Of December and Orange Cakes

December has special significance for the family. Much before we stuff ourselves with plum cake and ginger bread over Christmas, and ring in the New Year, we gather together mid-month to celebrate a bunch of wedding anniversaries.  Come December, I want to cease all industrious activity and devote the month to boozy brunches, picnics in the wintery sunshine, long lazy lunches, and midnight parties. In short, I see the world through a haze of tinsel and fairy lights during this time of the year. It is gorgeously scented with cinnamon and nutmeg, and Jingle Bells plays repeatedly in my brain.

Today’s celebration lunch was at a restaurant which I suspect will rapidly become a favorite. Ever since I bought strawberries and used them rather unimaginatively in salads and smoothies, I have been dreaming of baking with these bright jewels. I imagined, in great detail, piles of whipped cream and drizzles of white chocolate ganache; there would be strawberry layered cake, filled with strawberry compote, and topped with whole strawberries. It was going to be EPIC and a sure shot way to get satiated and grow irreversibly tired of strawberries. Except that, this morning, when I hurriedly tramped, yet again, to the greengrocer’s, he did not have even one lonely berry in sight.

So I got oranges instead.

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Jaggery Orange Cake

I had several recipes picked out for the glorious strawberry cake, none of which, unsurprisingly, featured oranges. I dejectedly decided to fall back on Smitten Kitchen’s fail-safe orange chocolate chunk cake. Not that Deb’s cake is one to disappoint, the crumbly crust being good enough – all by itself – to die for. But it was supposed to a day of trying a new recipe, baking something for the first time. So on the way back, much to the annoyance of morning commuters, and other pedestrians, I glued myself to Google. After a few quality minutes of jaywalking, a couple of narrow escapes, I stumbled upon Ginger and Jaggery Cake.

Two hours later, I had tremendously dirty kitchen counters, a sink full of washing, liberal spatters of batter on my lovely self, and a beautiful cake. Since I modified both the ingredients and the method from the original recipe, putting my version down:

Ingredients: 100 gm butter, 135 gm powdered jaggery, 3 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp orange juice, ¼ cup yoghurt, 2 eggs, zest of 1 orange, 1 tsp each of vanilla extract, cinnamon powder, dried ginger powder, and baking powder, ½ tsp baking soda, 175 gm of whole wheat flour, a handful of dried cranberries.

Method:

  • Soften the butter using the paddle attachment of the stand mixer, for thirty second or so. Add the powdered jaggery and cream it
  • Add the other liquids – orange juice, honey and yoghurt and whizz some more. Periodically, scrape down the sides of the bowl. At this point, do not be alarmed that the batter bears a close resemblance to baby puke. Soldier on
  • Add the eggs one by one, mixing in between. The uncanny resemblance will grow stronger. Do not be deterred. Add the zest and mix. Follow with the cinnamon powder and dry ginger powder. Mix. Add the baking soda and baking powder. Mix
  • Add the flour slowly. Mix till it beautifully comes together into this golden colored batter. This shall take barely a minute on a low setting
  • Pour into a pre-greased 8 inch pan
  • Scatter cranberries on top
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes in a preheated oven at 180 c

I reckon you can as easily mix by hand, since there is no heavy duty whipping involved.

I warned folks as they lustily cut into it – given this was the first time I had baked with jaggery (plus the WW effect) – that regardless of the taste, they should loudly pretend to like it. I could have saved my breath. This cake needs no caveats. It has a beautiful crumb, a rich and dark texture and tastes extremely Christmassy. The cranberries become plum like and are unexpected bursts of flavor. You could potentially replace them with raisins, and add almond or pistachio flakes to top. I used a dusting of icing sugar after the cake had cooled. Will experiment with some sweetened orange juice the next time and let you know.

Please go out and get some jaggery now. Get those oranges. Buy that dried ginger powder. You need to make this without further delay. Trust me, it is EPIC.

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