Clementines refresh the palate… and the loins.
I’ve always wanted to try the Nigella clementine cake, the flourless one with the whole boiled and pureed clementines. Nigella is sometimes too precious for me; she uses phrases like “give a blitz” and “ferrous tang” while I’m more likely to give instructions like “fry that shit up in a pan,” or “fuck you.” Still, there’s no denying the comforting yumminess of many of her recipes (she also looks like she would give a good hug, if you were the huggy type), or the fact that clementines are all over the place right now, or the fact that I really like some frigging cake and I’ve been kinda cranky this week. So: clementine cake.
*You’ll* be lost and gone forever, clementines… IN MY BELLY!
Clementines don’t just flavor this cake, they are the cake. Namely, 1 1/3 pounds of clementines, which you boil the shit out of for TWO HOURS. 1 1/3 pounds is usually around 5 or 6 fruits unless you have the mutant runts that I bought, in which case it’s more like 11 or 12.
Depending on how thick the clementines’ skins are, some or all of them may self destruct during their forced bath. I chalk it up to citric Darwinism, you gotta weed out the clunkers if you want good cake. But don’t worry, the weaklings still have a higher purpose.
The 4 stages of “blitz”: Whiz, Szuszh, Pulp, and Jonestown Massacre
Once the citrus’ spirit is thoroughly broken, it’s time to whir. First, the almonds, which replace flour in this cake. Second, the fruits, broken down into a chunky, pulpy mass. Finally, the nuts and fruit together with sugar, eggs and some baking powder, pureed until smooth. At this point, the batter completely obscured the processor’s blade. It was a fairly smooth mix flecked with bits of toothsome almond, and with a gorgeous fragrance. Into the oven for an hour it went.
Technical term for the photo above: “Boiling the fuck outta that shit.” Be sure to use the contraction “outta” instead of the common but incorrect “out of.”
I’d boiled a few more clementines than I really needed for the cake so in addition to the pot of citrus-flavored water left over from the boil, which it seemed a shame to waste, I had some mangled clementine corpses. I crushed them with my fingers, returned them to the pot with some sugar, and turned the heat back down to dissolve the sugar and reduce the mixture to a syrup.
Nobody puts Baby in a corner.
After about 10 minutes I cut the heat and strained out the clementine guts. I’d considered letting the whole thing steep for a while before straining, but judging from the strength of flavor in the syrup I ended up with, that would have been clementine overkill.
So from your de-selected, mauled fruits, you’ll have a sweet and fragrant syrup to do with what you will. It would be great to soak a sponge cake or add some punch to a fruit salad. As I can personally attest, it’s also great when mixed with some good tequila and lime juice and topped off with a splash of club soda. Because the only thing better than cake? Is cake and cocktails.
Whipped Cream = Not Optional
The cake took about an hour and 5 minutes, with a foil tent for the last half-hour to keep the top from getting too brown; I then did as instructed and let it cool (mostly) in the “tin” (in American English: “motherfucking pan”). When I deemed it ready to eat – I think my American understanding of “cooled” is a bit different than Nigella’s – I whipped up some cream with a bit of sugar and “tucked in” (“sucked that shit down”).
This is a yummy cake for those times when you want some cake (e.g., all the time) but don’t want the full-on sugar fest. The nuts give it some texture that cake – even cake made with almond flour – doesn’t usually have. Almond and clementine get along very well, and the cake actually gets better and better the longer you let it sit and/or the more tequila you’re drinking. (I assume there’s a point of diminishing returns, but I haven’t hit it yet.) It’s great as an afternoon treat with a cup of tea, or even as a simple breakfast.
adapted from nigella.com
1 1/3 pounds clementines (+ 2 fruits if you plan to make the syrup)
3 c. almonds
1 1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
Put the clementines into a pot of cold water. Bring it to a boil and cook for 2 hours. Remove the fruit and set aside to cool. If you plan to make the syrup, leave the cooking liquid in the pot; if not, get rid of it.
Preheat your oven to 375.
While the fruit is cooling, grind the almonds in a food processor. Keep an eye on them – you want them pretty finely ground, but need to stop short before you end up with almond butter. Set the ground almond aside.
Cut the cooled fruit in half and pick out the seeds. Put the food in the processor, peel and pith and all. Pulse a few times; the fruit will immediately break down into a choppy puree.
Add the ground almond back to the processor along with all the remaining ingredients. Blend into a smooth puree. Pour the batter into a 9-inch springform pan that’s been buttered, lined with parchment, and buttered again. Bake for about 1 hour, until a toothpick stuck into the middle comes out clean. If your cake starts getting too brown, cover it with foil for the last 20-30 minutes of baking.
Cool the cake fully in the pan before chowing down. Tastes good with some sweetened whipped cream or creme fraiche, especially the next day.
Leftover clementine boiling water
2-3 cooked clementines
1 1/2 sugar
Return the cooking water to a boil; add the sugar and cooked, crushed clementines. Boil until reduced to your desired level of sweetness. Strain out solids.
For a tasty cocktail, mix 2 parts tequila, 1 part syrup, and a squirt of lime in a shaker with ice. Shake, strain and top off with a splash of club soda. Yum.