Quick and very delicious orange and coconut cake

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(first attempt)

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(improved version: taller, lighter)

Last Monday, first glorious sunny day of our belated spring, and blessed bank holiday, my sister came over for lunch with her three little angels. Her visit is normally the excuse I need to turn the kitchen upside down trying out new dishes. Her entire family are great food lovers, even the youngest boy at 10, with the refined palate of a 42 year old Parisian aristocrat. This time,

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though, I was feeling a bit delicate with a mild hangover, and so didn’t wake up at the crazy time I tend to when there’s a big lunch at home. So, amidst the mad rush of rolling out pasta and whisking meringues (I did not photograph anything at all and may have to do a second run of the same lunch for the benefit of this blog), my dear sibling calls me to remind me that the kids are no longer allowed soft drinks. Which I think it’s a lovely idea, since I find them repellent (the drinks, that is), but it also implied that they were expecting special kiddies drinks. You see, I am a water or wine drinker. When it comes to drinks, I think Jesus had the right idea. Keep it simple and classic. But I am assured that young kids don’t really go for water, and should ideally be kept away from alcohol until they are old enough to vote – the memory of childhood holidays, with the free flowing tavern wine diluted in lemonade is one I am encouraged to repress when with her family. And so I ran like the wind (to Tesco, I’m afraid. I was running out of time) and bought approximately 2 billion Jaffa oranges. I can never really tell with oranges how  juicy they are, and also they had a 3 for 1 offer, so I went for it. And now I am left with at least one and a half billion of the lovely fruit piled up in my kitchen. To juice, peel, eat, and live off duck al’orange for the rest of the decade.

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Perfect chance, then, to try this orange and coconut cake recipe I have kept – unused –  from the back of a pack of sugar for about a lifetime. It’s a sort of a chiffon cake, with that beautiful texture ready to hold liberal amounts of syrup poured over it.

I’ve tried once, then adapted a bit next day, as I found it took way too much flour, and the recommended 45 minutes in the oven was also too long. The photos are a mixture of both versions: the flatter one heavier on the flour, but still good, if a little bit dry for my taste. The second one works best for me. It is taller, incredibly delicate and and I swear it was lighter and moister the next day. If you want your house to smell like sweet heaven in a very short time, this is the one for you. No creaming of butter, not much preparation time at all, and the fragrance of happy angels flying around in your kitchen.

I’d have loved to cover it with freshly grated coconut, but sadly, it was a weekday, and I do live in London. To find a fresh coconut, then break it up and scrape it, it would probably have taken a tad too much effort. But the shredded coconut from a packet is too dry to use raw. And so the billion oranges stared me in the face and offered the solution: moisten the dry coconut with some orange juice, woman! It worked a treat.

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I was planning to take the cake intact to work the next day, but I’m afraid the sweet orangey smell drove me out of my mind, so a good quarter of it was missing when it finally got there.

Next time, I may try to add a bit or Grand Marnier in the syrup for a slightly more grown up version.

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Orange and coconut cake:

For the cake:

  • 240g caster sugar
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 200ml vegetable oil
  • 160 g all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 50g shredded coconut, unsweetened

Syrup:

  • Juice of 2 oranges
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  1. Cream the sugar, oil and egg yolks. I used a handheld mixer for about 3 minutes, until the mixture looked creamy enough.
  2. Add: flour, about half the coconut and the baking powder. Mix by hand with a large spoon. You’ll get a very dense dough, thick enough for a spoon to stand on it – see photo.
  3. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
  4. Mix in a couple of spoonfuls of the egg whites to losen the dough a bit. Fold in the rest of the egg whites.
  5. For a tall cake: Grease a 20cm (8inch) with oil and dust it with flour. Pour the cake mixture into it.
  6. 180C on an electric fan oven (slightly hotter if you have a gas oven) for not more than 30 – 35 min, or as soon as it passes the toothpick test.
  7. Make the syrup: mix the orange juice with sugar and bring it to the boil. Remove it and use it on the warm cake. (pierce a few holes on the surface of the cake first)
  8. Mix the remaining coconut with a few spoonfuls of orange juice and cover the cake with the wet coconut.

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