Orange and Poppy Seed Cake

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For some reason I haven’t done any baking for a while.  It might be because there have only been three of us to feed most of the time but that’s not usually sufficient reason.  If I don’t want a cake to go stale before we’ve finished it, I bake a small one or perhaps some cookies, scones, muffins or individual cakes like these rock cakes, so I can put some in the freezer.

My son and his fiancée have just moved into their first flat together.  They don’t own it of course – what young couple can afford a mortgage nowadays? – but they’re very happy and excited and it’s made me very happy on their behalf.  It’s also reminded me of what it was like when my husband and I started out.  They have very little so I’ve gone through some of my cupboards, digging out glasses, crockery and other items we no longer use and my husband found them a very nice pine table in our garage.  They only have one bedroom so they sensibly bought a sofa bed for the living room.  This has still not been delivered (a frustrating tale which my Twitter followers might be aware of) but it will arrive next week and their little home will be more or less complete.

Anyway, I digress.  Perhaps it was all the vicarious home-making activity that led me to bake a cake today.  I opted for a recipe for an orange and poppy seed cake in the Nordic Bakery Cookbook.  I don’t think I’d ever made a cake with poppy seeds before but at a café in Bristol recently, youngest son raved about the lemon and poppy seed cake so I thought he might be pleased to find something similar waiting for him on his return from school this afternoon.  I was right.  We both love the cake and have decided that simple Nordic cakes like this are our favourites: no icing or decoration of any kind; just wholesome and declicious.

Here’s the recipe, which I tweaked a little.  I don’t like an overpowering vanilla flavour (a legacy from being forced to eat lumpy custard at school in the cruel 1960s) so I used 2 teaspoons here instead of 3.  I also used the all-in-one method to mix the batter.  I find it works for most cakes, and is much quicker, obviously.

Ingredients

  • 300g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 tsps baking powder
  • 300g plain flour
  • Grated zest of 1 1/2 oranges
  • Freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 orange
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • A 20cm/8inch springform cake tin, greased

Method

  • (Heat conventional oven to 180ºc)
  • Beat together the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and vanilla in a mixer (I used my KitchenAid) or using an electric hand whisk
  • When the mixture is light and fluffy, fold in the orange zest, juice and poppy seeds until well mixed
  • Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top with the back of the spoon
  • The cake is done when a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean
  • You may want to put a piece of greaseproof paper over the cake at some point.  I did this at 40 minutes because the top of the cake was looking rather dark
  • I baked this in the Aga baking oven for 65 minutes and it was perfect.  The original recipe recommends a bake of 50-60 minutes in a conventional oven

Wheat Intolerance and Spelt Flour

Now I’m as sceptical as the next person about the so-called food intolerances and allergies of the modern world, but there’s no doubt about it, many people report feeling unwell or at best uncomfortable if they eat foods containing wheat, and prefer to steer clear of them.  A friend staying recently is one such person.  She isn’t coeliac so gluten’s fine, but she has discovered over the years that she’s less likely to have stomach aches and feel generally unwell if she doesn’t eat bread, pasta and cakes.  Unless, that is, they are made using spelt flour.  Spelt is an ancient grain with a unique gluten structure which makes it easier to digest; at least, that’s what it says on my packet.  I made the orange and poppy seed cake when she came, but this time substituted spelt flour for plain flour.  And, guess what, it turned out the same!  Okay, so maybe it was just a tiny bit denser, but it’s possible that, being so determined to find something different about it, I completely imagined this.

Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake

When I substituted lemon for orange in the cake I was very pleased with the result.  It was a good way to use up some of the lemons left over from making my son’s birthday cake.  I added the juice of two lemons and the zest of one, which produced a subtle lemon flavour.  If you wanted a stronger flavour, you could add the zest of a further lemon.

 

The Cake That Went Wrong

We finished our Christmas cake a few days ago and since we’re not doing a clean/dry/healthy January or whatever it is we’re supposed to do, I decided to bake a cake yesterday, the first baking I’ve done since before the festive season.  When I asked my youngest what he’d like, he didn’t hesitate: the ginger cake from the Nordic Bakery Cookbook, a gift to me from his big brother.  I’m half Norwegian, which makes the boys a quarter Norwegian, and we all love the recipes in this book.  Actually, our youngest has baked more from it than I have, and very successfully.

Since I last made the ginger cake (in an 8″ tin), I’ve bought the correct sized (7″) tin, which is the one I used yesterday.  I knew the cake would therefore be deeper and I’d need to make sure it was cooked in the middle.  At the end of the allotted time, the skewer came out clean, so I knew it was cooked through, but as you can see in the photos, I was WRONG.  As I turned it over the middle began to ooze out, creating, to much wailing by me, a massive sink hole.  How could this be?   One explanation is that I inserted the skewer at an angle and somehow missed the middle, but I don’t really believe this.  Nor do I think it has anything to do with the timing adjustments one has to make for Aga cooking because I’ve got used to that now and nothing like this has happened before.  Mind you, that’ll teach me to think smugly that I might write a blog in which I pass on cooking tips and recipes to fellow Aga owners.  Rest assured though, I will not rest until the mystery is solved and I WILL be having another go at this one.

Apart from the middle, which I scooped into the bin, the cake was absolutely fine, so when my son came home from school, I put the kettle on and we laughed at my mishap.   Oh, and ate some cake.