I made Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake yesterday and I gotta say, I absolutely love it, for all that I was never massively sold on Jaffas as a kid. Not that we ate lollies all the time, or that I would have turned Jaffas down given the chance. But when the rare money I came across coincided with a trip into town I would tend towards a dollar mixture, or those sherbety fizzy lollies, or, eventually, showing my Spice Girls influnce, chupa chups. What I bought most of all though was Grape Hubba Bubba bubble gum, fifty cents a packet if I remember right. I loved that stuff. The combination of fleeting, fake-grape flavour (a million years removed from the wasp-guarded vine that grew – then withered away – on our wire fence) plus the bonus time-passing activity of blowing bubbles was pretty heady. Especially since casually snapping gum and consuming grape-flavoured things seemed very American, which was pleasing since I was so obsessed with Baby Sitters Club books. Erm, anyway Jaffas were never that high on my list. Although I’ve since realised that they’re probably not the best example of the two flavours anyway, I doubt that any actual oranges or decent chocolate suffered in their making…
Reading through Nigella Lawson’s new book Kitchen, which continues to make me want to cook everything from its pages, her Chocolate Orange Loaf called out to me (not literally…though give it time). Plain, dark-brown, oblong, it’s nothing fancy to look at, and in fact I was almost about to make her Blondies which has cool stuff like chocolate chunks and condensed milk in it. But then fate, or maybe something way less dramatic, like me just making a different decision, intervened. And I’m not even that fussed because I’ll probably make the blondies too before the weekend is out. Either way I’m glad I went the way of the chocolate-orange combination, forgoing my Jaffa-indifference, because the result was pretty stunning.
Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake
From Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen
- 150g soft butter
- 2 x 15ml tablespoons golden syrup
- 175g dark brown or muscovado sugar
- 150g flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 25g best-quality cocoa (I tend to buy Equagold, nothing else seems to taste as good
- 2 eggs
- zest of 2 oranges and the juice of one
Set your oven to 170 C/340 F and butter and line a loaf tin (or hunt down a silicon one). Beat the butter, golden syrup and sugar together. This is the hardest part, really – it tastes so good. Nigella asks you to alternate the dry ingredients with the eggs but I didn’t have the energy and I’d somehow already made a ridiculous mess so I just beat in the eggs – which makes the mixture much lighter and aerated – then folded in the dry ingredients with a metal spoon (more control than a fling-y spatula), followed by the orange zest and juice. Don’t fear if it looks a little curdled at any stage. Pour into the tin and bake for around 45 minutes.
I was worried that I’d overcooked mine – it looked a little ‘solid’ round the edges. I considered doing my usual cake-rescue method of making up a syrup to pour over, but after curiously slicing off a sliver, it turned out the loaf was just fine. Better than just fine, even.
The orange flavour isn’t overpowering, more fragrantly suggested than in-your-face, but what’s there is completely delicious. The citrus and the caramelly golden syrup seem to pick up something good in the dark, dark cocoa, giving the cake an almost gingerbread intensity of flavour even though it’s very light-textured. It’s seriously good with a cup of tea and I reckon it would be amazing spread with cream cheese but unfortunately I didn’t have any in the fridge to test this theory.
I’m not sure how long this would last for but it seems to be one of those Bernadette Peters-style cakes which just keeps getting better and better as the days go by.
I’ve been on a bit of a Sondheim kick, although it’s more like a Rockettes kickline than a solitary burst of commitment…I’ve been listening to so many interpretations of his music on youtube lately that linking to just one is a bit misleading but feel free to enjoy the late Eartha Kitt’s I’m Still Here from Follies.
Yesterday we bought Aloe Blacc’s new album Good Things, and the title doesn’t lie. It is a bit gloomy towards women but if that’s the experiences he had prior to writing these songs, well I guess fair enough, and it’s nicely balanced by the lump-in-throat inducing Mama Hold My Hand. The bouncy, catchy I Need A Dollar would be his best-known track but I love his slow-paced, sultry cover of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, which isn’t actually even on the album. Go find Good Things, it’s very easy to like.
Next time: I have so much Nigella going on right now that I’m probably going to have to hold up before I end up reproducing her entire book here on this blog. I’ve also made and loved her Apple Cinnamon muffins and crustless pizza and so they’ll no doubt end up on here soon.