Melancholy. It strikes the best of us at the worst of times, or in my case anytime. Ever since baby boy started at Mayo, I seem to have an abundance of what most women, mothers in particular, often yearn for- time. I now have all the time in the world, time to do all those things that I’ve always said I wanted to do but didn’t have the time to; like taking pastry classes, getting over my fear of water, going dancing, learning Mandarin, reading more, running more and the hundred other things that I had said I would ‘definitely’ do if only I had the time. And although I’ve tried to do some of these things, mostly though I just find myself thinking; going back in time, thinking of the good old days, the happy carefree days, a time when the people I loved the most were still around, to talk to, to laugh with and cry with and I can’t help but think how different everything would be if they were still around. The doorbell rings, bringing to an abrupt halt the black and white movie playing in my head; making me grateful for all the precious memories my heart and mind will always carry.
“I know not why there is such a melancholy feeling attached to the remembrance of past happiness, except that we fear that the future can have nothing so bright as the past.”- Julia Ward Howe
At other times, my mind will wander into the future; a little hopeful, a little fearful. The mind conjures up scenarios that in fact may never take place, I imagine having done the right thing, or regret having made the biggest mistake; I think about mortality and hope to live long enough and yet not too long; but how long is long enough? The phone rings, bringing to an abrupt halt the haphazard painting my mind was creating; making me grateful for, well, having a phone.
It’s easy to think about the past, you know it happened, you know what happened, and you have the choice of remembering and taking with you only what you want to. The future though, as much as you try to imagine it, plan for it, prepare for it; in all probability, it’s still going to surprise you and maybe even shock you.
Being a loner, I find melancholia cathartic; though I really should rein it in a little.
“The soulless have no need of melancholia”- Vladimir Odoevsky
Let’s talk cake; specifically, this bright, tangy, citrusy, sure to bring you sunshine and joy cake. I can’t believe oh sweet citrus is only just getting its first citrus recipe *gasp*. Oh well, I promise this one makes up for the tardiness. Usually if I’m trying out a new recipe I adapt it and make it my own, this Martha Stewart recipe however I didn’t want to mess with so followed it as is. This is a seriously citrusy cake, with the lemon and orange flavours being the absolute hero. It’s not like most citrus cakes and desserts which have a hint of tang but are still pretty sweet. I loved the tart flavour that comes through but I know a lot of people would prefer more sweetness; in that case serve with honey or sweetened whipped cream. You can also add more sugar while making the syrup, which the cake gets drenched in. The process is very simple, the tedious and slightly time consuming bit is segmenting the oranges and lemons; once you have the citrus segments and juice, the rest is super simple.
Since I had a whole lot of edible flowers just sitting in the fridge, that’s what I used to top the cake with. I also realized that although they are edible I didn’t exactly like eating all of them. Some like the nasturtium flowers I loved. So choose wisely.
We had this as breakfast on Valentine’s. I dedicate this cake to all you citrus lovers out there.
For the cake
All purpose flour/maida- 2 ¾ cups (plus more for dusting the pan)
Superfine sugar- 1 ½ cups
Baking powder- 2 tsp
Salt- 1 tsp
Crème fraiche- ¾ cup
Eggs- 6 (at room temperature)
Unsalted butter (melted) – 150 grams
Oranges- 2 (may require more depending on the size)
Lemons- 2 (may require more depending on the size)
Cooking spray or extra butter for greasing the pan
For the syrup
Fresh lemon juice- 1/3 cup
Fresh orange juice- 3 tbsp
Sugar- ½ cup
Grand Marnier- 1 tbsp
Edible flowers to decorate (optional)
- Zest the oranges and lemons. Then, remove the peel and white pith from the oranges and lemon. Cut between membranes to get clean segments. Put the citrus segments in one bowl and squeeze juice from remaining membranes into another bowl. Cut the segments in to small pieces. You will need ¾ cup of segments and 3 tbsp of citrus juice.
- Preheat oven to 175C. Take a 10 cup tube pan or Bundt pan; grease well with cooking spray or butter, dust with flour and tap out any excess.
- In a bowl whisk together the flour, superfine sugar, baking powder and salt.
- Add crème fraiche and beat until combined. Then add the eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each addition. Beat in butter, citrus juices and zest. Add citrus segments and mix until just combined. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until done.
- For the syrup- In a saucepan combine the citrus juices with sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Boil for 30 seconds more. Take it off the heat and add the Grand Marnier, if using.
- Once the cake is baked, take it out of the oven and let cool. Once cooled, invert onto a serving dish and slowly keep pouring the syrup over it. The cake will absorb all the syrup.
- Decorate with edible flowers and citrus zest, if you so wish.
*You will need to use the big lemons for this; the smaller limes won’t work as it’s next to impossible to segment. If you can’t find lemons, use all oranges instead.
*You can substitute crème fraiche with sour cream.
*This cake can be served with sweetened whipped cream, a drizzle of honey or a dusting of powdered sugar for added sweetness.