This week, it’s a return to baking. It certainly feels like baking weather – nowhere nicer to be than in a warm kitchen filled with the scent of cake when it’s damp and miserable outside. Nothing like banishing the blues with a pot of coffee and a slice of comforting cake.
And this cake is a lot of fun, filled with a little summer sunshine, perfect for dispelling the gloom outside. At the café this week we were messing about with recipes for the old classic, the Tunis cake – essentially a light almond sponge topped with a thick seam of chocolate, and I thought, as I was demolishing my first slice, that it tasted slightly of orange (it was actually lemon zest) which got us thinking of how similar to a Jaffa Cake biscuit it was.
We had to start testing straight away! On a side-note here, the famous orange snack was the subject of an interesting court case a few years ago; biscuits and cakes are taxed at different rates in the UK.
The manufacturer argued that the item should be regarded as a cake for a number of reasons, mainly that it was made from a batter, not a dough, and that it became stale when left to the elements, rather than hard, which is what happens to biscuits.
It’s a handy rule of thumb, in case you’re ever bothered by the cake/biscuit dispute. Wars have started over less. Happily, the court found in McVities’ favour, and so the plucky little Jaffa Cake can rest easy in the knowledge that, while small, it is still a true cake, and can lord it over the plain old biscuits on the shelves of our supermarkets.
All this made for pleasant chat, but we were eager to get going on our own large-format Jaffa Cake. Tracy got baking away upstairs immediately and I set to, making an orange jelly with fresh juice and zest. Within a few hours we had produced a large cake filled with all the flavours of the packet version, but with much more supercharged flavour.
The cake, bolstered with almonds and zest, had a lovely aromatic tinge, which married up well with the tart jelly. On top, the almost indecently-thick chocolate weighed in to bring the whole thing together. Success!
And boy, was it popular. The staff shared a slice, and it had barely got onto the stand than slice after slice was disappearing, scoffed eagerly by our customers. Safe to say, it’ll be around for a while. The name of our particular version comes from the orange itself, known both as the Jaffa orange and also the shamouti, a much more elegant title.
It’s a sweet, thick-skinned orange, making it perfect for exporting, and was developed in the groves of the Middle East in the mid 19th Century. Essentially, you’re after the nice, sweet juice and aromatic zest of these large oranges, rather than the acidity and bitterness of the Seville types. The jelly was made by reducing the orange juice, concentrating the flavour for even more whoomph – a tip I’d learned when making Tarte À l’Orange many years ago.
It’s only a thin layer, so it needs to pack a zesty punch when combined with the other elements. Reducing the juice helps this happen. You can always make up a packet orange jelly if you don’t fancy the fuss, but it won’t be half as powerful as the real deal.
As it is, it’s a very easy recipe to make, and, for those who enjoy the occasional packet of these popular little cakes it’s a little slice of heaven, a ray of sunshine on these misty autumnal days.
FOR THE CAKE:
225g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
4 large free-range eggs
225g self-raising flour
70g ground almonds
The grated zest of 1 orange
FOR THE JELLY:
1 litre orange juice (Tropicana etc.)
The juice and zest of 4 fresh oranges
5 leaves gelatine
FOR THE CHOCOLATE TOPPING:
300ml double cream
400g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
Pinch of Maldon salt
Springform or loose-bottomed cake tin, 8” diameter
First, make the jelly. In a heavy pan, heat the orange juice, freshly-squeezed juice and zest until just about boiling, then simmer gently, stirring occasionally until it has reduced to 500ml. Soak the gelatine in cold water until completely softened, then squeeze dry and stir into the hot orange juice. Chill in a tub until required. It will keep for several days.
Now for the cake; heat the oven to 180ºC / Gas 4 and line your tin with baking parchment. Cream the butter and sugar together until very pale and fluffy, then add the eggs, one by one, beating them in fully before adding the next.
Finally, gently fold in the almonds, flour and grated zest. Spoon the mixture gently into your prepared tin, level out and bake for 35-45 minutes.
Test the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre. If it comes out clean, your cake is cooked. Cover the tin loosely with foil if it’s getting a little too dark. Keep the cake in the tin, and allow to cool completely.
Gently heat the jelly, just until it becomes liquid. Try not to heat it too much – gentle stirring and mashing with a wooden spoon should help it break up before getting too warm.
Pour the smooth jelly over the cake, and refrigerate until set.
As the jelly sets, make the chocolate topping. Heat the cream until just bubbling, and remove from the heat.
Whisk in the chocolate and a pinch of salt (this accentuates the chocolate flavour) and keep whisking until the ganache is completely smooth.
Allow it to cool as much as you dare, then pour over the jelly. Shake the tin gently to even out the chocolate topping, and pop back in the fridge to set up.
To serve, heat a knife and loosen the edges of the cake. Remove the cake from the tin and serve in generous wedges, with some good, strong black coffee.