Last year, when I made that dud of a clementine clafoutis a whole bunch of you brought Nigella Lawson’s Clementine Cake to my attention. But, by that point in the winter I was tired of clementines and filed it away to try the following year.
It was a long wait. When you know you want to make something but the item is out of season, it seems like its time will never arrive. Last week, I came upon an artichoke recipe that is clearly designed to blow my artichoke-loving mind but are artichokes (that you’d want to buy, not that one with a fuzzy pelt I saw last week) anywhere? Nope. And tomatoes… flavorful, non-mealy tomatoes. I can’t even think about how far off they are. It makes me weep.
Nevertheless, I suspect that each and every one of our households has adopted one or ten of these crates this winter. I think we’re on box four or five, which is kind of frightening when you realize there are just two of us. So I don’t think about it.
Part of the reason making this cake seemed like the longest wait ever is that it endlessly fascinated me — I cannot read a recipe that uses a whole citrus fruit, rind and all, and not be curious to try it. It’s led me to some wonderful things, like this unfathomably good Strawberry Sorbet, a Whole Lemon Tart, Shaker Lemon Pie and more candied peels than I can count.
In this case, you take whole clementines and boil them for two hours before grinding them up, adding some sugar, a lot of eggs, a ton of ground almonds and baking powder and that’s it: you have a cake. And because it has no butter and no flour, I figure that the Resolutions-oriented among us will appreciate it — as well as the people still waiting for an update on last year’s clementine fiasco.
Adapted from Nigella Lawson
… Oh right, I forgot to mention that this cake was darn good. I am not going to tell you that it is my favorite cake ever. It wasn’t. But all of the things I was worried would go wrong — it would be too bitter, it would be too tough, nobody would eat it — I couldn’t have been further off about. It is ridiculously moist, not bitter and surprisingly popular at a dinner party. You know, until you tell people they’re eating a cake comprised of boiled rinds.
4 to 5 clementines (about 375grams/slightly less than 1 pound total weight)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) sugar
2 1/3 cups (250 grams) ground almonds
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
Optional: Powdered sugar for dusting, or for making a glaze
Put the clementines in a pot with cold water to cover, bring to the boil, and cook for 2 hours. Drain and, when cool, cut each clementine in half and remove the seeds. Then finely chop the skins, pith, and fruit in the processor (or by hand, of course).
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
Butter and line an 8-inch (21 centimeter) springform pan with parchment paper. (I used a 9-inch, it worked fine.)
Beat the eggs. Add the sugar, almonds, and baking powder. Mix well, adding the chopped clementines.
Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 50 minutes*, when a skewer will come out clean; you might have to cover the cake with foil after about 20 to 30 minutes to stop the top from over-browning.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool, in the pan on a rack. When the cake is cold, you can take it out of the pan and dust it with powdered sugar. I made a glaze of powdered sugar and a tablespoon of clementine juice because I was convinced the cake would be too bitter. It was not necessary. Nigella says the cake is best on the second day, but ours never made it that long.
Variations: Nigella says she’s also made this with an equal weight of oranges and lemons, in which case the sugar is increased to 1 1/4 cups.
* I am very unclear on the correct baking time, as you can see. Nigella’s recipe says it will 60 minutes. When I checked on it at 40 minutes (because I think you should start checking on any baked good at the 2/3 mark) it was done. Very done. Dark-brown edge-level done. And my oven runs cool. But I had made the cake in a one-inch larger pan, which made it slightly thinner. Which is all to say: Start checking at 30 minutes. Better to check too often than char your cake.