Well March, I got to hand it to you. You have been a rollercoaster… upwardly soaring full of anticipation, swiftly speeding downwards towards dashed hopes and heartache. I can’t really go into details as to what is causing this turbulence – suffice to say I hope the ride will eventually settle and lead to a happy resolution.
There has been a lot of change which was put into motion at the beginning of the month and change always brings feelings of uncertainty and lack of control… which doesn’t sit well with me. Lots of plans have been cancelled at the last minute – take, for example, a blogger retreat to Dorset which I had been looking forward to for months. The night before I was due to go my son got another bout of tonsillitis and I had to stay by his side.
Which is why I love baking so much. If you follow a recipe and measure your ingredients with care you are almost guaranteed a delicious result. I say almost because there have been cases of an oven door exploding… Not to mention that deciding what to make, measuring the ingredients and using up every single bowl in the kitchen has a calming effect – there’s pleasure in the process as much as in the result.
I woke up with a strong urge to bake this Sunday morning – the result of a restless and stressful night’s sleep. I looked around the kitchen to see what needs to be used most urgently (this often determines what I bake!) and the blood oranges in the fruit bowl were practically begging me to pick them.
These olive oil, semolina and yoghurt cakes are a variation of one of the earliest recipes on this blog – syrup cakes are very popular in Greece and I got hooked on them again with the recent cake I made. The blood orange syrup and candied blood orange slices turn this simple bake into a thing of real vibrant beauty – serve with ice cream or crème fraîche on the side if you like. If you want to give the candied blood orange slices a chance to dry out, you will need to prepare them a day in advance.
- For the cakes
- 120g | 4.2oz Greek yoghurt
- 100g | 3.5oz self-raising flour
- 75g | 2.6oz fine semolina
- 60g | 2oz ground almonds
- 75g | 2.6oz sugar
- 60ml | 2fl oz light olive oil (or sunflower oil)
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2 large eggs, separated
- zest of one blood orange
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp salt
- a little butter to grease your tins
- Syrup & candied oranges
- 300g | 10.5oz sugar
- 250ml | 1 cup water
- juice of 1 blood orange, strained
- half a spent vanilla pod
- 3 blood oranges, sliced thinly
- To make the candied oranges, put the sugar, water, blood orange juice and vanilla pod in a medium saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the orange slices and simmer for 30-50 minutes (depending on thickness of slices) until the peel is translucent and the syrup is viscous. Cut a piece of baking paper slightly larger than your wire rack and place underneath. Remove the orange slices with tongs and place on the wire rack to dry. Reserve the syrup.
- Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F. Grease your muffin or friand tin (I used vintage brioche moulds here and got 5 cakes) and dust with flour.
- Whisk the egg whites and salt using a stand (or hand) mixer until you have soft peaks. Set aside.
- Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and oil for a few minutes until well combined. Add the orange zest and vanilla extract and mix well.
- Combine the flour, ground almonds, semolina, salt and bicarbonate of soda and then add to the batter alternating with the yogurt while mixing on low speed.
- Add a spoonful of the whisked egg whites and mix to loosen the batter. Carefully fold in the remaining egg whites.
- Divide the batter into your prepared tin(s) filling halfway up and bake for 20-25m (depending on size). The cakes are ready whens they start coming away from the edges of the tin and are golden and firm.
- Pour the syrup over the cakes while they are still warm (and still in their tins). The syrup should be absorbed quickly - don't saturate. Remove from the tins once they are completely cool. Decorate with the candied oranges.