Thursday, January 9, 2014

Clementine Cake

Dirty Paws by Of Monsters and Men
Two things about this past week - 1.) I was introduced to a new cake and 2.) I found out about a new band.  And both things happened within the same 2 hour frame of time, simultaneously, while I was being carried away by a movie like I haven't been for a very long time.  And the resonating feelings haven't left me and dwindled away.  They've grown stronger and stronger until I feel like I MUST see it again.  For the scenery, for the story, for the characters, and for the ever-so-perfect music.  I bought the whole soundtrack but I'm sharing this selection by Of Monsters and Men as a nod to their achingly beautiful homeland - Iceland.  Of Monsters and Men call themselves "folkie pop" which is a very suitable description of their sound.  If you haven't already, you should give this song a listen!  It's bright and energizing - just like this cake!

So we went to see
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"
starring Ben Stiller last week.
I want to see it again.
And again.
And again.

To be honest, I wasn't so sure at first.
I have this problem when I go to the movies.
I'm forever taking $9 naps.
I can't explain it.
I haven't always been like this.
But get me sitting still, in a big dark theater,
and, chances are, if the movie doesn't grab me
right up front, I'm doing the bob and weave.
I've even done a snorting snore once.
Luckily it was a kiddie matinee and hardly
anybody was there.
I woke myself up with the loudness of the snort.
Only to see my daughter's look of disbelief -
and embarrassment - on her shaking head.
Nope.  Can't take me anywhere!

So, at the beginning of the show, I started to do a little nodding.
But suddenly, they left the United States
and I was jolted into the present by such scenery
as I've never seen before!
Seriously the bluest blues and the greenest greens.
I'm not going to give any storyline away here but,
when he takes that longboard to the road,
I had to make sure my jaw wasn't hanging open.
I was hooked and enjoyed this movie with a sensory explosion.

Except taste and smell, that is.
But there was this cake throughout the movie.
A Clementine Cake.
I'd never heard of one of those before.
And it kept showing up, this same Clementine Cake
that Walter's mother, played by
Shirley MacLaine, made for him.
The cake is in the first scene as his sister is
chasing him down to deliver it.

It shows up enough that you are thinking
quite a bit about Clementine Cake.
Or maybe that's just me.
It wasn't a fancy cake.
It was wrapped in brown parchment.
She had given it a simple glaze icing
and topped it with slices of candied clementine slices.

So now my head is full of all sorts of thoughts, like -
"I HAVE to go to Iceland!"
"This place is crazy beautiful!"
"I never realized how stunningly blue Ben Stiller's eyes are!"
"I wonder how hard it is to longboard.  Is it easier than
regular skateboarding because I can't do that either."
"When did we leave his fantasy life and enter into this fantastic reality?"
"Sean Penn has aged well."
"I'm going to HAVE to check out this Clementine Cake
when I get home.  What's it all about?"

And that's exactly what I did!
Come to find out,
it's like no other cake I've ever made!
There's no flour - and only 5 ingredients.
It's super easy.
And, to some, it's a bit habit-forming.

I set right to work to make one and now have about four
of them sitting around my kitchen.
I learned about a few different approaches to the cake
and I wanted to try them all before I decided
which points I wanted to take for my own.

What needs to be said right up front is that this is a very moist cake.
And, depending on your methodology, it can be what some people call soggy.
And I've learned that methodology - or how the ingredients are introduced
to each other - plays a big role in this cake.

Some recipes call for just dumping it all together.
I say nay to that approach.
It was my least favorite of all the cakes.
Way too wet.

I found that it makes a world of difference if you
beat the eggs together with the sugar first for
several minutes, letting them go from dark almost orange
to a light yellow froth.
The whole consistency of the cake is better 
served by taking the time to do this.

Another thing to know about this cake is
that you use the ENTIRE clementine.
The traditional way to prepare the clementines is to boil them.
But I stumbled upon
Cathy Merenda's blog and she suggests microwaving them!
Either way, you puree the cooked clementines and use that
pulp for the cake.

I've tried both the boiling and the microwaving approaches.
The boiling does give you the softest fruit and you might not even need to
pull out the food processor - you could probably just chop it up by hand
as the rinds are super soft.
But the boiling takes two hours and some cooling time.
Microwaving takes 4 1/2 minutes then about
30 - 45 minutes cooling "sauna" time.
Your house smells fabulous either way.
In the boiling method, I like to add some aromatics as well
like a cinnamon stick, a few whole cloves, and a nub of fresh ginger.
To microwave your clementines, you simply 
poke them with a small knife a few times and
then place them in a microwaveable bowl and cover with 
plastic wrap, folding back a side to serve as a vent.
What I like about the microwaving approach is that
the clementines release some of their juice into the bowl,
giving you the liquid for the glaze!
So you're going to cut those cooked clementines in half,
remove any seeds you find, and then plop them
into the food processor and pulverize until you have a sort of paste.
Boiled clementines will result in a looser pulp.
The rinds of the microwaved clementines are not quite 
as soft as the boiled ones and the use of the 
food processor, in my opinion, is a must.

The boiled clementines are much wetter and result in a
more moist cake, when finished.  I think, when I make
my fifth Clementine Cake, I will boil them
then, after pureeing or chopping them, let that sit in
a strainer for a few minutes to let some of the juices collect in a bowl.
Then proceed with the rest of the cake.

I added one extra ingredient to my cake -
A bit of almond extract.
It's fine without, but I liked it and will continue to use it!
I also think it would be perfectly lovely to add some cinnamon or cloves.
This cake is simple, yet classy.
I see it becoming a new trend and even making
appearances in some wedding cake displays!

Clementine Cake
serves 8 - 10
4 clementines (about 12 oz. or 375 g)
6 eggs
1 1/4 c. sugar (225 g)
2 1/4 c. ground almonds (almond meal)(250 g)
1 t. baking powder
1 t. almond extract (optional)
1/4 c. clementine juice
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 T. butter, melted

Boil the clementines in water for 2 hours.  Or puncture them with a sharp knife and place in a microwaveable bowl and cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 4 1/2 minutes.  When done, cover the entire bowl with plastic wrap and let sit to cool for 30 - 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a 9" springform pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.  Set aside.

After the clementines are boiled or microwaved and cooled, cut in half and remove seeds, if any.  Place in the bowl of a food processor and process until there are only tiny bits of rind visible.  Just think of how big a piece you'd like to bite into and go from there.  Everyone's preference will be different.  Set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, combine the eggs and sugar and beat for 3 - 5 minutes until light yellow and frothy.  

In a separate bowl, measure out the almond meal and the baking powder and whisk together.

After the eggs and sugar are beaten, add the clementine puree along with the almond extract and mix well.  Add the almond meal mixture and stir until well-blended.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 35 - 40 minutes.  The top and sides of the cake get pretty dark.  Don't be worried.  The cake is done when a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean.  Let the cake cool completely in the pan.

Prepare the glaze by stirring together the juice, powdered sugar, and then add the melted butter at the end.  Remove the cooled cake from the pan and pour the glaze onto the top center.  Spread out over the top, letting it run down the sides.  Add some clementine zest for garnish, if desired.

Slice and serve!


  1. i was JUST thinking i needed to find a clementine cake recipe after seeing this movie. thanks for saving me the trouble of searching. this sounds perfect!

    1. Oh, Erita! I'm so glad you found your way to my blog! This cake is so fun to make and really no trouble at all. I hope you enjoy it!

  2. oh Janice, I thought the same thing when I saw and fell in love with the movie, "I have to make a clementine cake!" THANK YOU THANK YOU for doing all the leg work and giving us just the best...this is on my to do list!! the short "to do" list!

    1. Karen, it's quite lovely! I really do think that it would be such a wonderful addition to a wedding brunch or luncheon or even as a reception refreshment! Anyway, make this cake! You know where to find me if you have any questions!