Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Clementine Cake

A few Saturdays ago, I spoke at a day long food writing workshop, called Foodstock, which took place at Wesleyan University, here in my home state of Connecticut. It was an immense honor to have been asked to speak there, and the experience ended up being even better than I had imagined it being.
Above all, I had the pleasure of co-hosting my panel, titled Beautiful Blogs, with Ashley Rodriguez of the blog, Not Without Salt. Those of you who happen to be even somewhat involved in the online foodie world might know that she was recently nominated in the category of 'best food photography' for the 2012 Saveur Food Blog Awards. If you take a hop over to her site, you'll soon see why - it's gorgeous.
Our panel was moderated by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan, the founding editor of the food website, The Kitchn, which over the past few years has rapidly become the food website I visit more frequently than any other. Meeting them both was a thrill in itself, but I also attended other panels going on throughout the day and getting to hear people like Ruth Reichl, Eric Asimov, and Molly O'Neill speak were some of the other highlights for me.
One of many subjects we talked about during the Beautiful Blogs session was content on our blogs. A question came up about how much thought went into the recipes we choose to feature - Are the recipes we choose deliberate?

My answer was yes...but, sometimes it's not. In general, the only guideline I follow when it comes to posting a recipe is, it has to be good. But just like the question 'what is beautiful?' rests in the eye of the beholder, so is taste to the mouth. It's a personal thing. So, when I say it has to be good - I mean, good in the minds {and mouths} of as many people as possible, while still maintaining my integrity and beliefs about food.
I try to post a mix of healthy and maybe not so healthy {from what I can gather from my blog's traffic reports, you generally like the unhealthy stuff the best...and if it's sweet, even more so}. But I'm also not going to post sweet, full of fat recipes weekly because that's just not good for you {or my family} and it's also not an accurate depiction of who I am. I'm one of those 'everything in moderation' people. I believe in enjoying life and eating yummy food, but not at the expense of everything else important in life.
I believe what stands the test of time is not a blog, cookbook, or magazine with only beautiful pictures, or epic writing. The ones that continually give you recipes you're going to like are the ones you'll naturally end up reading. And while it's not possible to please everyone, I share what I love with the hope that at least a chunk of my readers can relate.
All of this brings me to the real subject at hand...which is this Clementine Cake recipe by Nigella Lawson. I didn't make it for a special occasion, or because I was dying for a piece of cake, but only because I had an enormous bag of clementines that needed to be used.
A quick Google search yielded this recipe, which immediately caught my attention because it does not contain flour {and it also looked super easy}. I loved the idea of using ground almonds as the base for a cake, especially when I thought about how delicious the combination of citrus and nuts would be.
However, for me - the outcome was so-so. I do love the concept of this cake, and I do believe that for the right person, or purpose {think tea party/luncheon} it would be a hit. My husband really liked it, which I was shocked about because he's not a citrus-flavor-in-food person. This is also not an overly sweet cake. There's a slight bitterness, because the clementines {skins, piths, and all} are finely chopped and added to the batter.
I'm not saying that this will be the most paramount cake you'll ever make, but with a few minor adjustments, I think this could be a winner for some of you. First off, I recommend grinding the almonds as finely as you can. Unfortunately, anyone who's used a food processor to grind nuts before will know that there's only so far you can go before you have nut butter.
After some research on the matter, I discovered that if you add a bit of sugar to the food processor with the nuts, you'll be able to grind them much finer. Which is - if that's what you want. Some of you might like the texture the almond bits give the cake, as my husband did. I, however, found it a bit unappealing. For those of you who would like a smoother end product, I would recommend the sugar trick, or buying a bag of almond meal {Bob's Red Mill makes a great one} instead.
For the photos in this post, I stuck with a dusting of confectioners' sugar instead of making an icing. But a day later, I made a quick glaze by whisking some sifted confectioners' sugar with a bit of clementine juice {just enough to form an icing} - which I drizzled over the remaining cake, and suddenly the finished product was much more to my liking.
If you're reading this post and you've made this cake before, please share your experience! I'd love to hear your thoughts.
If you're interested in a few additional sweet or savory Citrus recipes you might enjoy these - Key Lime Bars | Wheat Berry, Walnut & Date Salad | Grilled Salmon with Blood Orange Salsa | Citrus Rice Salad | Lemon Fusilli with Arugula

Clementine Cake

Adapted from Nigella Lawson
Makes one 9" cake
{printable recipe}
To grind the almonds down to a fine consistency {without ending up with almond butter!}, pulse them in a food processor with the 2 tablespoons of sugar until finely ground {11 ounces whole almonds should give you the 2 1/3 cups you'll need}. Alternatively, you can also use almond meal - Bob's Red Mill makes a great one. The original recipe calls for using an 8" springform pan, but I only had a 9". It worked out fine. This cake tastes best when served the second day, so if possible, make it ahead of time. 

5 clementines {about 1 pound}
6 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/3 cups ground almonds
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
confectioners' sugar
clementine juice {optional}

Place the clementines in a saucepan, cover them with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 2 hours. Drain, and set aside until cool.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9" springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. {Note: a springform pan is a must here - the cake will be near impossible to remove without it!}

Cut the clementines in half, remove the seeds, and add them {skins, pith, and all} to the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped. You can also chop them by hand.

Add the eggs to a mixing bowl and beat with a whisk, or an electric mixer. Add the sugar, almonds, and baking powder; mix well. Add in the clementines, and stir until combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour. Start checking on the cake at about 40 minutes - you'll know it's done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cover the cake with foil about halfway through the cooking time, to prevent the top from getting too brown. Transfer to a cooling rack, and cool completely before releasing from the pan.

Serve dusted with confectioners' sugar - or even better, whip up a quick glaze by whisking together sifted confectioners' sugar with a bit of clementine juice, until you have the consistency you'd like. Drizzle over the top of the cake and serve.


Winnie said...

Gorgeous cake! And happy to hear about your experience at Foodstock...sounds like it was a wonderful event :)

Joanne said...

When I first started blogging I just kind of posted whatever I cooked but lately there are a lot more recipes that just don't make the cut because I don't deem them blogworthy. Seems I've become more selective in my old age. :P I'm not much of a fan of bitter citrus pith so I'm not sure how much I'd adore it either, but I love the photos.

Dolce Jeanna said...

Hi! Can you tell me how you made oranges to decorate with? I too have a Clementine cake recipe but it does have self-rising flour. Your org slices look better than mine!

kate said...

Dolce Jeanna - The oranges you see in the photos are actually nothing more than sliced clementines. I sliced them the same way you would a lemon to create rounds and that's it! I think the cake is a tad bit boring without a little something on top :)

Megan said...

Oh this looks delicious! And it's the prettiest!

How fun to get to speak at a blog conference! Sounds like it was a fun one.

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