Zesty Lemon Almond Cake with Spiced Tangerine Sauce

Moist Lemon Almond Cake

The winter winds have me looking for excuses to turn the oven on. Since my future Mother-in-Law was coming for dinner, the decision was finalized. Cake for dessert.
When I had my wedding cake business I always had pounds and pounds of butter, stacks and stacks of eggs, and never ending bins of flour and sugar at my disposal. Whenever I wanted to get creative in the kitchen I never had to stop to think about what was in the cupboard.
Now I find myself, for the first time in 25 years, purchasing butter at the supermarket- but I rarely eat it. I trend to the healthier olive oil in my cooking, and that is including baking as well. In many recipes oil and butter may be interchanged, but not always to the best advantage. It’s the buttery goodness in brioche that makes the difference, the same-of course- in a sugar cookie.

Last minute baking may require some forgiveness, in a pinch you could get away with plenty. This cake does not need any apologies or excuses- The oil makes for a moist delicious cake that easily waves a dismissive hand at butter.

When it came to deciding what flavor cake to make, my cupboard yielded plenty of flour, sugar and eggs. There were some almonds, a lemon on the counter, and an ambitious stack of tangerines in the fruit bowl. {I promised I would eat them all when I hoisted that big bag into my cart, but they were starting to best me} I also had a container of buttermilk, something many southern women keep at the ready.

As I acquaint myself with southern living I am amazed at the cultural differences in the market aisles. At my regular store I was amazed to see that there were 8 varieties of buttermilk and mostly in half gallon sizes. In contrast there was one option for ricotta, offered only in 16oz containers. On my NY shelves the offerings are the exact opposite. Perhaps this is just a quirk of the store manager, but I was still baffled to think how was all that buttermilk being used?

I have a few “out of the cupboard” cake recipes that everyone should have up their sleeve. This is a pretty nice one. You can substitute the almonds for other nuts, or simply leave them out. You can also switch up the fruit for the sauce- frozen fruits being a perfect thing.

This particular cake was tangy due to the soaking of a lemon juice simple syrup. It’s a great cake for simple gatherings, coffee klatches and, in my case, my Mother-in-Law.

Zesty Lemon Almond Cake with Spiced Tangerine Sauce
makes a 9″ single layer cake- 10 small slices
2.5c ap flour
1.5t baking powder
.5t baking soda
.25t salt
10T vegetable oil
1.33 c sugar
3 large eggs
1c buttermilk
.5c almonds, toasted and rough chopped
zest and juice from one lemon, separated
.5c water
.5c sugar
2 tangerines
.5c sugar
1c water
.25t cinnamon
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350˚ and prepare a 9″ cake pan with cooking spray
In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a separate bowl whisk together the oil, sugar and eggs into a thick emulsion. Add the lemon zest.
Add the egg mixture and half the buttermilk to the flour and stir until mostly smooth, then add the rest of the buttermilk and the almonds. Stir gently until smooth.
Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden and the center of the cake is springy to the touch. Approx 25 mins.
While the cake is baking, prepare the lemon syrup and the Tangerine Sauce.
In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh lemon juice. After the cake is removed from the oven, and still warm, evenly pour the syrup over the top of the cake, and allow to soak in.
To prepare the Tangerine Sauce, using a knife cut off the tops of the tangerines and then slice off the sides. Following along the membranes, remove the sections of tangerine flesh and drop into a small saucepan, allowing any juices to drip into the pan as well.
Add the sugar, water and cinnamon and bring to the boil. Allow the sauce to gently boil for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Serve the sauce either warmed or room temperature. 
{A splash of Cointreau or Grand Marnier would be a lovely addition if you’re so inclined}

{Day 2} Candied Fruits For Sweet and Savory Treats

The Winter fruits can become jewels under the right conditions. There is magic in the glistening, translucence that comes from the candying process. As the days grow gray and the light turns to darkness sooner and sooner I love the deep vibrant colors that sparkle on the plate.

The real miracle is it’s so easy to do and delightful to give.

I’ve come up with three different candied fruits. Pear Slices, Spicy Tangerine Sauce and Candied Ginger. Yeah, I know, the ginger is nothing really new- but the resulting leftover syrup you get from the process is going to be used for a future post for something I promise you will adore- so don’t discount the ginger.

Making jewels by candying fruit is basically a two step process. First the fruit is combined with sugar, either directly in the case of the pears, or in a syrup. Next comes the heat. The pears are baked for a short while and then flipped, and the ginger and tangerines simmered in the syrup until it reaches it’s translucency.
I’ve paired the pears here with some blue artisinal bleu cheese and toasted walnuts. A lovely gift is to put the trio into a package. But the pears are also great along with a chunk of high quality chocolate for a dessert plate. My friend Priscilla Martell, a cookbook writer, chef and all around exceptional person- shared with me a link to an artisanal cheese maker in Connecticut for Cato Corner Farm. She says, “One of those little local success stories.” If Priscilla recommend them I suggest you might give them a look see.
The tangerines are remarkable. I cannot begin to tell you how delectable they are. The sweet tangy orange is made bright with a hit of chili flakes. Shown here drizzled over a goat cheese log- but can I tell you? Set this up with some ice cream and your friends will get down on their knees and praise you.
I recommend packing the Tangerines in a jar with the slices ringing the outside of the jar and then fill the middle with the chunky syrup. The presentation is show stopping.
Packaging is always where it’s at and can transport the mundane into a delight. If you plan to put the pears into a bag I recommend using cellophane. This will prevent them from getting sticky, which is what happens when placed in plastic.
The same with the ginger. Though the ginger would be excellent in a jar as well.
*Check the Holiday Resource page to find links to find bags, bows and jars*
Pear Slices
recipe taken from Donna Hay Magazine
Slice pears on a mandoline or in even 1/8 inch slices.
Press each side into sugar and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet
Bake at 350˚ for 15 minutes~then flip the pears and bake another 15. Take care doing this since hot sugar can cause nasty burns
Once out of the oven carefully transfer the pears to a drying rack and allow the pears to fully dry. If you live in a humid place placing the rack in a turned off oven with a pilot light will do the trick.
Spicy Tangerine Sauce
a Gail Watson recipe
This recipe is in ratio, so you can make as little or great as you would like. I used 3 tangerines for the recipe shown
Slice top and bottom off of the tangerines and reserve. Make 1/8″ thin slices of half of the fruit and rough top the other half, including  the tops and bottoms.
Measure out the volume of fruit and place into a sauce pan.
Next add equal amounts of sugar and water to the pot- 
2c tangerines:2cups sugar:2cups water
Add a generous pinch of chili flakes and 3 star anise cloves to every 3 tangerines.
Bring all to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer. 
Simmer the fruit for 30 mins or until the rinds are soft and the slices are translucent.
Can properly into jars, or jar and keep in the fridge for 3 weeks.
Warm sauce over cheese is amazing.
Candied Ginger
This is another ratio recipe. Purchase ginger that is firm and thin skinned- which is spicier in the end. Older ginger is fine if that is all you can find, but nothing dried out and shriveled. The ginger shrinks as you cook it, so get triple the volume you will need.
Scrape the skins off the ginger using a teaspoon. This works remarkably well and preserves the most flesh. It’s also so much easier to work around the knobs and ends.
Slice the ginger into 1//8-1/4″ slices. I made coins, but you can do long strips etc.
As above, into a pan measure 1:1:1 ratio of ginger to water to sugar.
Simmer in pan on the stove until the ginger is tender. Mine took a good 30 minutes, but it will just depend on the thickness of your slices.
Strain the slices and RESERVE the syrup (I’ve got an great use of it in a future post)
Lay the slices on a drying rack and allow to dry to a tacky state. This is important. If you rush the sugaring process you can end up with a gooey mess, so be patient.
Once dry enough toss the ginger in some sugar and you’re good to go!
{btw-I used this gingered sugar for the pears- can’t say it really added anything, but it couldn’t hurt}
Keep the ginger in an airtight container so it doesn’t dry out. It will keep for 3 months if stored well.