Saturday, April 9, 2011

ISABELLE'S ORANGE CAKE

NOSTALGIA


I am just another big old softie, tearing up over black & white movies, ruggedly handsome tough guys and perky yet glamorous leading ladies never failing to fall into each other’s arms at the end, lips pressed together, camera fading into the distant horizon. The hefty weight of an old hardbound book in my hands, spine cracking as I riffle through in search of illustrations, following breathlessly the hopes of the most proper heroine battling against society’s rules, unable to declare her true passion for yet another ruggedly handsome man, a most eligible bachelor. I get all weepy over babies being born or people exchanging wedding vows, I am a sucker for happy endings. I adore traditions and festivities, am the first to start planning holidays or buying gifts, always as excited as a small child as birthdays approach. Entering anyone’s home I gravitate towards their bookshelves, staring at family photographs, skimming the titles of the books lining the walls, searching for secrets, wanting to know every tiny detail of their lives, understand who they really are.


I am just another sentimental fool, brooding over the past, dreams that have slipped through my fingers, turning to dust no matter how badly I try to hold on. Smiling, laughing aloud at each whimsical incident as it comes to mind, happy to return to some distant point in my life and savor the amusement. Whether funny or sad, I turn back so often to catch a glimpse of some souvenir, searching to capture each as a memento that I can hang on a charm bracelet and always keep close by. Photographs scattered across the tabletop, images fading with time, I slide one away from the next, uncovering a history, evoking a memory, a pinpoint bursting the bubble of time allowing those memories to spill out into my upturned hands. My drawers are filled with objects dear, keepsakes of those I love, reminders of my past.

So it is understandable that I am drawn to food with a history. Like a genealogical chart tacked up on the wall, I am fascinated when I can trace a recipe backwards in time, from one generation to the next, moving up the tree from daughter to mother to grandmother to great-grandmother and hopefully beyond. I close my eyes and imagine each of these women – or the occasional man – measuring, sifting, whisking, hands rubbed clean on the corner of a stiff cotton apron, then waiting patiently – or impatiently – as whatever they have prepared with love simmers on the stovetop or bakes in the oven, trying to keep occupied during this long period of anticipation. Who created this recipe? On what occasions was it served? Why was this particular recipe passed down from hand to hand, family cook to family cook, saved, cherished, preserved?


We recently spent a wonderful weekend in Brest with Isabelle and Dominique. Yet another weekend such as all the others, snuggled up cozily in their home, cooking and baking and catching up, sharing stories of our shared histories. We wander up the street on Saturday morning to the market in search of crabs and clams, freshly caught fish and tiny bigorneaux, cheeses and bread. Sunday morning, we stroll along the windswept coast, perched atop a cliff high above the ocean watching the waves crash wildly against the gorgeous stack of rocks spread out below. We return home to yet another homecooked meal, piles of crayfish and a platter of oysters followed inevitably by a homebaked dessert. Together the four of us have created our own history together as we have watched each others’ children grow up, our careers evolve, our hair turn gray. And over each meal shared, whether at their table or ours, the bonds grow stronger, the laughter louder, the emotions more intense. So when Isabelle offered to share with us her grandmother’s recipe for Orange Cake, I was as thrilled as I was intrigued. This is one recipe that has passed down from mother to daughter over four generations. In fact, she telephoned her own daughter, Clementine, for the exact quantities. And now this fabulous, magical cake has passed over to me.


Today would have been my brother’s birthday. Memories of him, of time spent together, hang heavy over me, swallowing me up in nostalgia and sadness. I think of the food we made together, dinners cooked, cakes created, celebrations feted with a special meal and I rummage through cookbooks and recipes clipped from magazines looking for hints of what we made together. You see, I think we are all aware of just how emotional and sentimental food is. Food is more than nourishment; food celebrates and consoles, food stirs up emotions and evokes memories, food brings us together and ties us together by what is created. Scents and tastes have the power to evoke times past, to bring us back to a special place or milestone that meant so much to us. Food is filled with memories of people, places, it is a reminder of what has been.


An absolutely stunning cake! The syrup permeates the cake leaving it dense, moist yet never wet, the perfect, most satisfying texture possible. A simple cake full of the flavor of winter's best oranges, as sweet or as bitter or as tart as you like them. Served simply as is, this is the perfect ending to a family meal, drizzled with Chocolate Ganache adds a certain pizzazz, an elegant touch, marrying perfectly with the orange. Simple to make, so easy to eat, I now understand why this is one recipe that has been kept and loved throughout the generations.

ISABELLE’S ORANGE CAKE
A cake made by Isabelle’s grandmother, the recipe handed down from mother to daughter again and again through 4 generations, now made by Isabelle and her daughter Clementine.

2 medium to large juice oranges, preferably pesticide free
230 g (8 oz) granulated sugar, either white or brown
230 g (8 oz, a little more than 16 Tbs) salted butter, sliced into chunks or large cubes
4 large eggs
200 g (7 oz) flour
¼ tsp salt (increase to ½ tsp if using unsalted butter)
1 ½ tsps baking powder

Orange Syrup:
2/3 cup freshly squeezed and strained orange juice, about 2 medium to large juice oranges
2 Tbs granulated sugar, either white or brown

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter the bottom and sides of a round baking pan, line the bottom with parchment then butter the parchment. Flour the pan, shaking out the excess and set aside.

Rinse the two oranges and rub dry. Finely grate the zest being careful not to include the bitter white pith underneath the orange zest. Juice and strain the two oranges; you should obtain about 2/3 to ¾ cup liquid and about 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon zest, more or less.

Gently melt the butter over low heat until about 2/3 to ¾ melted. Remove from the heat and carefully swirl the pan until the butter is completely melted. Set aside off of the heat to cool to room temperature.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.

In a large mixing bowl and using a wooden spoon, stir the sugar and the cooled melted butter until blended and smooth. Stir in the eggs one at a time, beating vigorously with the wooden spoon after each addition. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet in four additions until combined, smooth and lump-free after each addition, being careful not to splatter the flour out of the bowl. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in the finely grated orange zest. Add the orange juice and stir until blended together very well.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the center is just set and the cake is golden. (Isabelle bakes hers at 185°C and it takes closer to 25 minutes to set)

While the cake is baking, prepare the Orange Syrup: Gently heat the orange juice and the sugar in a small saucepan over low heat just until all of the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is warm. This should only take a minute or two at most. Set aside while the cake finishes baking.

Prepare a serving platter or plate larger than the cake by placing a large piece of aluminum foil on it.

When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and run a sharp knife around the edge to loosen. Place a cooling rack on the top of the pan and, wearing oven mitts so as not to burn yourself on the hot pan, flip the cake over. Lift off the pan, peel off and discard the parchment paper then place the aluminum foil-lined dish or platter on top of the cake then invert the cake upright. Immediately (the cake should still be hot) spoon the Orange Syrup all over the top of the cake allowing some to drip down the sides. Make sure the entire surface of the cake is infused/soaked with the Syrup. Allow the cake to cool completely before serving.

Note:
Isabelle does not line her pan with parchment. When the cake was removed from the oven, she spoons the syrup evenly over the top of the cake while it is still in the pan, allowing it to cool in the pan before serving… directly from the cake pan, family style.

If you like, drizzle some Chocolate Ganache over the top of the cake just before serving. I used an orange-infused dark chocolate to make the ganache.


57 comments:

Sanjeeta kk said...

What a gorgeous cake, Jamie! Love the texture, color and the chocolate drizzle over it. Perfect for a great weekend indulgence :)

Bonnie said...

My mouth is watering. This is such a visually simple but beautiful cake.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful cake, Jamie. But I need to tell you I read your blogg mainly because of the texts. You write beautifully and it is just a pleasure to go through the lines discovering the stories among the amazing choice of words. Not sure you've already written a book (in which case I do need to catch up) but if you didn't, it should be your next project. Your followers would be delighted...
All the best
Elizabeth - from Switzerland

Jamie said...

@Elizabeth: I can't begin to thank you for your wonderful words! Writing is my joy and my passion and your generous compliment is the most amazing encouragement to me. I have not (yet) written a book but it is what I dream of doing and I do hope it will be my next project. Thank you and thank you for visiting!

Snooky doodle said...

yummy cake :)

Priya said...

Omg, cake looks out of the world, cant take my eyes from ur stunning clicks..

Nisrine M. said...

Wonderul B&W photos and stries. Gorgeous cake as well Jamie. I could totally have some right now!

Cristina, from Buenos Aires to Paris said...

Wow!! What a talented writer you are!! This is a real masterpiece...and don't worry..you are not alone in that "club" I feel I share many "symptoms" with you!
Un beso,
Cristina

Kulsum@JourneyKitchen said...

Oh I'm sucker for food with history myself. There is always something special when you making something that you know might have been made years ago in another kitchen, and I start imagining the whole vibe and atmosphere. It just makes what you making extra special. How kind of Isabella to share the recipe? I love love orange cakes and I'm definitely trying this!

Ivy said...

You are absolutely right. Food evokes a lot of memories of our beloved ones, especially the ones who have "left" us. Orange and chocolate are a perfect match and I also love your writing style.

Junglefrog said...

What a beautiful cake Jamie and a wonderful and fitting tribute to your brother too. Looks delicious!

Y said...

Beautiful cake! I'd happily eat that plain, without the chocolate ganache (which, coming from me, is saying a lot) :)

Marnely Rodriguez said...

Yum! This cake looks delicious and a perfect welcoming to warmer weather!

chefpandita.com said...

What a lovely post, Jamie! Recipes like this are keepers, I recently got a notebook full of recipes that my mom wrote down when she was just a teenager. Its so funny because some recipes call for things like "5 cents of cheese". It should be interesting trying to recreate them :)

chefpandita.com said...

What a lovely post, Jamie! Recipes like this are keepers, I recently got a notebook full of recipes that my mom wrote down when she was just a teenager. Its so funny because some recipes call for things like "5 cents of cheese". It should be interesting trying to recreate them :)

GStaples said...

Jamie, I loved this post, as this is how I feel and can't seem to write the words as beautifully as you do. I too love to look at books especially cookbooks when I go visiting. I now have my mother's old recipe box and am putting her recipes on a blog to share with my family and others. As I cook or bake some of the recipes up, the smell does bring me wonderful memories! Thanks for sharing and the cake looks delicious, especially with the ganache!

Maris (In Good Taste) said...

I could sit down ans eat half that cake! Beautiful!

https://georgiecakes.wordpress.com said...

My mother made a similar cake for special holidays, those are wonderful memories, absolutely wonderful memories and why I began my blog to preserve them. I adore your stories you make me feel like I was right there with you wrapped up in a wonderful black & white movie or novella, I'm very nostalgic too! This cake reminds me of my Grandmother also, Angelikoula!

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

I am quite tickled that this orange cake recipe is being handed down via someone called Clementine - so appropriate!

Hugs to you on your brother's birthday. I'm sure he would have been delighted by you making him this cake.

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

I'm with you, Jamie. I just love the history of the food I've had and share. I have a little file box of my Great-grandmothers recipes and would love to try each one. I find myself thinking back to childhood and wanting to create the foods I remember. Beautiful post (and cake!)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Like you, I am a nostalgic peron and a dreamer who likes to remember the past and loves to learn about the history behind things...

That cake is marvelous! A precious recipe.

Cheers,

Rosa

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I absolutely love food with a history. Actually anything with a history instantly becomes much more worthwhile reading about-including this cake! :D

shaz said...

I love hearing about the history behind the food too. The cake sounds perfect, and simple too. Hugs to you as you remember your brother, and celebrate his memory.

5 Star Foodie said...

This cake sounds amazing, the texture looks absolutely perfect and the flavor profile is just wonderful here. Thanks for sharing such a special recipe with us!

Elra's cooking and baking said...

Oh, I can almost taste this divine, citrucy cake. You know I love citrus very much, so I am bookmarking this recipe. Thanks Jamie!

ABowlOfMush said...

That's a gorgeously moist cake! Beautiful! :)

Lana said...

First, you make me walk with you as your twin, experiencing absolutely everything the same way. Then you plunge me back to my teenage years mentioning Brest, and I drag out of oblivion Jacques Prevert and his "Barbara". In the end I am smiling and crying for your brother and you, knowing that good and bad, sweet and bitter, sad and happy are all the parts of our wonderful lives. Thanks for another beautiful, but adult good-night story:)

Nuts about food said...

What a lovely cake, full of history, to make for your brother's birthday and to remember him with.

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

I have that same tendency to be drawn to what people have on their bookshelves, especially their cookbooks. It's always fascinating to me to see what books people hold dear. The older ones in particular being the most captivating like you said for the sense of history. That's makes these hand me down recipes so special.

Lael Hazan @educatedpalate said...

Taste memories are delicious, both in the mouth and the mind. The recollection of times spent with family and friends when one makes a favored dish really is priceless. Thank you for reminding us of the best of both.

Mamatkamal said...

Looks delicious! Have a nice day!

The Rambling Tart said...

You're right, Jamie, food is so sentimental, full of memories and emotion. Big hug to you as you grieve your brother today. I lost my dear friend this week and am grieving too. How lucky we both are to have had such good men in our lives to love and care for us.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

A huge hug to you on your brother's birthday and a huig for you for being the strong Saucy sister one can look up to!

Now yet another cake I need you to send me. I love citrus cakes and have a recipe of an awesome orange cake too from my mother - you'll like it!

Deeba PAB said...

Love reading your posts Jamie, steeped in poignant memories and evocative thoughts. What is food without a connect? This is a beautiful cake by my beautiful sistah! BIG HUGS!!

Sippity Sup said...

I read much more than I comment. But of course I could not read quietly after such a tribute to your brother. I have already commented on how closely touched I am by his story and your love. Besides I knew I was in a for a small tear when I read the title of this post. Nostalgia is something you wear very well. GREG

Lost In Cheeseland said...

beautiful sentiment for a beautiful dessert. I'm sure your brother would be thrilled you've continued your tradition of cooking/baking!

Heavenly Housewife said...

Lovely cake, the texture of the inside looks so moist and soft. I know this cake and I could be great friends.
*kisses* HH

Ben said...

Hmm I love orange cake. This looks delicious!

valerie s. said...

Jamie, I just made your lovely Berry Mascarpone Cheesecakes featured on yesterday's Huffington Post's food page. I have a few questions, hope you can help me. When I made the mascarpone filling, the cheese, sugar, vanilla mixture wasn't smooth and creamy, rather clumpy and gritty. Also, it seemed that there should have been more whipped cream added to the filling, mine seemed dense. When I added the crushed berries, the filling seemed darker in color than yours. This is such a beautiful dessert, I want to get it right! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

Jamie said...

@valerie s. : I am happy you made my dessert but if you could email me I can answer you more completely in an email. Thanks!

tasteofbeirut said...

I agree with you that food and feelings (and history) are intimately meshed; this is why it is so important to transmit family traditions through food as well. Love this cake (of course I love anything with citrus) and I was looking for a recipe for matzo: Do you have one ?

Jamie said...

@tasteofbeirut: Joumana I was just looking through my matzoh recipes and may do one or two this weekend.

Cake Duchess said...

Ciao bella Jamie. I am like you and go first to the books and photos. I feel silly looking around at those items while the hostess is showing me around. I guess I'm not the only one. Such sweet photos of your brother and I feel your nostalgia...triste nostalgia. Isabelle's recipe is fabulous and I'm so happy you shared it with us (and I agree...we are ready for your book!)

Anna Johnston said...

Ahhhhh.... Another Disney - Happy Ending - kinda gal. My brother and I have always been suckers for the happy ending where you go Awwww...
Great cake and lovely writing. How exciting that a book is your next project. We have a bunch of family recipes, just last night we made a pasta dish 'Gran's Spaghetti', the recipe dates back as far as 100 years. Always feels special when we eat those dishes.
Have a wonderful weekend!

Andie said...

"So it is understandable that I am drawn to food with a history. Like a genealogical chart tacked up on the wall, I am fascinated when I can trace a recipe backwards in time, from one generation to the next, moving up the tree from daughter to mother to grandmother to great-grandmother and hopefully beyond."

You are an exquisite writer, Jamie. A beautiful post and a cake I'm going to think about for the rest of the day :)

Fresh Local and Best said...

This is a sweet post, and you are a deeply sentimental soul. Yes we are all touched by food memories, and lucky for us we can relive many of the good times in our lives through these personal favorites. This looks like a wonderful tried and true recipe!

Sarah said...

wonderful, evocative writing, I agree with Anonymous- write a book already! Food is a connector, bringing us back to memories that have been stored away for too long.

Greg said...

I love the flavors at play here. Wonderful post.

Butter said...

The beauty in your writing takes my breath away. I found myself swept off my feet by your blog today - loved this post. Beautiful.

Carolyn Jung said...

I have a weakness for citrus in cakes. And this one just looks stunning. Love the candied peel over the top, too.

welbilt manual said...

Great looking cake! Would be perfect with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream :)

Anita said...

What a lovely recipe to share with us all. Those handed down through generations should always be cherished.

California Laurel said...

Sounds delicious! I have been on a cake binge...it started with chocolate guinness and it doesn't look like it will be ending anytime soon!

asiangrrl said...

A bittersweet post, Jamie. I can almost taste the sepia that tinges your portrait of your brother. This cake, though--it's purely exquisite.

buy rift account said...

OMG! that is so delicious.. it made me so hungry right now. .wanna have a slice of it.=)

BlondeBomber said...

this looks incredible. Not many people like orange flavor, but it's one of my favorites. One of the best cupcakes ever from my childhood was an orange and creme filled cupcake. I will definitely make this.

Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things said...

I love this cake and its story, Jamie.

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