Cardamom Layer Cake with Marmalade Mascarpone

Recently, I failed spectacularly at something. Not only did I fail, but I did so in front of one of my heroes. Want to hear about it? Of course you do. Schadenfreude is real. So get comfy, keep reading, and consider this a gift.

A few weeks ago I saw that my favourite bakery in London was in need of a new baker. Despite never having worked in a professional kitchen or having attended a cooking school, I decided to say what the fuck and give it my best effort. I composed the most thoughtful and succinct email I could and sent it off, never expecting to get a response.

Imagine my excitement when I received a reply inviting me to an interview and instructing me to bring along two different baked goods to taste. I thumbed through all my cookbooks for inspiration. I reread my recipes here. After days of waffling, I decided on a lemon chess pie or what I like to call a Blue Horizon pie and something completely new.

I wanted to bring in a layer cake as this bakery specializes in them, and while I do the classics rather well, I wanted this one to have a touch of the exotic. Cardamom sponge with marmalade mascarpone is what I made. The sponge was Melissa Clark’s from her Cardamom Cream Cake recipe featured in The New York Times (with omission of the rosewater), but the syrup to soak the sponge and the marmalade mascarpone were all mine.

The morning of my interview, Storm Doris was blowing up a gale. And there was a tube strike. I left the flat at 7:15 which I thought left me ample time to get to the bakery by 9 a.m. Keep in mind that my arms were full of an enormous cake box and a pie. Both of which I managed to carry north of the river and through three train stations without a hitch.

When I exited the last train station, I figured I’d get a cab the rest of the way. Nope. There wasn’t a single one. So I thought I’d do what any person living in a city in 2017 would do. I ordered a pickup from Uber. Due to the weather and the strike, traffic was terrible. The car took forever. My heart felt relieved when I got a notification saying it was arriving. Then, I got a notification saying it was cancelled.

The driver cancelled! I didn’t even know that was allowed. And I’d been standing in the rain. Holding a cake box and a pie. I didn’t know what to do so I just headed in the general direction I needed to go. That’s when I saw a cab. Who drove right past me.

I checked the time. It was 9 o’clock. I called the bakery to say I was so sorry but I’d be at least another 20 minutes. I kept walking. Finally a good Samaritan asked if I needed help. I explained everything to her and she said she was taking a bus to that area and I should follow her.

As I boarded the bus, a manchild with an enormous backpack pushed past me and I dropped my cake, I dropped my pie, and I almost started to cry. After picking them up, I reached into my pocket for my ATM card which is how I swipe in and out of public transportation these days. It wasn’t there.

I begged the driver to let me off. I took a minute and screamed like a madwoman in the street then I started to retrace my steps. Mercifully I found my card on the pavement three blocks back in the same spot where I had pulled out my mobile. As I stood there in my soggy coat, with my frizzy hair, and my busted baked goods, I thought about calling it a day and going home.

For whatever fool-headed reason, I decided to keep going. Call it my Elizabeth Warren moment because. . .

Nevertheless, she persisted.

When I made it to the bakery and they asked who I was I said I was the hot mess who was embarrassingly late to meet with the owner. Believe it or not, she ate my broken cake and my pie. She even had her staff sample them too and I got called in for a trial day. I didn’t get the job and if I’m honest, I never expected I would. Actually, I never expected an interview. But I am very proud of this particular failure. Without it, I wouldn’t have this story to share nor this recipe. I hope you enjoy them both.

Broken cake is the best cake.

Sponge ingredients:

170 g softened butter

330 g 00 flour

4 large egg whites

240 ml whole milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

300 g caster or granulated sugar

20 grams baking powder

the contents of 12 cardamom pods ground to a powder with a mortar & pestle

1/4 tsp salt

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350°F/177°C/Gas 4.

Grease, flour, and line two 9″ cake tins.

In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together the egg whites, milk, and vanilla.

In another bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cardamom and salt with an electric mixer on a low speed. Only about 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and 1/3 of the milk-egg mixture. Mix on low until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium and beat until everything is smooth.

Add the remaining milk-egg mixture in three batches.

Pour into the prepared tins and bake for 25-35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Allow the cakes to cool in the tins on a rack for 20 minutes before unmolding them.

While the cakes finish cooling, make the syrup.

 

Syrup ingredients:

The juice of 2 oranges

the contents of 4 cardamom pods

3 tbsp caster or granulated sugar

1 tsp water

 

Method: 

Bring all ingredients to a boil and simmer until reduced by half. Let the syrup cool completely before using it.

 

Marmalade mascarpone frosting ingredients:

500 g mascarpone

85 g cream cheese

85 g marmalade (I use my own homemade which is not as sweet as most commercial brands. Take this into account when making your frosting. If your marmalade is sweet, you will not need as much sugar.)

the zest of 1 orange

2 tbsp icing/powdered sugar

 

Method: 

Use an electric mixer to combine the ingredients together until creamy. Do not overmix. Taste it. If you want it sweeter, add more sugar but only a small spoonful at a time. If you want it a little sharper, add more zest and marmalade.

 

To assemble the cake:

While your cake layers are still on the rack, brush them with some syrup. Be sure to get their sides as well as their tops. Beware you don’t saturate the cakes. You only want to add some moisture, not make them soggy. Leave them for a minute.

Select a cake plate or a stand that you want to use.

Put wide strips of wax paper around the plate.

Place your first cake layer on top of the paper. This will make cleaning up much easier.

Spread some of the marmalade mascarpone onto this layer. I like it about half an inch thick.

Put the second cake layer on top. Repeat with the marmalade mascarpone.

I coiled a piece of orange shred from my marmalade and placed it in the center of my cake. You don’t have to, but I think it looks nice.

Remove the strips of paper and you’re ready.

 

 

 

Honey Marmalade Cake

My in-laws were recently in France sorting my husband’s late Auntie Marianne’s affairs. While there they made two discoveries.  One: Auntie M. took it upon herself to edit the books she read.  Incorrect spellings and dropped punctuation were fixed with her red pen. Two: She had vats of local honey sitting in the cellar.  Honey as thick and rich as creme fraiche caramels and flecked with bits of the forest from which it came.  Everyone got a kilo upon their return.

Honey is a staple in my home.  I love it.  Runny, set, manuka, clover, English wildflower, Scottish heather–I’ve got it all.  But this new honey, Auntie Marianne’s garrigue honey, really is the bee’s knees.  Other than enjoying it in my tea, I wanted to bake something special with it.

Last year, a dear friend of mine gave me an old cookbook called  More Honey in the Kitchen.  It was written by Joyce White who was a cookery demonstrator and lecturer in beekeeping.  The book was illustrated by her grandchildren and published in 1991.  It could not be any more charming if it tried.

Today I baked a honey marmalade cake from it and it was perfection.  Below is the recipe.  I’d like to think Ms. White would have been proud and Auntie M. would have approved.

honey close up of honey Scawby Hall beebook recipe marmalade cooling cake sugar cake sliced cake

 

Yo Soy Paddington (A Warming Marmalade Recipe)

Just before Christmas, I took my three year-old to the cinema for the first time.  We saw Paddington and were equally charmed.  It was funny and darling and the calypso band that played throughout was fantastic.  Helena clutched her stuffed bear, chomped on popcorn, danced in her seat and shrieked with delight through most of it.  I, on the other hand, cried through at least 20% of it.  I am not sure if it’s because I was still waiting to hear about my Indefinite Leave to Remain status or what, but the telling of this tale about a little Peruano immigrant bear really tugged at my heart strings.  I love Paddington.  I am Paddington.  Yo soy Paddington.

CUT TO: JANUARY 2015

Though the UK Border Agency had until March to process my visa application, I received it the first week of the new year.  I have no idea why it’s called indefinite leave to remain when ILR status allows one to remain in the UK for ten years.  Ten years is very definite, no?  Anyway, I was thrilled.  I studied for my Life in the UK exam like my college degree (or my residency) depended on it.  Go ahead.  Ask me anything about the Divine Right of Kings, The Pale, The Hundred Years War, 1066, Robbie Burns, or sticky wickets.  I know it all.  Or at least I did last August when I took the test.

While my heart’s all American, something in me changed when I received my residence permit.  It’s not that I felt British.  Anyone who reads Chagrinnamon Toast knows that I ache for home and wish I could see my family more than I do.  That said, I am so grateful for all that England has offered me.  What’s changed is that for the first time, I don’t feel like just an American.  I feel like an immigrant full of love for my homeland yet equally full of thanks for my adopted country.  Like I said, I am Paddington.

Which is why I felt it my duty to learn to make marmalade, not that I even like the stuff.  I just thought it should be in my repertoire especially as Helena and Henry love it.  The recipe I used was from The Breakfast Bible by Seb Emina & Malcolm Eggs.  I cannot lie.  My first attempt was a failure.  It smelled nice, tasted nice, but had the consistency of epoxy. Apparently, when boiling marmalade, one cannot turn one’s back even for a minute.  Otherwise the temperature can quickly climb too high and leave you with mucilage instead of marmalade.

My second attempt was with the same recipe.  This was much better.  I gave some to Blake Pudding, one of the contributing writers of The Breakfast Bible, who said my marmalade “tasted like it was made by someone who didn’t have the weight of the empire sitting on her shoulders and who didn’t know the disappointments of being British.”  He went on to describe it as “Fresh and juicy.  In a word, Californian.”  Keeping California in mind, I began experimenting with my own recipe.

Second Attempt

Second Attempt

What is it I really want in cold dreary January?  To bask in the sunshine.  Sadly as that’s not an option here in London, I’ve tried to capture the warmth of the West Coast in a jar instead.  Below is my recipe.  I call it Winter Gold as it consists of Seville oranges, lemons, and ginger which look like flecks of gold when set in jars.  While it’s not sunny Malibu, it is warming and coming from someone who doesn’t like marmalade, it’s delicious.  All the glow of an orange, but with very little bitterness.

Misti’s Winter Gold Marmalade

Ingredients:

1 kg seville oranges

3 juice from lemons

100 g fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks

750 g caster sugar

1 liter of water + 125 ml or 1/2 cup

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Method:

First, place a small plate in your refrigerator.  You will use this plate to later test for a set.

Next, remove the stems from your Seville oranges and give them a  good scrub.  It’s really important they be nice and clean.

Quarter each orange and put it in a large heavy bottom pan.  Add the liter of water.  Boil with a lid slightly off for an hour and a half or until the skins are tender.

oranges pre-boil boiling oranges

Drain the oranges but make sure to keep the water in which they were boiled.  Allow the oranges to cool.

Use a teaspoon to scoop the insides of each orange quarter.  Put the seeds, pulp, and pith into a large pan.  Cover with the 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil.  Stir frequently to avoid sticking and burning.  Allow this mixture to boil for about ten minutes.  The purpose of this boil is to extract pectin that will help your marmalade set.  Remove from the heat and place in a cheesecloth or fine sieve to strain.  I use a spoon to stir the mixture within the sieve.  This presses out some of the pulp which is thick and sticky.  Retain all liquid that comes through the sieve.

boiling for pectin

straining scooped bits

Rinse the orange peel and drain.  Cut into shreds.

shred

Peel the ginger and slice thinly.  Cut each thin slice into matchsticks.  Chop the matchsticks into even smaller pieces.

Prepare your jars and lids.  Wash them with warm soapy water.  Dry completely and place on a baking tray.  Put them in the oven at about 275°F/140°C/Gas 1 for at least ten minutes.  This will sterilize them.

Place the orange shred, the ginger, the sugar, both sets of liquid, and the lemon juice into a large pan.  Stir to mix.  You want everything to incorporate.  Over a medium flame, heat the mixture.  Do not allow the sugar to burn.  When the sugar has melted (you’ll be able to tell because the mixture will no longer feel gritty), bring everything to a boil.  Bring out your candy thermometer and watch it like a hawk.  Do not allow your mixture to go above 220°F this is roughly 100°C.   I take mine off at about 219°F.  Test for a set using the plate in the fridge.  Do this by spooning a little of the marmalade onto the cold plate and putting it back in the fridge for a few minutes.  If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it’s set.  Whatever you do, do not repeat my school girl error and allow it to surpass 220°F.  If you do this, you might as well keep boiling it even hotter and just make candy.

marmalade cooking 220F

When you have achieved your desired set, take the marmalade off the flame and allow it to sit for a few minutes.  Stir in the butter.  This will keep your marmalade from going scummy.  Spoon/funnel the mixture into warm jars leaving enough head room.  Tightly screw on the lids and allow to cool completely.  For me, this made three and a half 280 ml jars.  Enjoy on toast, cakes, cookies, or tarts.  Even use it as a glaze for roasting ham.  Most importantly, bask in its gingery glow.

Winter Gold

Winter Gold

Yo soy Paddington

Yo soy Paddington

Indefinite Leave to Remain

Indefinite Leave to Remain