last year, Nigella’s cake was one of the recipes on my ‘to-do’ list.

It was a treat to make it, the clementines in Argentina are so big and juicy and here, well, here in London they’re just teeny-tiny… Oh, well…

Back to my issue with unnecessary-long steps in a recipe.

For this cake Nigella advocates boiling the clementines to death (for 2 hours!!!!!!) and believe me, if you don’t, you’re in for a surprise ‘cuz… nothing’s gonna happen. Really.

Don’t get  me wrong: the cake was delicious. It was a beauty. So I didn’t want to give up on it completely.

So what happened afterwards?

Well, Nigella’s lengthy, somewhat fussy cake became the easiest thing in the world.

And all that because I didn’t boil the clementines to death. No, I didn’t. and you know what?

They turned out fine.

Also, I experimented using plain flour and baking powder instead of ground almonds because I didn’t see how that could fail. It didn’t. True, made with almonds is a different story altogether but that doesn’t mean that if you haven’t got ground almonds you can’t enjoy this beautiful cake because you can.

I found recipes that used butter instead of oil and that worked fine as well.

These recipes are super easy. All you need to do is blitz everything in the blender (skins and all) and pour the mixture into the cake tin.

Honestly? I didn’t notice the difference.

Nigella’s Clementine Cake – from Nigella’s website

4-5 clementines (about 375g total weight)

6 eggs

225g sugar

250g ground almonds

1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

Put the clementines in a pan with some cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 2 hours. (!!) Drain and, when cool, cut each clementine in half and remove the pips. Dump the clementines – skins, pith, fruit and all – and give a quick blitz in a food processor (or by hand, of course). Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190ºC. Butter and line a 21cm Springform tin.

You can then add all the other ingredients to the food processor and mix. Or, you can beat the eggs by hand adding the sugar, almonds and baking powder, mixing well, then finally adding the pulped oranges.

Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake for an hour, when a skewer will come out clean; you’ll probably have to cover with foil or greaseproof after about 40 minutes to stop the top burning. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, on a rack, but in the tin. When the cake’s cold, you can take it out of the tin. I think this is better a day after it’s made, but I don’t complain about eating it at any time.

I’ve also made this with an equal weight of oranges, and with lemons, in which case I increase the sugar to 250g and slightly anglicise it, too, by adding a glaze made of icing sugar mixed to a paste with lemon juice and a little water. (this is Nigella talking, not me)

Clementine Cake with oil – adapted from Recetas de Tortas Inolvidables by Blanca Cotta

2 clementines (use 3 if they’re small) If you live in the UK, chances are they will be

3/4 coffee cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1 cup sugar (250cc)

1 ½ cup self-raising flour (I actually used 1 cup)

Cut the clementines in half and blitz it together with the juice of the other clementine. (I didn’t bother and used the 2 whole clementines). Add the egg, sugar and oil to the liquidizer. When everything is well processed, transfer to a bowl and add the sifted flour mixing with a spatula.

Transfer to a greased and floured mould (unless you have silicone moulds, I don’t. Yet.). The mixture should reach  2/3 of the mould because it will grow when baked. (Yes, I know you know, but still…)

Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes or so until the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Clementine Cake with butter – adapted from another recipe by Blanca Cotta

zest and juice of 4 clementines

100 g butter

2 eggs

1 cup sugar (250cc)

200g self-raising flour

1 tsp. baking powder

Cream the butter with the clementine zest and the sugar. You won’t be able to. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking really well. Now add the juice of the clementines (passed through a chino). The mixture will appear separated but don’t worry. Keep going. Now add the flour sifted with the baking powder. Mix with a spatula, transfer to a mould and bake in a preheated oven (see above).


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