Ottolenghi’s Orange and Almond Syrup Cake – a Birthday Treat

Well it has been a long time since I blogged.  The last few months have been dreadful and I have  had little time or inclination to sit down and write.  But it is time to get back in the saddle. (Cue slightly strange pictures depicting said saddle getting)

Firstly though I will  give you a feel for how much the Gods have not smiled upon us.  My mother has been diagnosed with not just one cancer,  but two, and has already had a major operation and is now facing 4 months of chemo  followed by another operation.  We are hopeful but negotiating the maze that is the NHS has been a gargantuan task.  The gods decided to keep things symmetrical as my brother’s mother in law has also been diagnosed with two cancers as well.   Added to all that one of our closest friends died of one of the cancers my mother has – a tragic loss to the world and her family and friends. Other things have gone wrong too all of which have combined to leave me feeling that all I wanted to do in the evening was curl up on the sofa and sit the world out.DOG-SOFA-BED1-e1405840001169

But life must go on and it is my Birthday today (53 – I am still somewhat amazed).  I was sat at my desk yesterday evening and realised that work would be expecting a Suffolk cake (in England the birthday boy brings the cake – not his colleagues), and a shop bought variety would cause horror and shock.  A cake therefore had to be made, and it had to be blogged about.  Now the problem is that we are are in the middle of a heat wave (a rare event here) and there was not much time to make something so I needed to go for an old favourite.  I initially thought about Dan Lepard’s delicious Lemon and Poppyseed Drizzle cake, but that triggered my memory of my favourite easy cake of all time – Yotam Ottolenghi’s Orange and Almond Syrup Cake.


The husband and I love Ottolenghi’s cooking.  the culinary delights of the Middle East are now a firm favourite in our house and he has transformed our cooking and our store cupboard over the last 5 years.  Za’atar, Ras el Hanout, Mougrabieh, Sumac have all entered the mainstream and can even be found in deepest Suffolk.  His baked goods are just as wonderful.  The number of middle eastern cookbooks has multiplied as a consequence.  Sabrina Gayour’s Persiana, Diana Henry’s Crazy Water and Pickled Lemons, Honey and Co -the cookbook form the wonderful small restaurant in London, Rawia Bishar’s Olives Lemons and Za’atar, and of course the grand daddy of them all Yotam’s Jerusalem deserve a place on any keen cook’s bookshelf.

This cake is no exception.  It not only delicious,  but also incredibly easy to make.  It can be served as a delicious pudding without its chocolate icing with a dollop of creme fraiche,  as a more formal cake covered in a rich chocolate topping.  Given this was for my birthday, this is the version I went for.  It has a wonderful orange fragrance, is beautifully moist, has just the right combination of sweetness and tartness, and the chocolate adds a glossiness and luxury to the whole affair.  Try it – you won’t regret it!


The Recipe

The Ingredients

The Cake

  • 200g butter softened
  • 300g caster sugar for the cake
  • 80g caster sugar for the syrup
  • 4 clementines or oranges, zest grated and juiced
  • 1 lemon, zest grated and juiced
  • 280g ground almonds
  • 5 medium eggs
  • 100g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • orange zest cut into strips

The Chocolate Icing

  • 90g unsalted butter
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tbsp brandy

The Method

The Cake

  • line a 24cm cake tin
  • heat the oven to 180C (160C  fan)
  • combine the butter,  citrus zest and caster sugar
    • don’t beat or cream – you must not add too much air
    • just stir together until combined
  • add half the almonds and stir in
  • add the eggs one at a time and stir in until well combined
  • fold in the remaining almonds
  • sift the flour and salt and fold into the mixture
  • stir until smooth
  • pour into the cake tin and smooth with a palette knife
  • bake in the oven for 50 minutes until a skewer comes out dry
  • cool in the tin adding the syrup as soon as the cake is out of the oven

The Syrup

  • use all the lemon juice and enough orange juice to make up 120ml
  • add 80g of sugar
  • just before the cake is ready, bring the syrup straight to the boil
  • drizzle over the cake as soon as it is out the oven
  • allow the cake to cool

At this stage you can choose to serve the cake just as it is, garnished with some orange zest strips.  Alternatively you can now cover it with the chocolate icing.

The Chocolate Icing

  • take the cake out of the cake tin
  • place on a wire rack with a dish underneath
  • break up the chocolate
  • add the chocolate, brandy and butter into a bowl
  • place the bowl over a pan of boiling water and heat until the chocolate is melted
  • pour over the cake in one clean pour allowing it to dribble down the sides
  • allow the icing to set
  • decorate with orange zest strips



One Comment Add yours

  1. Wendy says:

    Happy birthday… And hugs for all the stress you’re going through.
    That cake sounds delicious, so I hope your colleagues appreciated every gorgeous bite.


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