3 Decades, & Cake

I have a secret. Don’t tell anyone, but 30 years ago today at exactly 8:02 AM, I was thrust into the world, eyes wide open, crying incessantly; I was loud and proud from the start. At that moment, a look of horror spread across my dad’s face. Apparently, he was a bit unprepared for the site of baby delivery, or so my gramma once told me. It could have been all that black hair on my head, which agreeably would have been a bit unexpected, indeed a surprise to a light-haired guy married to a light-haired girl. Luckily, he came around and decided I was cute after all, and that I was definitely his :). Shew!

Thirty years later, it’s hard to tell what color my hair will be from one week to the next, but that’s a discussion for another day. This week, it’s red, baby.

With the cat out of the bag, I have to admit I have mixed emotions about today. I’m not sure if I’m ready to begin another decade; my 20’s started off somewhat crappily but improved consistently. I like the upward trend, minus the early trough, but I plan to instead start this 4th decade off at a high point, despite my reluctance to enter my 30’s. I enjoyed being a “twenty something”, but I think I’ll start to adhere to the “age is just a number” belief and move forward. So with that, Happy Birthday to me!

I was informed that I didn’t need to make myself a cake this year (and who knows what else Hubs has up his sleeve), so instead, I made one for somebody else. Our pals Jennifer & Jon moved (again! but we moved a lot too before we broke the bank and bought this place) this past weekend. Over their past 5 years of living in Chicago, they’ve slowly moved closer and closer to us and this time – they are 4 blocks away! Woot! Of course, I’m sure that wasn’t their intention, but nevertheless, I likey. So I thought I’d spend an evening making them a special housewarming treat since I had a hankerin’ for baking and I can’t, or rather, don’t need to, bake my own self a cake :).

The beauty of making cake for other people is that you still enjoy the aroma, and in this case, the smell of tangerines dancing into each and every nook and cranny of your place. Tangerines smell like springtime to me, even though you eat them more in winter; they smell sweet and fruity and smelling them makes me want to eat marmalade on toast while sitting in a big field of dandelions, underneath a gingham blanket with sweet wine and my my friend’s puppy running about.

In absence of those fields (and the puppy), let’s eat cake instead. Whether you’re celebrating gracefully leaving your 3rd decade behind, or perhaps a move or an anniversary, or maybe just because you want to and you do what you want when you want, eat cake. Eat tangerine cake, at that.

Happy Weekend!

Tangerine Almond Cake w/ Blueberry-Basil Sauce
Adapted from Seven Spoons who adapted from Nigella Lawson

You’ll question this recipe at first, I know you will, and you should. First, there’s no flour – eek! Second, whole tangerines go into it – double eek! But hold it together, and give this inherently gluten-free novelty a try. It’s an adaptation from Nigella Lawson, mind you. If clementines are available, start there, but probably any thin-skinned citrus will do. This cake is amazingly easy and so moist and soft you’ll question the doneness of it – I certainly did. The texture – different, but in a good way. But trust me; rather, trust Nigella and all the hundreds who’ve made this cake, including Tara at Seven Spoons.

printable version

1 lb tangerines (or clementines, nothing with too many seeds…)
9 oz whole, unshelled almonds
6 eggs
8 oz sugar
1/2 of a vanilla bean pod
1 1/2 t baking powder
pinch of salt

sauce (optional)
1 1/2 c frozen blueberries (or fresh, if in season, but with less water added)
3-4 T powdered sugar
3 basil leaves

put tangerines in large pot and cover with water (they will float like crazy, but use enough water to theoretically cover them). toss in vanilla bean (do not slice open). bring to boil, reduce heat to medium and cook whole tangerines for about 2 hours until they’re extra tender (i.e., soft when you squeeze gently with tongs). remove from pot and let cool. scrape vanilla bean and set seeds aside.

preheat oven to 375 F. over a large bowl, cut tangerines and remove any seeds and sit aside; squeeze to release any excess water (which will help on the “moistness factor”). spray an 8-inch springform pan, then line with parchment paper on the bottom and sides and spray again.

in a food processor, grind almonds until a coarse, powdery substance develops. add tangerines (skin too) and grind until a smooth, thick paste forms. it will still have some pieces of almond/tangerine visible.

in a large bowl, beat eggs until blended. add sugar and vanilla bean seeds, then baking powder and salt. whisk in tangerine/almond mixture. at this point it will actually look like cake batter, but more coarse.

pour batter into parchment-lined pan and place atop baking sheet. bake for ~60-70 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean, rotating once halfway through baking. cool completely on a wire rack.

meanwhile, make blueberry-basil sauce. mix blueberries with powdered sugar and basil leaves in a small saucepan over medium heat. add about 2 T water and cook until juices form. sweeten with more sugar to taste. puree or keep clumpy but remove basil leaves. serve over cooled cake.

18 thoughts on “3 Decades, & Cake

  1. Lydia says:

    Can’t wait to try this one! I love your recipes and have always been a big fan of Nigella – I love her writing too!

  2. Happy Birthday to you!!! At the ripe old age of 33, I can tell you that the 30s just keep getting better! (But then, I was more than delighted to cast aside my crisis-filled late 20s.) Hope you enjoy your weekend celebrations! Thank cake looks awesome, too!

  3. Happy Birthday! Your cake looks wonderful – especially the blueberry basil sauce. I would never have thought of that one and I have a ton of basil. I may have to use that sauce just for some vanilla ice cream!

    • Lydia – I’m glad you enjoy the reads and recipes – thank you!

      Jared – tell Alice an early happy birthday. I’m sure you’ll do it up!

      Jenn – thanks! and i agree – the 20s had some crises, that’s for sure! Hope the 30’s are ALL GOOD!

      Jessica – thanks, and good to know!

      Kenna – thanks!

      Chef Dennis – thanks, and glad you found me 🙂

      Katie & Emily – thanks, and definitely try out the sauce. it was a last-minute addition that I thought would be nice with the orange/almond vibe! hope y’all like it!

  4. Natasha says:

    This one sounds interesting. But one issue, egg allergy, so any substitute for eggs? Or at least not having to use 6 eggs – mix flour and eggs probably??

  5. Hey Natasha – I don’t know if you could substitute that many eggs in this recipe and get away with it…. it’s already an “odd” recipe! You could try the flax seed substitution (1 T flax ground into 3 T water replaces 1 egg) and see if it works, but that’s all the advice I have. If you do try it, let me know if it works!

    • Natasha says:

      So I did not use eggs at all and used flax seeds instead. The issue with this was since there was no binding material for the tangerines – this did not really end up being a cake. But instead I had a lovely orange pudding. I had used some cream (very less) in the mix and added some chocochips for flavour – it turned out nice. It can be a good Sunday Dessert.
      But ensure that all your tangerines are sweet. Even one of them being sour can ruin the taste to some extent!
      Next target, velvet cake probably! 🙂

      • had a feeling the binding would be the issue in a cake like this! But! I’m glad it at least turned into something tasty :). Thanks for sharing ~

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