Friday, November 19, 2010

Orange Cake with Cranberries

It's the 19th day of Vegan Mofo now, and we're all slowing down. The days are getting shorter, and so are our posts. There's a lot of soup, of sweets, and of warm and comforting foods to console ourselves about the weather. There might not be the sunshine that I adore, but in consolation, occasionally I splash out on something that brightens my day. Then I mix it with cake. Nom nom nom...

This time, it was cranberries. I know, I know; they're imported and the ecological cost is definitely not included in the cost of the punnet. I'm only human, and I'll try better to control my cravings. I really need to stop going to the supermarket when I'm hungry, because I simply can't be trusted with delicious fruit... mm, cranberries. I love sour fruit in sweet cake, and this time I took it a step further: instead of making a basic vanilla cake, I made orange cake. Can I hear a round of applause? Oh yes, I'm giving myself a standing ovation for that one. Though I halved my standard recipe; I'd recommend you make the full quantity, unless you're like me, and you're liable to eat the whole thing yourself. Then, and only then, do you have permission to make half.

So, after playing cranberry-tetris is the bottom of the baking tin, which was a lot of fun for someone like me, I carefully spooned over the orange-rich batter. The cake itself was dead easy, improved by a generous amount of orange zest in the batter. If you're into the kind of citrus that'll slap you in the face to wake you up, then this is definitely a recipe for you. Not that I much mind if it's not, because this orange batter is definitely a recipe for me, and it'll be getting a workout in future.

In the last sharehouse that I was living in, I was queen of the garden. It wasn't a difficult post to achieve; I lived with two men, neither of whom had any interest in gardening. When we moved in, the entire backyard was a dust bowl, with a few gnarled fruit trees and a few spindly weeds. I could see right away that we had a generously-sized almond tree, what seemed to be apples or pears, and some citrus. I gave myself blood blisters by pruning them with small secateurs and sheer willpower. I don't know how much I can say that my hard work paid off: the two apple trees were seriously diseased, which I never did end up treating. The lemon errupted with fruit, but I didn't utilise it enough. I ate a few green almonds, nibbling on the kernels while they were in the jelly-like stage, but the rainbow lorikeets and that one screaming cockatoo ate the rest before they were anywhere near maturity. But the oranges? Oh, the oranges.

The orange tree was, if I recall correctly, navel oranges grafted onto a lemon rootstock; there were stray fruit from below the graft, but they were never worth using, especially not with a true lemon five metres across the yard. But the oranges were phenomenal. They were quite small compared to the giant supermarket oranges that we see today. Pretty natural, considering that I didn't thin the crop at all. But the tree was thankful for what pruning I had managed; it errupted in fruit, beautiful orange globes that sated my craving for citrus for the entire season. And my parents' cravings, and many of my friends' cravings; those who were able to take home a bag, anyway. My garden had both amazing successes and disappointments in the two years that I lived in Leader Street, but nothing elipses the sheer happiness of gorging every day on oranges.

Orange Cake with Cranberries

2 Cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 small oranges, zested and juiced
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla powder
1/4 cup oil
200g (ish) cranberries, fresh or frozen (not thawed)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C. Line a baking tin - I used a round springform - with baking paper and arrange your cranberries over the bottom, in a single, even layer.
Sift your dry ingredients together into a bowl, so that they mix together. Add the oil, orange zest and orange juice, and throw in enough soymilk to mix it into a fairly stiff batter - about a cup or so.
Spoon the batter carefully over the cranberries, being careful not to dislodge them.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Remember to insert it into the middle of the cake, and not right down into the berry layer, otherwise it'll always come out sticky.
When the cake is sufficiently cooled, cut yourself a large slice, slather it with the cranberry-orange compote (recipe soon!) that you made with the leftover half-pack of berries, and be careful of the hot berries that will explode in your mouth as you bite in.
If your larder is sufficiently stocked, serve with vanilla soy yoghurt and a sprinkling of almonds.

Back in Australia, I often added a touch of Mandarin Napoleon (brandy) to cakes like this... I recommend it. ;)


  1. so lovely!
    If you are after something more local than cranberries, try some "Preißebeeren", they are similarly sour and kind of the german version of cranberries. My parents always have some with venison or so. My mom has a great recipe for a Chocolate cake with a Preißelbeer-Filling - but that cake is so not vegan, it's nearly hilarious again (just saying - eggs, cream, butter.... the whole shebang).
    love your blog btw.

  2. Believe me, I'm familiar with the charms of preiselbeeren! Yum! :) My only problem is that now that they're out of season, I can't get any fresh ones. I think I'm going to have to be realistic and stick to some apple-based treats for a while! Unless of course I get those ones that come in syrup, and reduce it to make a sauce... ooh, now I'm thinking... I'm so checking that out next time I'm in my local Marktkauf! :)

    And thanks, Trina, for the comment: thankfully cranberries are pretty all on their own, so smothering them with cake didn't do any harm. :)


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