If You Always Do What You've Always Done...Then You'll Always Get What You Always Got

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Orange Syrup Cake, Anna-Style

Step 1.  Preparation is important.  First, make a chocolate buttermilk cake.  Lament the fact that buttermilk comes in 600mL cartons - but then find out how you can make a more normal amount of buttermilk.  Still, most of a carton remains.  Check out recipes to help use up the remainder.  Worry that there is not much space in the freezer, and ask your brother if he has room in his freezer (he does).  If necessary, have a cold that hangs around so you are off work but too sleepy to do anything, and eating oranges nearly daily to aid vitamins and feeling healthier.

Step 2.  A week later, you should feel energetic enough (in the 3 hours of energy you seem to have on selected afternoons) to attempt this cake.  One that is from a book you've had for several years...11 years, in fact...almost to the day...  Over the course of the week one of your friends will do a blog post about lemon syrup cake which should further inspire you.  On the day, realise you are down to only 1 orange.  Thankfully 1/2 an orange is hiding in the fridge from Wednesday's lunch, and there are still a couple of lemons around.  Make a cup of tea.

Step 3.  Gather ingredients.  Turn on computer, start playing Italian Cafe on iTunes, and dance when inspired.  Arrange ingredients from left to right in recipe order:
125g butter
1/2 cup (110g) sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 (260g) self-raising flour
1/2 cup (125mL) buttermilk
1 tablespoon finely grated orange rind
1/4 cup (60mL) orange juice
...and realise you have gone through way more eggs than normal this week!  Well, this is the official list of ingredients.  The 1 1/2 oranges (at the right, obviously) are joined by 2 lemons.  And you should also think while arranging these ingredients (unmeasured, un-grated, un-juiced) that your friend is so much neater in her food pictures.  Measuring everything and then taking a photo - beautiful!  Maybe in the future.

Step 4.  Turn on oven.  Aim for 'moderate' but don't actually check (to be true 'Anna-style' this will be about 150C, you discover later).  Fish out the loaf pan (14x21cm) from the baking tin cupboard.  Spray with oil, line with baking paper, then enjoy the slightly slippery cork tiles.  Recognise that sliding around is not a good idea at this time.  Measure out the butter in your favourite mixing bowl, soften it a tiny bit in the microwave, and add the sugar.  Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add an egg, beat until just combined; add the other egg, beat until just combined.  Note how cleanly the eggs slip out of the eggshells and wonder if this has anything to do with egg freshness.

Step 5.  Measure out the flour over a sieve over a bowl.  Only, when you get to the 2nd (or is it the 3rd?) quarter cup after the full cup, stop and think - is this the 2nd or 3rd quarter?  Hmmm...  You're pretty sure it's only the 2nd quarter, so hoping you're correct, continue.  Sift flour (although, writing this, see that you misread that instruction) into bowl.  Choosing not to wear an apron today, notice at this point that your black top is collecting stray flour bits and could probably do with a wash soon.  Measure out the buttermilk, slightly reminiscent of yoghurt by this stage.  Add half the flour to the butter mix and stir with a wooden spoon.  Pour in half the buttermilk, mix.  Grate orange for the rind - the whole orange yields pretty much the tablespoon you're needing.  While you're grating, the sunlight coming through the window is making a pretty picture with the beaters and the batter, so take a few photos.  Add the rind to the mix.  So fragrant!  And yesterday you read that the fruit is named for the Sanskrit word 'narangan' which means fragrant - well named.  Juice the oranges - about 3/4 of an orange provides the 1/4 cup of juice required.  Pour it into the mix, and mix.  Add the rest of the flour (mix) and buttermilk (mix).

Step 6.  Check oven temperature and discover it's only at 150.  Increase temperature to 180.  Spread batter into prepared pan.  You have to push it a bit to spread it to the edges, and wonder if maybe you used too much flour after all.  Keep juicing the orange and lemons until you have a cup of juice; start putting a few ingredients away until oven is properly preheated, then put the tin in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes.  Take your cup of tea, mixing bowl, beaters, wooden spoon, butter knife and phone to sofa; drink tea, licking remains from implements and playing solitaire.

Step 7.  About 45 minutes into cooking time, make orange syrup: 1 cup juice into a small saucepan, 1/2 cup sugar, stir on low heat until sugar is dissolved.  Which doesn't take long at all.  Increase heat to high and bring to the boil - the sound is like an aeroplane taking off, a little bit, or like a swarm of insects.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, without stirring, 'for about 10 minutes or until syrup thickens slightly'.  [Ugh.  I'm not a fan of such vague instructions.  How much is slightly?]  After removing cake from the oven and a further 10 minutes, increase the heat to medium.  After another 5 minutes - unattended - you notice the saucepan is about to overflow with bubbling juice, and decide enough is enough, this is surely 'thickened slightly' enough.  Move the cake to a wire rack (out of the tin) over an oven tray, stick the skewer into the cake several times (even though the recipe doesn't state that you should), and pour the syrup over the cake, taking a photo or 3 while pouring.

Step 8.  Go and get dinner.  When you return, your brother and DVD Sam have beaten you back.  "Your house smells amazing" they say.  After dinner, cut 3 slices (about 2cm each) and take a few photos, including a really blurry one after a really funny comment (not food related).  Wonder how one of the plates ended up with syrup underneath it.  Appreciate the compliments of the blokes.  Watch some more of the Olympics, then slice the rest of the loaf (there are 5 more slices), wrap them each in Glad wrap, keeping them in the same order, and transfer to the freezer.  Feel rather virtuous for freezing them straight away and not saving any for coffee time in the next few days.  Think about what you can use that's in the freezer so there's more space.  Watch more of the Olympics.

Today's photo:

Another beautiful Brisbane winter day.  Another gig, this time at the Presbyterian church on St Paul's Tce in Spring Hill.  A bit of a wait to get into the church.  The play of sunlight and stonework and blue sky and clouds.

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