Last week, Kenneth Branaugh’s Cinderella lured me away on a crucial writing night, so I neglected to post. I never go to movies because I am a cheapskate, the previews are oppressively loud, the junk food upsets me and besides, people are there. Strangers. But you may recall that I have daughters, and so I ventured out, my purse stuffed to bursting with homemade popcorn. I don’t regret it either, because this was a lavish and satisfying film with remarkable sets, stunning costumes and a compelling heroine.
Sadly, for all its merits, it featured almost no food. I held out for the ball, assuming there would be the dependable banquet table, bedecked with gooey cakes and cascading grapes, but alas, no. The film teased me with a glimpse of currant muffins and dangled some drab cookies my way, but otherwise, no edibles. For a film so long on visuals, it was strikingly short on victuals.
But when I was trying to recall instances of food, I thought of Cinderella gathering eggs from her chickens. I too had the privilege of gathering a few eggs this week, though not accompanied by talking mice. Once a week, I work with some students at a horse ranch, where roams a flock of noisy chickens. These eggs are the real thing. There is genuine hay adhered to the many-colored shells, and the yolks are tangerine orange. These can turn cake batter a deep golden color, without the aid of a fairy godmother.
A cake I like to make when I have good eggs, and also just because it’s so weird, is Nigella Lawson’s clementine cake. This recipe involves boiling oranges for a couple hours. Oranges bobbing merrily around a pot seems like something you would see in a fairy tale kitchen, or the kitchen of someone who isn’t a very good cook. One may as well boil tennis balls, or so I used to think.
But boil them you must, about a pound of them (any oranges will do) for two hours. Once they cool, blitz them in the food processor, add 2 1/3 cups of almond flour, 6 eggs, an eye of newt, 1 cup of sugar and a heaping teaspoon of baking powder. That’s it! Mix it all up and pour it into a greased (really grease it, use parchment paper as well if you are adamant about aesthetics) eight inch springform pan. Bake at 375 for maybe 50 minutes, but partway through the process, you will need to cover the cake with foil to prevent a burn. Once you take it out, give it a few minutes to collect its thoughts before you unmold it.
You may top this with a lemon or lime glaze (sifted powdered sugar with citrus juice and zest) if you want to fancy it up a bit, get it ready for the ball, as it were. This cake is so moist that it’s nearly impossible to ruin. I made it for a family party last week and I overbaked it, severely. I was getting ready to take it out when I was distracted – silly me – for about 40 minutes! I returned to a charred cake that remained – magic! – moist within. My extended family ate it, at least the women did. No men touched it, not sure if that’s significant, but in any case: this is a cake so easy that friendly forest bluebirds could assemble it. Though it would take someone with more magic than I to get it out of the oven before the clock strikes twelve.