"One day - it was in March, 1883 - a letter with a foreign stamp lay upon the table in front of the Colonel's plate... Opening it hurriedly, out there jumped five little dried orange pips, which pattered down upon his plate. I began to laugh at this, but the laugh was struck from my lips at the sight of his face..."" 'What is it, uncle?' I cried." 'Death,' said he."
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Five Orange Pips
I've been a Sherlock Holmes fan since about the age of ten. My year five teacher, the inimitable Mr Moynihan, would read Holmes' cases to us in class, encouraging us to put together the clues and come up with a likely outcome. I don't remember us ever getting one right - we very much identified with Watson's bemusement and admiration as Holmes (through Mr Moynihan) calmly spelled out the 'solution'. They're treasured stories, and treasured memories; I can't pass through Baker Street station without a little smile. I can't imagine this will be the only time a Holmes story appears here.
I'll admit it before you question it - this cake is a pretty tenuous link. Strange then, that it's pretty much the first one I thought of when starting the blog (my brain did something along the lines of: orange pips... death... blood... blood oranges... blood orange cake!). I've simply been waiting for these beautifully blushing oranges to come into season. Coincidentally, as their short season approached, I took a trip to Dublin to see my friends Aoife and Niall tie the knot. It was one of the best weddings I've ever been to - the marriage of a food writer and music writer resulted in a truly unique and wonderful evening. During dinner, I was seated next to Aoife's Forkful partner in crime (the very talented Mark) and was reminded of this beautiful cake. I couldn't wait to get home and try it out - after a night of dancing, of course...
The lovely Anna, and me, at the wedding
Blood Orange Upside Down Cake
Serves 10 (at least - this is a rich one)
Crystallised blood oranges
2 blood oranges, sliced into thin rounds
150g caster sugar
150g caster sugar
4tbsp sour cream
200g coarse ground almonds*
110g gluten-free flour
2tsp baking powder
* To be honest, this was a happy accident - I thought I had some ground almonds, but didn't, and couldn't be bothered to head out again. I instead blitzed whole almonds, with their skins on, in my food processor until quite fine (though it will be coarser than you get in a packet). They worked a treat, and provided a texture in the cake that I'd deliberately recreate in the future.
18cm loose bottomed cake tin
Shallow frying pan
Food processor (or use ground almonds instead)
Large mixing bowl
Electric hand whisk
1. Carefully line your cake tin; you'll need to do it with butter and greaseproof paper to ensure you don't lose any of the lovely blood orange syrup, especially if your loose-bottomed tin is a little loose (as mine is). Heat your oven to 160C.
2. Prepare the crystallised oranges. Put the sugar and water in a shallow pan, and stir over a medium heat until the sugar melts. Turn the heat up, add the orange slices and cook until very soft. Remove the slices to some greaseproof paper to cool, and reduce the syrup (which should now be a glorious orange-pink) until thick.
3. To make the cake, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat in well (with a spoonful of the flour to stop the mixture curdling). Mix in the sour cream.
4. Fold the almonds into the mixture, then sieve in the flour and baking powder. Fold in very gently, and stop as soon as the mixture is combined.
5. Paint the blood orange syrup over the base of your lined cake tin, and arrange the orange slices on top of it, side to side. Spoon the cake batter over the oranges and smooth out the top. Transfer the tin to the oven for an hour, or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean.
6. Cool the cake in the tin and then flip the cake over onto a serving plate - it's an upside down cake, so the blood orange should be on the top. Carefully remove the paper (making sure not to take any of the orange slices with it). Serve with sour cream or yoghurt.