You might have noticed that there’s been a distinct lack of action on the blog this year. This is due to two things. Number 1: I’ve been busy. Number 2: I found myself in something of a cooking (and baking) rut. How ridiculous, in a kitchen full of cookbooks, to find yourself cooking the same thing again and again! I resolved to rectify the situation thusly: Every time I thought to cook something boring, I’d drag out one of my woefully underused cookbooks and make something new from that. This led me into a months-long Nigel Slater obsession, but it worked.
Travel has also nudged me out of my comfort zone a little. With trips to Paris, Marrakech and a road trip around Italy this year, I’ve gained some new ideas and techniques (as well as some new equipment; tagine city, here I come). But mostly it’s been Sir Nige, as he should be, with his use of few ingredients and a lot of ingenuity, that’s brought me back into the kitchen with some excitement.
With a friend on his way over for dinner, I found myself reaching for the ingredients for my usual Lemon Drizzle Cake (i.e. the greatest cake of all time). But my mind screamed NO HEATHER. THINK OF SOMETHING ELSE. And I did. And here it is.
This isn’t the sweetest cake of all time, though it is incredibly moist and fluffy. If you’re keen to make it sweeter, fill your boots; I won’t stop you. For me, the icing helps to round off the beautifully dense taste, but if you want to add some more honey or agave, that’s alright with me.
You’ll notice that there’s hardly any oil and no non-dairy milk in this cake. I’ve nothing to say about that, but I just wanted you to notice.
Don’t leave out the baking soda, baking powder or apple cider vinegar here, or the cake won’t rise as it should do. I’ve also been a little vague on cooking time, as the thickness of your tahini will affect how long the cake takes. Keep it in the oven until a skewer comes out clean. Don’t rush it.
You can double this recipe for one full-sized cake, but adjust the cooking time accordingly and check that the cake’s fully cooked by testing with a skewer and waiting until it comes out clean. It also needs a good hour to cool, so be patient. It’s a virtue, or so I’ve been told.
(Makes 1 mini cake, to serve 4-8)
1 cup plain flour (or strong bread flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
a pinch of salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup honey or agave
1/4 cup olive oil
(up to 1/4 cup water, if necessary)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
For the drizzle:
Walnuts or pistachios, roughly chopped
Sesame seeds, white or black
Orange rind (and a little juice if you like)
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius and grease a mini loaf pan with vegetable oil
In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add in the pinch of salt
In a separate bowl, whisk together the orange juice, tahini, honey/agave and olive oil, then add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined
Depending on the consistency of the tahini you’ve used, your cake batter may be very thick. If so, add in up to a 1/4 cup of water until it slackens out a little. Don’t add more water than that
Bake at 160 for 30-45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the pan and allow to cool for at least an hour.
For the drizzle, mix together sifted icing sugar with a little squeeze of orange juice and water. Keep adding one or the other and mixing together until the icing reaches your desired consistency. I like the icing thick enough that it will mostly stay on top of the cake but runny enough that it will drip down the sides. You can make yours however you want.
I like to add in some orange rind to the icing, then when I’ve drizzled it onto the cake, I like to top the whole thing with some chopped nuts and sesame seeds. I’ve used walnuts in the photo, but honestly this was just because we had them in and I couldn’t be bothered to go to the shop. Pistachios are superior in every single possible way. Again, up to you.
This is a great little alternative to a lemon drizzle cake, and a great treat for people who might be trying to avoid lots of oil or sugar (although the topping is still PACKED with sugar). More than that, though, it’s a gorgeous balance of quite subtle flavours, a fantastic accompaniment to some good tea and a good book. It’s a cake to sit and consider, rather than one to scoff down with abandon. It’s a grown up cake, you might say.