As I mentioned a little while ago, our twin boys turned 7 recently. For their birthday cake, I adapted the classic Middle Eastern orange and almond cake, the recipe for which is in the equally classic cookbook by Claudia Roden, A Book of Middle Eastern Food. I chose this recipe because one of them has recently been diagnosed as gluten-intolerant (but not Coeliac), and I needed to expand my repertoire of kid-friendly gluten-free cakes, because it’s mandarin season and they’re fabulous at the moment, and just because.
I cut the recipe down in size a little, just in case the kids didn’t like it (well, what on earth would I do with all that cake?). I also discovered that the mandarin skin is slightly more bitter than orange when boiled, and hence I’ve used proportionally more sugar. The resulting cake has the same texture as the orange, but the mandarin elevates it with its richer perfume.
And a kid’s birthday cake has to have icing, and so I made up some chocolate frosting to top it with. The cake turned out pretty good. Better than jaffas.
Mandarin and almond cake
5 medium mandarins (I prefer imperial)
150g almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
Wash and boil the mandarins (unpeeled) in water for around 1.5-2 hours until they’re quite soft. Let them cool, then cut them open and remove the pips. Leaving the skins on, mash the mandarins with a potato masher until they are pulpy (I prefer the texture of this, rather than the smoother result achieved with a blender).
Heat the oven to moderately hot (210deg C).
Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients, mix thoroughly, and pour into a spring-form tin (if you don’t have one, make sure you butter your tin and line it with baking paper).
Bake the cake for about 50 minutes, then have a look at it. If it is still very wet, leave it for a bit longer. Cool in the tin before turning out. It should still be quite a moist cake.
Chocolate butter frosting
100g cooking chocolate
1 tblspn icing sugar
Melt chocolate over a low heat, then add in melted butter and combine. Stir through icing sugar. Wait until it cools a bit before spreading it on the cake as it will be quite runny when it’s warm.