Orange Miso Buttermilk Bundt Cake

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A little twist never hurt anyone.

Here we have an orange miso buttermilk bundt cake, brushed with warm marmalade, tiger-striped with an orange miso buttermilk icing. Sunday respite indeed, friends. 

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‘Miso? That’s weird. But cool.’

My hesitant sister picked at the top of the cake (which is actually the bottom) in wonder. I pinched a bit off myself and heaved a sigh of relief. At both the final crumb, and the flavours present. One would think pairing two tangy ingredients wouldn’t do much for either of the two star flavours here, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. . In each bite, you get the fragrant tang of orange, and the more sharply, savoury-dish-salty punch of miso. The ultimate hit of umami, only partially disguised by the sweet, light background of fluff. On a side note, I only recently discovered that miso is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a peculiar-sounding fungus (Aspergillus oryzae). Soy has taken a backseat in my experimental repertoire, but it’s making a furious comeback, and one that I welcome, at that.

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It’s more of a pound cake than anything. Dense yet fluffy, which I attribute to the cake flour used. I did debate using normal all-purpose flour, and you can go ahead and try substituting that for the cake flour here, but it does make all the difference in producing a fairytale crumb. The best bit, in my humble opinion, is the outer crust, which is both robust and partially caramelised. The crust sings strength, so much so that I needn’t have to bother with cutting the top, for the firm bottom meant it could rest flat on the cake stand without unduly collapsing. The rise from the oven did produce some cracks, air pushing through a firm golden canvas, but these only helped the penetration of marmalade when it was warmed through and brushed on post-bake. What I was most happy with was that glaze– of stronger miso flavour than the cake itself, adding a bite that would otherwise be too pronounced in just the cake. The marmalade glaze is optional, but it added to the citrus theme, and the slivers of rind looked a picture on top of the crumbs and brown.

Just now I sat down to a thin sliver of the stuff, and discovered the burst of savoury flavour enveloped in a smooth, sweet body of cake goes perfectly with a simple scoop of plain vanilla ice cream. Family helped mop it all up. Yesterday I made a cake, and it was simple, and so so good. Not much else (aside from a very well-written paper or book or walk) makes me just as happy and satisfied.

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Orange Miso Buttermilk Bundt Cake (makes one standard bundt cake)

Ingredients

For the cake:

226g (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

330g (3 cups) cake flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 heaping tbsp white miso

560g (2 1/2 cups) white caster sugar

4 eggs

zest+ juice of 1 orange, reserve 1 tsp orange juice for the icing later

1/4 cup marmalade (optional)

120ml buttermilk, homemade or store-bought (to make: add a tbsp of white vinegar to your measuring cup or beaker, then fill to the 120ml mark with milk, and let sit for 5 minutes to let the acidity work its magic)

 

For the icing:

135g icing sugar, sifted

1 tsp buttermilk

1 tsp orange juice (from the one orange you juiced earlier for the cake)

1 tsp white miso

 

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350F (177C) and grease a bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, rub the zest into the sugar. Add the softened butter, and use an electrical whisk to cream the butter and sugar mixture until light, white and fluffy, about a minute. Beat in the eggs. Add the flour, buttermilk and orange juice, and beat until you get a uniform, pale mixture. It should have a thick, dropping consistency. Finally, beat in the miso. Pour into the greased bundt pan and bake for 60-65 minutes. Mine was done at the hour-mark.

While it is baking, whisk together the ingredients for the icing and set aside. Once the cake is done, poke a few holes in the top, then brush the surface with marmalade that’s been warmed in the microwave. Leave the cake to cool for half an hour, before turning it over onto a cake stand, and drizzling (however you like) with the glaze.

Orange Chocolate Bars with Mascarpone and Honeycomb

This morning, my fork did all the talking, and I let it. Let’s get to the meat before I lose your attention.

The four main components here may sound frivolous, but get along like four great friends. Anyone else here like Terry’s chocolate oranges (insert happy girl with hands over her head emoji here)? If you do, I kid you not, these will satisfy you any time of day, and this batch makes quite a lot, so the satisfaction isn’t short-lived. Here we have a sweet and sticky baked citrus batter topped with a rich chocolate glaze (all delectable frozen goo and sludge), on a double butter crust, topped with mascarpone (no, I didn’t make this, ha), and honeycomb.

I want to call them tiger bars because that’s exactly what they ended up looking like, with the stripes and all. A most desirable marriage of chocolate and orange. As you can tell from the picture below, I was a bit too excited to cut everything up and slather stuff on, hence the slipshod effect. By the way, this double butter crust is bloody good. But bad. And messy. Either way it’s all good.

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Sweet on sweet on sweet, right? Well, not totally. The flavours here all meld into one another in a manner more sophisticated than what I expected, but I do think the mascarpone is necessary to soften excess cloy. This was my first time making honeycomb, and this batch turned out desirably sweet, light and crisp, like the chewier end bits of the inside of a Crunchie bar. Hopefully with time, I will master the art of thicker, ‘holier’ honeycomb. Slightly less deep in colour, less chew, more whimsical and airy-fairy. The golden shards offer a brighter mien to the whole dessert get-up. A sort of ‘ooh, what was that? YES’ kind of crunch. With the layers of texture and flavour established, the final addition of mascarpone cheese on top ties all the components together, like the ribbon on a present. A blander, but necessary note, a complementary creaminess.

Orange Chocolate Bars with Mascarpone and Honeycomb (makes 12 bars)

Ingredients

For the crust:

160g unsalted butter, cold and cut into small half-inch cubes

210g all-purpose flour (around 1 1/3 cups)

pinch salt

50g icing sugar, sifted (slightly less than a half cup)

For the orange filling:

zest and juice of 1.5 large oranges (120ml or half a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice)

juice of half a small lemon

230g (1 cup) white sugar

large pinch salt

50g all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

4 eggs

For the chocolate glaze:

1 tbsp water

15g unsalted butter

1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa

1 tbsp milk

50g (or more, this is according to taste) of sifted icing sugar

For the honeycomb (adapted from BBC good food’s traditional take):

180g white caster sugar

5 tbsp golden syrup

2 tsp baking soda

Directions

Preheat your oven to 177C (350F). In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, pinch of salt and icing sugar. Rub the cold, cubed butter into this mix until you get coarse crumbs, and they are able to stick together in clumps when you squeeze the mix in your palm. Press this mixture into the bottom of a greased 9×13-inch pan, and then place into the preheated oven and bake for 11-13 minutes (I took mine out at 12).

Next, make the filling, which is the easiest bit!! In a large bowl, whisk together the juice of the oranges and one lemon, zest of the oranges, sugar and eggs. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and pinch of salt. Add this flour mix to the wet mix and mix well to combine. You will probably find little clumps of flour post-mixing, but they will go after whisking for a while. You should have a smooth, slightly viscous, wet mass of orange. Once the crust is done baking, remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes on the cooling tray. Pour the orange filling batter into the pan, then carefully (because the batter is predominantly liquid) place the pan back into the oven. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until you can see the top go a medium brown in colour. I took out my pan at 19 minutes, when there was a visible dark brown rim around the edges, and the surface was mottled with bits of brown. When you take out the pan, the inside will still be mostly wet, or moist at most. Leave to cool for 15 minutes, before placing in the fridge to allow it to fully set.

Make the chocolate glaze. Again, easy peasy stuff. In a medium microwave-safe bowl (I always use my handy Chinese porcelain dinner bowls, so convenient), add the butter (it can still be cold from the fridge), water and cocoa powder. Microwave this on high until you get a smooth chocolate mix, at least 30 seconds or so. At this point, at a tablespoon of milk, and then add 50g of sifted icing sugar. You might add more if you want a slightly sweeter chocolate glaze; 50g yields a deeper overall chocolate flavour. Drizzle this chocolate glaze all over the orange bars.

Time for the honeycomb. The recipe I used here is classically British, incorporating the use of golden syrup instead of light corn syrup. You can find a myriad different honeycomb recipes online, and though this is a nice, safe one to start with, don’t be afraid to try others out. I’m eyeing Joy the Baker’s one next! Grease a 9×9-inch baking pan and set aside near your stove and saucepan. In a medium saucepan, add the sugar and golden syrup. Melt everything together on a low heat, mixing briefly with a wooden spoon in the beginning, and wait until the sugar crystals have visibly dissolved. Don’t touch or stir it at this point. Try not to let the mixture boil because this will change the structure of the crystals before you have a chance to aerate everything with the baking soda. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat just a little and let simmer for 2-4 minutes, or until you can see that the mixture has turned slightly deeper in colour, a light amber shade. At this point, add the baking soda and quickly whisk it into the mixture. It will go thick, slightly paler and foamy (it’s beautiful), but slightly darker again once you whisk. Immediately pour the mix into the pan you greased, and then set your pan under cold running water in your sink to dissolve any caramel that might’ve stuck to the sides.

The mix will set after around an hour. Since it’s always so bloody hot here, I left mine at room temperature for half an hour, before placing in the fridge for another half hour. At this point, take out your pan and overturn it onto your counter. Hit the pan hard with your hand or a large spoon to release the honeycomb onto the counter, and this will simultaneously break it into large chunks. You may then proceed to break it up further into shards of whatever size you wish.

Assembly: Cut the orange bars into 12 with a sharp knife, cleaning the knife with a paper towel after each slice. Top with mascarpone and homemade honeycomb, and send yourself to heaven.

Orange Yoghurt Pancakes with Pistachio Maple Sauce

There are few things in this world which get me like breakfast.

It’s the comforting push of the espresso button on my Nespresso machine, the warm streaming guzz. The silence in the air when I’m by myself, early in the morning, papers nestled on the table. Toaster’s on, get the butter out. Usually, it’s these 5-minute affairs, with toast and butter and honey, or any other topping combination you can think of, and morning’s set just about right. But come the weekend, something a little more.. lascivious demands to be made. I’m not talking Eggs Benedict or Crepe Suzette here (might get to either at some point in my life, kind of, maybe, hopefully), but Sunday’s always full of lazy reading and crude TV humour and, well, pancakes. With bags full of citrus fruit and a fresh tub of yoghurt at home, I guess you could say I knew what I had to do. Orange and yoghurt it was. I played around with orange in this recipe, one of my favourite cake bases by far, so check that one out in keen.

I think the magic of this recipe lies in the yoghurt, which makes everything supremely moist, and… this bloody good sauce! Once you go green, you’ll always be keen. In the language of pistachios, I mean. Ok, that was pretty bad.

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Oh, I can’t stop thinking about this sauce. It’s a revelation. Smooth sweet, buttery, with a hint of tang, complementing the orange flavour perfectly. The main component is pistachio butter, but if you do not have that, don’t fret! Any nut butter you have on hand is perfect for this recipe– natural peanut or almond works perfectly, for they have the same consistency. The only thing is flavour preference. Someone near and dear to me hates pistachios and I have nothing against that, so work with your palate! As for the pancakes, just be sure not to overmix the batter and let it rest for 5 minutes, before proceeding with the ladling, and you’re good to go. Each pancake is soft, on the thinner side, and very well-aerated. Stack two or three and eat in mini triangle stacks, with the sauce and fresh fruit.

Orange Yoghurt Pancakes with Pistachio Maple Sauce (makes 10-12)

For the pancakes:

150g whole wheat or all-purpose flour (I used a mix of both)

1/2 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

110g yoghurt (avoid using greek, but if you must, thin it out a little with a drizzle of milk)

1 egg

100ml milk of choice (I used whole, but feel free to use almond milk; I imagine it would be lovely here)

90ml freshly squeezed orange juice (round about the amount yielded from one small orange) and the zest of one orange

For the pistachio maple sauce:

2 tbsp nut butter of choice (I used pistachio butter, mmm)

2 tbsp milk

one tsp yoghurt

one tsp maple syrup

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, yoghurt, orange zest and orange juice. Pour the wet into the dry mix and, with a wooden spoon or spatula, slowly stir everything together. Mix until just combined, and there are still small lumps in the batter. Let rest for 5 minutes. Preheat your pan on the stove to medium heat. Hold your hand above the pan to see if it’s hot, and once so, grease with a knob of butter.

Using a quarter-cup measurement or two tablespoons, ladle the batter onto the pan. The large amount of leavening in this recipe means you will see little air bubbles pop up quickly. Once you see a fair bit of bubbles strewn randomly on the surface, go ahead and flip. The other side will take much shorter; around 20 seconds on average.

Let the cooked pancakes rest on a paper towel or in an oven preheated to 160C, if you’re cooking for a few people in the morning. If not, these pancakes freeze and reheat wonderfully. Just cook  a batch, let them cool for 15 minutes, then place in a single layer on a baking tray and pop into the freezer. An hour later, take the pancakes off the tray and put them all into a ziploc bag.

Make the sauce. In a small bowl, mix all the sauce ingredients together. Adjust according to taste– for a tangier finish, add more yoghurt, for a sweeter one, add more maple syrup. The stated quantities makes enough for 2, so if there are more, then adjust the ratio. To serve, place a stack of two or three (or more) onto a plate, drizzle on some pistachio maple goodness, and add fresh fruit for textural and flavour contrast.

Mini Orange Layer Cakes With Blackberry Lavender Buttercream

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I’ve learnt a few things in the past few days. Firstly, it is actually impossible for me to do a tripod headstand. I’m sure this is a familiar term for all you yogis out there. I’ve been practicing yoga for years (to be fair, not so much during the later years of high school) and I still haven’t mastered it. It bothers me to no end.

Secondly, 1984 is almost blowing my mind. Not the literal 80s, of course, but Orwell’s magnum opus. I’m almost done and can’t wait to get my hands on Animal Farm. Sadly, I’m pretty slow with the classics.

Thirdly, right about this time of year, I feel completely and utterly at ease. Yet, I’m perfectly aware of the fact that way, way too much suffering is going on in the world to be ignored. Everyday I go about my business– practicing yoga, journalling, a little revision for my future course here and there, baking (what’s new!), fretting about hair and makeup… And all around me, bombs are dropped, little ones suffer, the clocks stop ticking for thousands, millions. With all the privileges that surround me, it’s easy to take things for granted. To continue living in a bubble of selfishness and oblivion. I just hope most people in the world are more.. aware. That’s all. Me included.

I shall now proceed to wax lyrical about my favourite (orange) cake recipe in the world. And that says something because I’ve made a fair bit of cake in my lifetime.

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Oranges, oranges. I initially thought lemon, but lemon and blackberry is already a kill-me-classic, and with fresh, sweet oranges in the pantry, what’s there to fear? The citrus note of the cake using these was indeed milder, yet the flavour and goodness of that pulp and zest did all the talking. It still feels odd to have so much free time with the holidays in full bloom. Experimentation takes flight all the time, anywhere. Ideas flying left, right and centre. If I’m not thinking about what biology/biochem or fiction book to buy next, I’m recipe brainstorming, and goodness does it feel good. I was dying to sculpt mini layer cakes, because they’re the epitome of simple, refined, easy bakes. The blackberry lavender buttercream sandwiched between three layers of incredibly light, orange sponge adds aesthetic and textural oomph. The sweetness hits the palate just before you enjoy the moist and tender cake crumb. It truly is one of my favourite cake recipes.

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You added actual blackberries…? With the… seeds?

Alright, that part is optional. Though most recipes state the addition of blackberry puree sans all the gritty bits, I personally prefer the addition of the seeds for added flavour and texture. Combined with the dried lavender, each bite is like pink fairy dust. Pink and purple aren’t exactly up there on my list of favourite colours (which actually just comprise black and burgundy), but the saccharine delicacy of each little cake is irresistible. I had to adjust the initial buttercream recipe because it yielded too thin a consistency. It all worked out pretty well in the end. If anything, I might just add a touch more tang, be it salt or cream cheese, to the buttercream.

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Mini Orange Layer Cakes With Blackberry Lavender Buttercream (makes around 4 mini 3-layer cakes)

For the cake:

188g (1.5 cups) all-purpose flour

3/4 tablespoon baking powder

large pinch of salt

113g (half a cup) of soft, unsalted butter

225g (1 cup) sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of one small or medium-sized orange

160ml (2/3 cup) whole milk

50ml freshly squeezed orange juice

For the blackberry lavender buttercream:

226g (one cup) unsalted butter at room temperature

500 grams icing sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

large pinch of salt

1-2 tablespoons of dried lavender (optional)

55g fresh or frozen blackberries (around half a cup)

Preheat your oven to 177C (350F) and grease a 7×9-inch (or 8×8-inch) baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a larger bowl and with either a normal or electrical whisk, beat the butter and sugar for at least a couple of minutes, until light and fluffy. Beat in the zest of the orange, 2 eggs, and vanilla extract. Add a third of the flour mix, stir briefly with a spatula (no need to fully incorporate), then add half of the milk. Fold in briefly again. Add another third, the rest of the milk and the orange juice. Fold in briefly for a few seconds, before adding the rest of the flour. Mix until just combined. That part is so important, for there is a fine line between tender crumb and dull, dense, bleh. Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl and make sure the flour at the very bottom is well incorporated.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake in the preheated oven for 19-22 minutes. Put 21 to be safe (that’s how long it took mine). While you wait, make the buttercream.

In a large bowl and with an electrical whisk, beat the butter until it looks lighter and, well, fluffier. Add half of the icing sugar and vanilla, and beat. Take your blackberries and microwave on high for around 20 seconds, until you can see the juices seeping out and they are easy to mash. Mash them with a fork. Add to the mixing bowl, together with the remaining icing sugar. Beat until all is well combined. If you wish, fold in the dried lavender with a spatula. Place most of the buttercream in a piping bag fitted with whatever tip you like. Leave all the buttercream in the fridge for later use.

Assembly:

Once the cake is done, remove from the oven. It should be light brown and ever so slightly domed on top. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack. It will take at least half an hour to fully cool.

Once cool, take a 3-inch round cutter (or scallop-edged, up to you) and cut out little circles. Remove the buttercream from the fridge to let it warm up a little. Save the cake scraps for your family, before you eat everything yourself. You should get around 6-7 little circles, around 2 inches thick. Using a serrated knife, cut each little cake in half horizontally so you end up with two thinner cake discs. Pipe a circle of buttercream on the centre of one half, and press down with the other half. Pipe another circle on this half and then take a half from another cake and press down on that, so you end up with a mini 3-layer cake, each layer around 1 inch thick. Using a normal or palette knife, smear the sides and top with buttercream (reserved from the bowl) for make the crumb coat. Leave the cakes in the fridge to set and firm up for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Take your piping bag and pipe more buttercream on top, then sprinkle with extra dried lavender.

Ah, life’s a playground.