The X(mas) Files- Spiced Clementine Cake

As per previous rants, I’m not a fan of Christmas cake and also doing my best these days to have a low/no dairy diet where possible. This recipe has come about from a potentially unholy union of ways I’ve tried to make a decent, grown up cake without butter alongside the apparent trend of levelling up your OJ for a nice bottle of fresh squeezed clementine juice. I don’t really like orange juice either, but the clementine juice thing is acceptable for reasons probably related to sugar content. Throw in some warm spices and the current weather being so predisposing to dessert for breakfast and here we are.

Cake and a cuppa!

However it has come about, this is a sweet and wonderfuly moist (sorry) cake with some seasonal flavours that remain subtle but still feel a bit special. Ground almonds give it a little weight and also lend this bake to the kind of texture that suits a loaf, and this is quite a large quantity recipe so I usually make two 2lb loaves rather than one huge one just for ease of getting it out of the oven. Don’t try to halve it, it doesn’t work as well and I have no idea why- you can always freeze the extra one.

I use a bottled clementine juice from the chiller rather than a carton- literally all supermarkets have it at this time of year but this recipe was honed with the Asda version. It will certainly work with freshly squeezed if you have that kind of time on your hands. I don’t use zest because I like the low, mixing tones of all the flavours here rather than any one being too dominant but if you like a more fruity kick then add the zest of 2-3 clementines or one orange.

Best served completely cooled in a fat slice with a cuppa, add a good book and a fireplace for extra festive comfort.

Boomboom Spiced Clementine Cake

My spiced clementine loaf, fresh out of the oven

225g Self raising flour
125g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of sea salt
300g caster sugar
4 eggs
230ml olive oil*
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
300ml clementine juice
5 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick or 3/4 tsp ground
A small piece of star anise**

*use a light, plain olive oil- virgin/extra virgin are too strongly flavoured
** literally a very small piece! No more than 1/4 of a whole star

Pour the clementine juice into a small saucepan and add the cinnamon, star anise and cinnamon. Heat gently until this just begins to simmer (DON’T BOIL IT!!!) then remove from the heat and leave to cool completely. You can go to the next stage when this is back to room temperature but ideally let it infuse for at least 2 hours then strain thoroughly before using.

Heat the oven to 180C and line your tins with baking paper (don’t just grease them, the cake will fall apart when you turn it out).
Combine the flour, baking powder, ground almonds and salt in a very large mixing bowl and gently whisk together to combine.
With a food mixer beat the eggs and sugar together to a thick, fluffy consistency similar to whipping cream (3-4 minutes). At this stage keep the mixer running and add the oil slowly in a steady stream. When the oil is mixed in then add the vanilla and finally the clementine juice with the mixer running all the time and add the liquid in a slow, steady stream. You will have a lot of mix here with the consistency of a milkshake. Add this to the remaining dry ingredients and stir this all gently to combine into a very wet batter.
I must stress that at this point you can’t hang around! As soon as it is mixed (don’t over do it) transfer to tins immediately and get it straight into the oven. Check after 30 minutes if a toothpick comes out clean it’s done. If you are doing one larger cake it will likely need more like 45-50 minutes, cup cakes or muffins should be checked after 20 minutes.

Let the cake cool for at least 20 minutes before you try to get it out of the tin and if you have any trouble releasing it then let it cool completely- if it’s too warm it will disintegrate!

Serve at room temperature and store in an air tight container (not in the fridge). This will last for 4 days and be much improved after 24 hours if you can wait that long!

If you’re a devil and not opposed to dairy you may wish to whip some cream with a tablespoon of Grand Marnier or Cointreau and some icing sugar and add a dollop of this alongside.


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