Candied blood orange and cardamom cake

Yesterday we went back to where it all started for us and took a trip down a memory lane. We looked at our first joint front door, pleased to see that after twenty years it was still bright red. The imposing sash windows were glistening with rain and the old house surrounded by the hustle and bustle of life. Seeing it brought memories back of days that seemed simpler…

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The city that once was our stomping ground has grown arms and legs with the visible signs of investment being made in the area. Sky scrapers, business parks, shopping malls. Yet the road we took each day appeared the same and unchanged. Still full of bends and pitch black on a rainy evening.

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We had spent the evening with friends of ours, reminiscing about the good old times, talking about the future and sharing stories from our lives. Their home was as warm and welcoming as the meal they had prepared for us. Plentiful albondigas, Spanish tortilla, Pollo con Chorizo, saffron rice and gambas salad. A very tasty tapas selection. So since they were cooking the main meal, we brought wine and pudding. Or two puddings I should say: churros con chocolate and blood orange cake. I had envisaged that the one batch of churros might not be enough so ended up baking this cake last minute. It was still warm as it travelled up the motorway with us!

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Blood oranges are in season now and their ruby red beauty has me mesmerised. They are just stunning, both in appearance and flavour. And although this cake is absolutely fine when made with your run of the mill oranges, I especially like it with blood oranges. The zest and juice are added to the batter to create a flavoursome cake. And to make it extra special and to showcase the oranges’ beauty, I played around with various techniques for candied orange slices until I have finally ended up with the results I had been looking for – glistening slices, almost stained window like, encased in a thin layer of caramel, still retaining their delicious flavour. All sitting proud on top of the cake, gently held together by the quark topping and ruby red reduction of the candied liquor. I will be posting a separate post on the technique I have used to give you these results.

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This is one of my fail proof cakes, a simple yoghurt cake. But the combination of flavours and the toppings makes it that little bit special. The cake also has a tiny smidgen of cardamom (ground, from Steenbergs) added to the batter, which complements the orange flavour rather than overpowers it. And because it is made with yoghurt, it remains wonderfully moist and soft. The soft pillow of quark frosting is tangy and offsets the sweetness of the oranges. I like using The Lake District Dairy’s quark , both is cooking and baking. To further contrast the textures and appearance, I have finished the cake off with a sprinkling of chopped pistachio nuts. This is a beautifully understated cake, full of flavours. Here is the recipe:

  • 115 grams of butter, room temperature
  • 200 grams of caster sugar
  • zest from two blood oranges
  • 2 eggs
  • 220 grams of self raising flour
  • 120 ml of natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp of ground cardamom
  • juice from one blood orange

Additionally:

  • 200 grams of quark
  • 75 grams of icing sugar
  • 8 candied orange slices
  • reduced candied liquor
  • a handful of chopped pistachios

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Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a loaf tin and set it aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar, cardamom and orange zest until light and fluffy. Beat in one egg at the time. You may want to add a spoonful of flour at this point to stop the mixture from curdling. Now add a third of the flour and mix it in. Follow it up with the yoghurt and the orange juice and continue to mix. Now add the remainder of the flour and mix it until just combined, making sure you scrape the sides of the bowl.

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You will end up with a thick batter. Transfer it into the prepared tin and smooth it out evenly. Place in the preheated oven and bake for approximately one hour or until a skewer inserted in comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. Leave to cool down completely.

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Once the cake is cool, transfer it onto the serving dish. Mix the quark with the icing sugar, ensuring you don’t beat it as it will turn runny. Swirl the quark topping onto the cake before drizzling it with the liquor. Arrange the candied orange slices on top and finish the cake off with a generous sprinkling of chopped pistachio nuts. Any left over cake needs to be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days – but I guarantee it will not last that long! Enjoy x

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