Tuesday, January 18, 2011

NIGELLA’S CHOCOLATE ORANGE CAKE

BAKING IN TANDEM: A BICYCLE BUILT FOR THREE


To think that we might have easily gone through life not knowing each other, missing all this free flow of love and ideas and warmth and sharing…. We share really almost everything.
- Avis Devoto to Julia Child, September 1, 1956 from As Always, Julia edited by Joan Reardon


Our long ago move to Italy timed rather unexpectedly with my in-laws retirement and their move from a bustling Parisian suburb to a small house in the middle of nowhere. Their newfound freedom would be filled with gardening and fresh air, vacations filled with the joyous laughter and antics of small grandchildren, relaxation and books. They had spent nearly every waking moment of the past thirty-odd years tending to their corner shop and family and would suddenly find themselves in front of endless days without deadlines, account books and friendly yet demanding clients. My husband, ever thoughtful of his parents’ well being, suggested that they devote some of their time, amuse themselves a bit, in researching their families’ genealogy. He purchased them stacks of books, indicated addresses of archives and instructions on how to make document requests. Knowing that they would have a project on hand, he left for Italy secure in the knowledge that they would have one thing more with which to occupy their hours, days and weeks.

Seven years later, when we returned from our stay in Italy, we found that stack of books uncracked, not one chart filled in, no family tree outlined, not one iota of genealogy done. So he gathered up the books, tossed them in the car and brought them home. “If they have no interest in researching the family history, then I’ll do it!” he proclaimed. And of course, his enthusiasm inspired me as well and I said to anyone who was listening: “Well, if you are going to research your family’s genealogy then I’m going to do mine, too!” And so, little by little, side by side, we researched, took notes, compared documents and drew up our separate family trees. Fascinating! But while he spent much of his time moving backwards in time, my research had me moving sideways. You see, I never knew just how large a family my dad had, how many actually immigrated and all lived together, 4 generations, in Brooklyn. I grew up close to my mom’s side and so knew much of who was who and from whence they came, but only ever having met my dad’s immediate family, that side was truly a mystery. Never in a million years would I have guessed how many aunts and uncles and cousins lived around him when he was growing up. And so slowly, oh so slowly, one at a time, I tracked down and contacted each and every family member still living and the descendents of those no longer with us.


One such person was Gene, my dad’s first cousin although much younger than my dad by about twenty years or so. And as he lives not far from where my brother lived, we arranged to meet and meet we did. And the usual conversation began, the one we know all too well and repeat with anyone and everyone whom we meet with which we share a common city: Do you know this restaurant? Have you ever eaten here? Have you been to…? And the most amazing thing is, there was a little Indonesian restaurant near my brother’s old apartment that was a favorite haunt of both Michael and Gene. And then it struck me! If I had never done my genealogy, if I had never tracked down my dad’s relatives, then we would never have met Gene and how many times would my brother and Gene, these cousins, have sat next to each other in this tiny Brooklyn restaurant as perfect strangers, never knowing how closely they were related?

And throughout both Family Reunions I succeeded in organizing with the paternal side of my family, I couldn’t help but marvel at all of these wonderful people gathered together, laughing, sharing stories, and how but for my research we would have passed through our entire lives never knowing each other, never knowing of this common bond we shared.

This same sentiment overpowers me constantly as I think of the great friends I have made through internet and food blogging. The world is filled with like-minded souls, dynamic, talented, warm and funny individuals who have so much in common, so much to share, and only thanks to this magical world of food blogging have I had the strange and beautiful chance to meet them. I know, this is rather a trite sentiment, an all-too obvious fact, but I truly think we tend to take this for granted all too often. We have become so accustomed to switching on the computer, logging on and sending friend and follow requests, leaving comments with a familiarity that would astound us in face-to-face social situations, connecting with people from every country in the world with stunning speed and fluidity. But just step back for a moment and let the thought rush through your head and settle in. Consider how unimaginable this would have been a generation ago. Or just twenty years or so ago. We’ve stepped beyond the letter writing and phone calls, the friendships limited to near neighbors and visiting former school chums, and we now have the world at our fingertips. Literally. And as someone living in a world that doesn’t always agree with me, someone who finds it difficult to find near neighbors who understand my passions, my gregariousness, my cultural quirks, I find enormous gratification, delight and salvation in this odd and surprising thing called internet. As my husband so astutely pointed out to me once, “The friends you have made on the computer are good people, exciting people with plans and projects, people who actually work on projects together and make things happen…and that you really haven’t been able to find close by.” Ah, yes.


And this week, two of my closest far-away friends, as close as sisters, Jeanne and Meeta and I have baked together and thus started a new tradition. Three ladies, three countries, three kitchens, one recipe. Across the miles and through the screens of our laptops, we selected a wonderful, rich, decadent, chocolatey cake to bake all together, as one. As I claimed in a former blog post, nothing is better, more enriching or even more fun than getting together with friends to spend a day baking.

For our first Bake-a-long, we selected a fabulous Chocolate Orange Cake from Nigella Lawson’s Feast: Food to Celebrate Life cookbook, and what a feast this cake is! Rich, dense and moist, mouthfuls of chocolate goodness infused with the delightful and seasonally festive flavor of orange, the delicate flavors of almonds bringing it all together. No flour makes this an ideal gluten-free dessert and no butter or milk means a dairy-free treat as well! Meeta added the warmth of cardamom to her cake batter and frosted it with a rich salted caramel ganache while Jeanne spiked hers with plenty of Cointreau and slathered a marvelous chocolate orange cream cheese frosting on top. I added my ever favorite partner of chocolate, cinnamon, to the batter along with some fragrant fleur d’oranger and decided to drizzle some warmed bitter orange marmalade over the finished cake to heighten the orange flavor and give it that bitter edge. But in the end, I found that this cake is so stunningly delicious in all of its simplicity it really needed nothing on top. It stands on its own. I also suggest making this cake a day or even two or three before serving as it only gets better and better, the orange and chocolate flavors melding together beautifully while the nutty texture and flavor smooth out deliciously. Oh what a perfect cake!


We are sending our fabulous Chocolate Orange Cakes to our adorable friend Sarah at Maison Cupcake who has created a wonderful new event: Forever Nigella. Her theme for the Forever Nigella challenge #2 is Seduced By Chocolate. And oh aren’t we all?


Go on, you know you want to triple your pleasure: hop over and see both Meeta's and Jeanne's versions of this luscious cake...

NIGELLA’S CHOCOLATE ORANGE CAKE
Oh so easy, cook the orange the day before and you’ll find that putting together this batter is done in the wink of an eye.

2 small or 1 large thick-skinned orange, makes between 1 – 1 ½ cups (@250 ml) purée
6 large eggs
1 heaping tsp (about 10 g) baking powder
½ tsp (2 g) baking soda
1 ¼ cups (250 g) granulated sugar (or superfine)
2 cups (200 g) finely ground blanched almonds
½ cup (50 g) unsweetened, good quality cocoa powder
1 tsp fleur d’oranger (orange flower water), optional
½ tsp ground cinnamon, optional

Early in the day or, better yet, the day before, place the whole orange in a large saucapan and cover with cold water. (The orange will float and bob up at the surface of the water, but don’t worry about this.) Bring the water to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and cook for 2 hours until the orange is soft. Drain and allow the orange to cool completely to room temperature. When cooled, cut the orange into quarters or eights, remove any seeds/pits and then purée (all of it, the peel, flesh, everything) in a food processor or grinder. Don’t worry if there are lovely little chunks or strips of peel visible. If doing this the day before, place in a clean bowl or jar, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and butter an 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan or one of similar volume. Line the bottom with parchment paper, allowing the parchment to come up about an inch or so up the sides.

Place the puréed orange pulp, the eggs, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, almonds, cocoa and the orange flower water and cinnamon if using, in a food processor or, as I did, in a large mixing bowl. Run the motor or beat the mixture until the batter is cohesive, well blended and smooth. It will be grainy because of the ground almonds and puréed orange. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out pretty clean. I used a taller, narrower tin so the cooking time was longer, so check often near the end. And you may have to cover the top of the cake with a piece of aluminum foil to prevent it from burning or cooking to fast.


Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool on a wire cooling rack. When the cake is cool, carefully take it out of the tin. I decorated the cake by drizzling warmed Bitter Orange Marmalade on the top (pretty and also heightens the orange flavor) and topping it off with sugar-rolled strips of candied orange peel.


60 comments:

Barbara said...

Would love a slice of this right now. It looks wonderful.

Miriam said...

You don't know how much I relate to your husband's wise quote... the same happens to me! Internet puts you suddenly in contact with people who has the same drives as you have, and indeed you wouldn't probably find them in any other way...

MeetaK said...

Jamie, you had my heart in your hand with the intro to this post! That quote is more than apt and describes our sentiments perfectly. If it was not for this crazy world of blogging - we'd have missed so much in life!
I loved doing this with you both and your version is gorgeously grown-up and elegant!

Lana said...

Does this "find your ancestors" thing happen at certain age? Because I have been drilling my Dad like crazy recently, wanting to know where we came from (besides the obvious, which he, an Ob-Gyn did not teach us, but left it to Mother!)
As I read your words on friends I smile, because it rings so true for me, too. I am meeting a virtual friend tomorrow and I am beyond excited:)
I am going to take your beautiful story to bed tonight, to make me smile while I dream of distant places brought close by this wonderful and to me quite enigmatic thing called the Internet (do not ask me how I managed to meet my husband online, as illiterate as I am technologically:)
This looks like a wonderful cake, and I adore the combination of chocolate and orange. I am off to read the other two posts! Good night!

Jamie said...

@Lana: one mistake I realized I had made once I started delving into the family history was NOT having talked to my dad and asked him questions before he passed away. Ditto grandma. So go, girl, and find out everything you can! And I am so happy to have found you, too, as we are indeed like-minded souls!

Quay Po Cooks said...

Jamie,
Your husband is absolutely correct. I am still amazed at the wonderful and kind people who drop by my blog everyday and leave encouraging and kind words. I enjoy your post very much and glad I found you:D

Astrid said...

I love every single one of the three versions you, Jeanne and Meeta made.
I think I will dream of chocolate now 'till the next century!

Jamie said...

@Quay Po Cooks: Thank you so much and welcome! I love when other bloggers discover my blog so I can then discover theirs!

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

Such a beautiful quote Jamie - and so apt! Anybody (and there are still quite a few!) who thinks the internet is a place where you only meet freaks & mass-murderers clearly never knew us! Love our different interpretations of this recipe and look forward to the next event!

Jamie said...

@Jeanne @Cooksister : Well, "freaks" may be interpreted differently by some who do know us...

Sanjeeta kk said...

You are a good mind reader, Jamie. Me too love the sheer fact that we are sharing our lives and getting to know people sitting worlds apart.
Hail blogging!!
Love the chocolate and orange flavors in the cake. How should I take part in Mac Tweets, do I have to just post my recipe on my blog and link to the event announcement page? Or is there any other formality to be followed.

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

Absolutely eloquent, I see a future Huff Post version of this as what you are saying about modern friendships and families will resonate with so many people.

Chocolate and orange are my all time favourite combination and although I'd made one of Nigella's other choc orange cakes, I've never come across this one.

Thank you so much for taking part in Forever Nigella! I can't wait to catch up with you soon. xx

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

What a lovely story about the importance of finding our family members in the world, even the ones we aren't genetically related to! You are so lucky to have found your "sisters" and to be able to bake and share so many good times with them, even if you have to do it across the internet.

Juls @ Juls' Kitchen said...

what a perfect cake indeed!
I was so intrigued by the research of your family history, moving sideways.
I did the same a year ago, and I found by chance my father's cousin living in Rome.
We met in a restaurant and it was absolutely fascinating and stunning discovering how many things we had in common, from tastes to politic ideas, from physical features to dreams and hopes and ideas about life. Blood is such a powerful thing! Thank you for this beautiful and inspiring post, Jamie!

Lick My Spoon said...

What a wonderful wonderful post. So glad that you have reconnected with your family. And the cake looks absolutely gorgeous! Looking forward to seeing more of your bake-a-longs!

Brenna [fabuleuxdestin] said...

Wow - Nigella Lawson is a goddess! Can't wait to try this - looks amazing. Great post!

Lael Hazan @educatedpalate said...

Beautiful post. Both Giuliano and I are only children of only children; therefore our's have no cousins. I have always envied those with large families.

I have been fortunate to meet wonderful woman throughout my life in far away places and still continue contact. One of the woman created a name, the Succah, for our group. We gather together in our individual homes, but always knew that we were a phone call, or now, a computer away.

Lael Hazan @educatedpalate said...

Beautiful post. Both Giuliano and I are only children of only children; therefore our's have no cousins. I have always envied those with large families.

I have been fortunate to meet wonderful woman throughout my life in far away places and still continue contact. One of the woman created a name, the Succah, for our group. We gather together in our individual homes, but always knew that we were a phone call, or now, a computer away.

A Thought For Food said...

I love how all three of the cakes are a little different! This is just beautiful, Jamie. I wish i could have a big slice right now!

Ken│hungry rabbit said...

Beautiful and moving post. I love the connection from far away lands and definitely looking forward to meet you all in May. Now as for the cake, can I have a slice in May?

Happy Cook said...

Wowo I just read aobut the event and here you are with the post wowow.
Like you I we were also more closed to my moms family.
Loved reading how you got to know aobut family you never knew and then meeting up with them;

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A lovely post! I love genealogy and would like to do a little research myself...

Like you, I have met many like-minded friends on the net. People I haven't been able to find here.

That cake is exquisite! It's texture is awesome.

Cheers,

Rosa

Cake Duchess said...

What a gorgeous cake! How sweet that you 3 baked the same luscious cake. I will check out their cakes today too!And drool even more. Another lovely post, Jamie! baci!

Aparna said...

There is something about discovering family you didn't know about and also a special feeling to know that you belong there.

Nigella's bakes are always sinful, especially her chocolate bakes! :)
Yours looks very tempting.

Lindsay @Eat, Knit, Grow said...

Heavenly! Your cake is beautiful!

Cristina, from Buenos Aires to Paris said...

I would love to have friends to cook with me!! My friends only want to eat what I cook!
Great cake!

doggybloggy said...

is it christmas again already? wow this cake looks so simply festive in all its orange chocolateyness - would trade for a piece - and I am glad I know you!

Shulie said...

As a lovely post as always about family, friendship and cake! :) Would love to have a slice with my tea in few moments!!

Barbara Bakes said...

What a fun cake to bake together. You are so right. The world is just getting smaller and smaller. I love my foodie friends too!

Soma said...

A wonderful post as usual. My family is small and I never ventured on finding more than I saw... may be I should have. Now that I have lost my mom way earlier than I should have....
But I have indeed met beautiful people around.

The orange, chocolate, nuts and the orange flower water is making my wanna fly to one of you to get a slice:-)

Hugs

SaraOneTribeGourmet said...

I admire you so much Jamie! Every time I read your post, it touches! :)
Love the cake...I need a piece right now!

Tanvi@Sinfully Spicy said...

What an eloquent post.I never knew that all of my friends existed in a small computer screen until I shifted apartments 2 months back and suddenly realized that my day feels so empty without logging in.Me and my husband are the only two people in this faraway land and blogging has surely given a whole new meaning to my days.I am so happy to have found your blog.The cake looks wonderful-whats better than citrus and chocolate together.

GStaples said...

Jamie, love this post! I have been doing genealogy for the past 30 years, but only the last 5 or so have I really been doing it. Because of the internet I have found over 10 distant cousins and we have helped each other with the different lines. Love the internet!!! My sister and brothers had to help my mom move and came across boxes and boxes and boxes of old pictures. My sister was kind enough to send me most of them, so that we can put names to the faces. What a chore, yet it is exciting! In fact the past week as I have looked at some of the pictures and then Google their names, I have found 2 more cousins. They were both glad that I have found them, so we can share information. How cool is that???!!
Anyway, cake looks delicious and will stop writing now, so that I can look at the other two sites you suggested.
Keep up the great work and baking!

Adele said...

Thanks for a lovely post. I have had some lonely times since moving to Australia, but since I started blogging I've met the most wonderful people. Thank you for being part of the great community.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

A great entry for Sarah's Forever Nigella challenge. I'm so excited to be judging it! :D

Nuts about food said...

This is one of my favorite posts yet. I love when you talk about the amazing family you knew nothing of, it really is mindblowing when you think about it. I also don't know much about my family, about who they were and where they were from, even just a few generations back. Same goes for blogging friends. There really is so much that can enrichen our lives if we work on it, there is so much people miss out on. Yours is an ode to people, friendship, kinship, reaching out. It is all out there waiting, how much we miss if we don't act. ANd how much we would miss out on without the amazing era of computers.
By the way, I do think this "finding the ancestors" thing is a part of maturing...we somehow feel a need to reconnect, to understand where we came from as we start grasping the meaning of life more.

SMITH BITES said...

I just don't know where to even begin Jamie, the quote in the intro is spot on and JP's is a wise man (you don't need to share that with him if he tends to get a big head ;p). The internet is a powerful thing and opens so many doors that would otherwise remain closed and I for one, am happy to have found you. Oh what I would have missed, how poor I would be without your friendship - without all of the friendships I've made because of the internet. I've enjoyed watching this 'bake-a-thon' from twitter - all of you teasing, taunting really, about this cake and I must say, the anticipation of the unveiling darn near killed me . . . suffice it to say, that patience is not a virtue I have been blessed with! Completely worth the wait, this cake is - my only regret is that I'm not baking along with the 3 of you - but somehow your group of 3 seems perfect in every way!! Hugs dear friend!!!

Joy said...

When my father died I inherited all of his papers from his own genealogical journey. Poring through the pages of his precise handwriting, so similar to my own was wonderful if bittersweet. He writes with familiarity of these people who I can only imagine and then I found a surprise. One lone cousin moved his wife and baby across the country to where I now live and wouldn't you know, the next day when I was out wandering in a mall I saw his son's (at least, I think) artwork for sale. I would never have known I was actually related to this man with the same last name as me. You've captured genealogy so lovingly.

The cake is beautiful too!

Deeba PAB said...

LOVED reading your evocative and absolutely beautiful post Jamie, and couldn't help but think how similar the men in our lives are. Life can be as amazing as you want to make it, and my dear girl, you are doing a fabulous job! The cake is the perfect choice for Sarah...chocolate at it's seductive best. I am thrilled you chose orange coz that is my fave pairing with chocolate. Add almond & it gets dangerously more seductive! Bravo!!

Heather Davis said...

Jamie I love your sentence "We have become so accustomed to switching on the computer, logging on and sending friend and follow requests, leaving comments with a familiarity that would astound us in face-to-face social situations, connecting with people from every country in the world with stunning speed and fluidity." It's so true. There's so much about this crazy blogging world that I still haven't completely come to terms with but having jumped in head first I am now taking a few steps back and letting things flow more organically. Wow that was a long sentence! It has been great meeting some like-minded folk from all over the world - it's great seeing so many boundaries crossed. Anyways, cake looks great as always. Hx

Velva said...

This was a wonderful post and my first visit to your blog-its wonderful.

The chocolate orange cake is divine. This would pair beautifully with a good glass of zinfandel wine.

velva

5 Star Foodie said...

Wonderful looking cake - the combination of chocolate, orange flavor, and almonds sounds outstanding!

Žiupsnelis Druskos said...

Love your writing!

I baked this cake a while ago. Was really excited by the idea but very disappointed with the final result. It didnt taste orangy enough and didnt have the texture I'd expected.. Maybe it was just me? You know, some days are good for baking and some are not! :D

Jamie said...

@Žiupsnelis Druskos: Thanks so much for stopping here and for you very kind words! I too was also surprised with the grainy quality of the cake due to the almonds but did think it improved and got smoother as the days passed. I thought the flavor was perfect but could see adding some Grand Marnier to heighten the flavor. I think maybe we both used oranges that just weren't that flavorful? She has another Chocolate Orange Cake in a different book and I want to try that one next and compare!

Nisrine|Dinners and Dreams said...

Your husband sounds like a really nice man. Your family is lucky to have lived in Italy for 7 years. I visited Italy as a teenager and loved it! I would love to go again.
Delicious looking cake, Jamie!

lisaiscooking said...

It has been so fun getting to 'know' this lovely group of equally food obsessed folks over the last few years. Now, I'd like to actually meet more of you all! But, until a time for that presents itself, a virtual bake along is perfect. Lovely cake, and the marmalade topping sounds delish!

scrambledhenfruit said...

What a wonderful post- Here's to family and friends! That chocolate orange cake looks fabulous, and just the thing to bake together with special friends. :)

Tickled Red said...

I almost couldn't get past that gorgeous cake! But I did, two yrs after I met my surfer I sort of kicked started a little family reconnect for him.Turned out great :)

Nikki Brown said...

Don't you just love Nigella? I just love that she ends each show eating out of the fridge! A girl after my own heart!

Seattle Pastry Girl said...

Jamie, So fabulous I felt compelled to pass on a Stylish Blog Award via mine. Seriously, is there anything you can't do to perfection !

Colleen said...

Finally I get to come and read about your tandem baking event. WOW! You sure did choose an awesome cake for it. I have baked this before and absolutely adore the citrussy chocolate flavors. My favourite two flavors actually when it comes to chocolate...mind you ginger is way up there too. Another beautiful post from you Jamie. One that I loved reading. I didnt come before because I knew that I could never pop by and zip through one of your posts. I need a little while to take it all in and absorb it. Such a beautiful and apt quote at the beginning of this post. Hugs and love from Cape Town xx

The Duo Dishes said...

Love your photos, and you of course always paint a great picture with your words. If only that cake were real...at least for the rest of us. For now, a virtual slice will have to do!

Nuts about food said...

Just wanted to let you know I signed up for an account and am waiting for confirmation message to be able to vote for you! It is wonderful that you were nominated.

Pavithra said...

Orange and CHocolate are absolutely lovely combi and oh my i am so tempted that I wanted to make this recipe soon... gorgeous pictures and post Jamie.

Pavithra
www.dishesfrommykitchen.com

the good soup said...

I teach a bit of philosophy, and your post reminded me of Irigaray's writing on the matrilineal line, its erasure, by the 'surname'. And as I look back at my family tree, I see it there, the branches that never grew, the names that are elided, again and again, beneath the ever growing shade of our father's names.
But then I felt better when I remembered that even without our mother's names, we carry apart of them with us. In our cakes. Thanks so much for your post. Lovely to find you. Angela

Lori said...

This cake looks so good. I always love the addition of almond flour.

I have heard that if the news posted all the good things in the world, the friends, the connections, the love... that bad news would be a quick bleep in a sea of good news. I try to think of that often. ALl these connections are so wonderful. And you are right there are so many wonderful people in the world. Even the people seen as enemies are merely misunderstood.

Anna's Table said...

Jamie, I'm so glad you enjoyed my pear ginger cake post.Your visit gave me the opportunity to discouver your fabulous blog. I absolutely love all the retro photo inserts. I'm excited to follow your future posts and share recipes.

ClenbuTerol said...

Wow, great combination. I'd love to take a bite out of this one.

C. Terol
Love your blog

The Domestic Geisha said...

Jamie, I love the quote in the intro. The cake looks so delicious. I'm SO glad I found this site.

asiangrrlMN said...

One of the best thing about the internet is that it allows us to effortlessly cross time zones and countries with some rapid typing. One of the best thing about your blog are these awesome chocolate recipes!

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