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Clementine Cake and Christmas Eve Dinner Report

MMRuth Dec 25, 2006 12:07 PM

So, I made the Nigella Clementine Cake two days ago, and we ate it last night. I ground blanched almonds with the sugar in the blender (no food processor) and whisked in the baking powder, cooked the five clementines v. gently (one tore open a bit, so I squeezed that one a bit, wary of excess water) and then processed the batter in two batches with the eggs in the blender. I ended up using a 9" springform (couldn't find an 8"). Baked at 350 degrees based on advice on this board. Baked for one hour ten minutes - toothpick came clean, though the middle still looked quite moist. As expected, cake did start to brown, so put foil on top after 40 minutes. The cake cracked in the middle, then fell to pretty much level with the rest of the cake. I inverted onto a cake stand and decorated with a circle of clementines and toasted silvered almonds on the top. Served with barely sweetened whipped cream with a little vanilla and the tiniest bit of almond extract and vanilla ice cream for those who wanted it. Upshot - delicious cake, wonderful flavor. I still wonder if the middle wasn't done quite enough - the first inch and half on the outside was more "cake like", the middle moister and a little more pudding-ish. Don't know if that is how it should be or if I should bake a bit longer next time.

The rest of the meal ended up being:

Jumbo lump crabcake with a doctored up home made mayonnaise sauce
Braised short ribs with a celeriac/potato/apple mash and sauteed brussel sprouts, shallots and shitake mushrooms.
Fennel and Artichoke Heart salad with a mustard/thyme/shallot dressing - but we were so full we didn't eat it!

Merry Christmas to all and thanks for the help with my questions over the last couple of days - I'm done cooking - DH left this morning for his homeland!

  1. rose water Dec 27, 2006 01:33 PM

    Thanks for your lovely report. You describe my problem with the clementine cake perfectly. I made it a few times last year, but always found the insides too mushy, too eggy, too custardy for my taste. I gave up on it in the end.

    Your fennel salad sounds fantastic!

    1. danna Dec 27, 2006 04:45 PM

      Was that the fennel and artichoke salad from a recent Bon Apetit?

      Did you ever get around to eating it? I didn't much care for it.

      1. pancake Dec 27, 2006 04:51 PM

        I have the same hesitation with Nigella's clemintine cake. I made it only once was very disappointed. It was mushy and had an odd texture. The flavour combination sounds amazing - who does not love clemintines and almonds, especially this time of year!
        Glad to hear I am not the only one who had issues with this recipe.

        3 Replies
        1. re: pancake
          j
          jackie de Dec 28, 2006 12:59 AM

          I was disappointed with the cleminitine cake when I made it last year as well. It sounds like it would be just a terrific cake, but the texture was strange and I didn't think the flavor was all that great either. It was a very expensive cake to make and also took lots of time and energy. I've been reading all the posts from people who just loved this cake, but I just think it's so-so.

          1. re: jackie de
            m
            morebubbles Dec 28, 2006 11:17 AM

            I'm with all of you who did not like the clementine cake. Tried it a few weeks ago, did not like it, won't make it again! I think it's so-so as well.

            1. re: morebubbles
              cristina Dec 28, 2006 03:24 PM

              If you make the cake with two large navel oranges (per the 1980s James Beard recipe) instead of Nigella's suggested change to clementines, I think you will be happy with this cake. IMHO, the clementines' peel and large amount of pith would give a bitter 'off' flavor to the cake, while the boiled oranges only add sweetness. It's extremely rich, very moist, and smoothly wonderful. The orange/almond flavor combination is terrific. I made it for Christmas dinner and was thrilled with it, as were my guests. People begged to take slices home.

        2. PamelaD Dec 27, 2006 05:03 PM

          I think I know what happened with your clemintine cake... Did you use the metric or 'english' recipe?
          I don't have the recipe in front of me, but I remember when I made it last year that the original metric recipe calls for X? grams of clemintines, which, when I wieghed mine, was two! Clemintines (or oranges or lemons or whatever you use) can vary greatly in size.
          I bet you had too much clemintine 'puree', which caused the mushiness.

          Having said that, though, even if it falls or is mushy, that cake is always a hit because it tastes so amazing!
          P

          1. Ruth Lafler Dec 27, 2006 05:30 PM

            I made the "clementine cake" (but with Meyer lemons) three times last week. It sounds like yours was a little underbaked: it should be moist but not puddingy/custardy. Mine always takes more than a hour at 375 -- more like a 1:20. Also, as PamelaD said, you need to weigh the fruit -- the recipe calls for a pound (before cooking), and I try to get pretty close to that. This last time I used the scrapings of puree from the food processor and the juice left on my cutting board when I cut and seeded the fruit after cooking to flavor some lightly sweetened whipped cream, which was delicious.

            It does have a distinctive texture -- I think because there's no flour, and therefore no gluten to hold it together and give it elasticity.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Ruth Lafler
              d
              diablita FL Dec 28, 2006 03:26 AM

              Ruth, I have a bag of Meyer lemons in my fridge waiting to be used for just this purpose. I've never used them before. Did you decrease the amount of sugar in the recipe? And if so, by how much?

              1. re: diablita FL
                Ruth Lafler Dec 28, 2006 04:32 AM

                Actually, I increased the amount of sugar slightly, to 1-1/4 cup. In another thread, I described the way I used parchment paper to not only line the sides of the pan but extend a couple of inches above the rim -- the results are much better this way.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler
                  d
                  diablita FL Dec 28, 2006 06:39 PM

                  Thank you!

            2. MMRuth Dec 27, 2006 11:29 PM

              Thanks for all the feedback - I did use a recipe with imperial measurements, but didn't have a scale, so I figured out how many clementines were in the five pound box and went from there.

              The fennel/artichoke salad has gone uneaten - when I decided to do it, I assumed the artichokes were to be cooked, but it calls for raw artichoke hearts - so I prepared them that way, but I think it's now seen its day! It's from the Jan. Bon Appetit - also calls for frisee and prosciutto.

              1. jen kalb Dec 28, 2006 03:32 PM

                We have learned to serve out these big holiday dinners in courses starting with soup or hot appetizer and salads. It makes for a lighter, more leisurely meal, and people will try the salads (and maybe eat less of the main course) this way.

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