I’ve been thinking about my sister a lot lately. It’s not like I don’t see her often (she lives in the same suburb). I see her most days – I bump in to her at school pick up – but sadly, unless we book in a ‘cup of tea’ date, it’s a quick smooch and a warm rub on the back. As we rush past each other, with our tribe of daughters who need to be somewhere.
Needless to say, I adore my sister and I always have done. She is the oldest child, I am the middle child, and we have a younger brother. As young sisters, I dressed like her, sang with her, belting out the Nolan Sisters to the tape deck with our leg warmers pulled high. I danced with her as little girls do – after 13 years of ballet lessons together, as teenage girls at parties, as women, enjoying the music and the moment. We went to school together, we shared secrets, we shared friends, we had each other’s backs, we laughed, we cried…we grew up.
We stood right next to each other, as ‘maids of honour’ at each other’s weddings. We are the godmothers to each other’s beautiful daughters. After all of this and with the natural constraints of time – both of us being working mothers – slowly, slowly, we had less and less of that precious time together. As I write this, it makes me sad. I miss our late nights, sitting up, sipping wine and smoking cigarettes as we would talk, tell stories and console each other about ‘the one that got away’. I miss how often we would laugh until we would cry or until the chocolate milkshake would burst out my nostrils with such gusto (this hurts, by the way) because I have no self-control when a good belly laugh with her is building. I also miss the easiness and simplicity that you feel when you see someone you love so often. It is a beautiful thing.
Recently, we vowed to make more purposeful time for each other, when it was just ‘us’, ‘our time’. We have slotted in some sweet coffee catch ups, even if half an hour was all we had.
My sister is one strong woman. She has braved some challenges over the past few years and now I watch her regaining her health, nurturing herself, nurturing her family and she has a fab new job to boot. She is beaming and it is so beautiful to see. For health reasons, she has completely changed her diet and man…can you see the benefits! In the process, she is cutting right back on gluten. I am a carb-loading machine, so cooking for her involves me to think a little harder, dig a little deeper.
I have taught many Moroccan and Middle Eastern cooking classes of late and I recently changed the dessert to include this Middle eastern flourless orange cake.
This cake is one of my favourites right now. It is moist, it is light and mouthful after glorious mouthful is just a joy on your tongue. The flavours are just so lovely and it is ‘a piece of cake’ to make. It is simplicity at its best. We all need a bit of that in our lives, in order to make time for things we like to do and for those whom we love.
Every time I cooked it, I thought of my gorgeous sister. It is the perfect cake to cook for someone who is gluten intolerant and will be a nice addition to our little dates. Now, they might include a quick pot of tea and a big slice of cake. If you can’t eat cake with your sister, who can you eat cake with?
Kirsty, this cake is for you with lots and lots of sisterly love.
Middle eastern flourless orange cake
215g caster sugar
300g almond meal
1 teaspoon of orange blossom water
1 tsp baking powder***
Wash the oranges, place them in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil and simmer for 1.5 hours. Drain and coarsley chop the orange discarding any seeds (peel stays on).
Place the oranges in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.
Whisk the eggs and the sugar, using electric beaters, until thick and pale. Add the orange, almond meal, orange blossom water and baking powder and fold until just combined.
Pour into a greased, 22cm round pan and bake in 170C for about 50 minutes or until skewer inserted comes out clean.
Garnish with orange zest and serve with whipped cream (I like to add a few drops of orange blossom water and just a little icing sugar to the whipped cream).
Occasionally I make a warm sugar syrup to spoon over this cake. Place equal quantities of caster sugar and water in a saucepan and stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat a little and simmer gently for a couple of minutes. Add a few drops of orange blossom water and drizzle over the cake when serving.
If you think it needs a little ‘jazzing up’ (I never claimed it to be the most striking of cakes to look at), a great lady and Chef, Michele Curtis, teaches here at Relish Mama and thought it might also be quite lovely with flaked almonds placed on top of the cake, pre-cooking.
*** Not all baking powder contains gluten.
If you cannot have any gluten in your diet you might be best exploring this further (ie. which brands do, which brands don’t, where to buy gluten free baking powder, etc). I have also heard that mixing baking soda with cream of tartar, when baking powder is called for is a success. Baking soda does not contain gluten.
Regardless of what you use, I sincerely hope you love this cake and get to share a slice with someone special too! Enjoy.