No, you read that right. I did mean Mishmesh.
It’s what the Arabic word for apricot sounds like. And the reason for this will become clear shortly.
It’s been a kitchen day, baking for the coffee shop. Many of my regular cakes and pastries were on the order, including the very, very popular sticky date cake with toffee sauce. Well, what’s not to like? But while I baked I was thinking of ways to make this perennial favourite a bit less, shall we say, hackneyed? And here’s my answer.
200g/7oz dried apricots, chopped and steeped in 1 cup of boiling water with a 1/2 tsp bicarb soda.
40g/1.5oz softened butter
80g/3oz by weight of vegetable oil
1 cup soft dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
¾ cup cup almond meal
1 cup gluten free self-raising flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cardamom
Juice of 5 or 6 mandarins, equal to 1 cup/25oml/8.5floz of juice
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (or you can crush pods and infuse them, retrieving them at the end)
Beat the softened butter, oil and brown sugar till pale and smooth. You can use all oil, but I happen to like the buttery flavour. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix the flour, almond meal and spices, and fold into the mixture. Add the steeped apricots, which will have swelled and softened, and fold these through as well. Pour into a greased and lined 28cm/11″ square cake tin, and bake at 180°C for 30 minutes.
While the cake is baking, juice your mandarins, and measure out 1 cupful. Put this into a small pan together with the sugar and ground cardamom. (You can use oranges here if mandarins are not in season, but they’re not as fragrant so the flavour’s a little different). Heat, stirring often, over a moderate heat till the sugar has dissolved and the mixture comes to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes to thicken the syrup. Decant into a heatproof jug.
Once the cake is out of the oven and you have removed the pan and baking paper, put the cake into a dish at least as deep as the cake, and ideally fairly close fitting. Slowly pour the warm syrup over the warm cake, and all around the edges, stopping from time to time to let the cake absorb the syrup.
Wait as long as you can before tucking in. I managed to avoid burning my mouth… just. It’s a delicious combination of tender spiced cake crumb, sticky top, spicy tart apricots and gooey syrup with a hint of orange blossom. There’s a definite Middle Eastern flavour vibe – if I’d been feeling more adventurous I’d have added some sumac as well, but the poor Husband’s got to eat this too, and I’m not sure how he feels about sumac in cakes as opposed to a tagine, for example.
It doesn’t look exciting, it’s basically a brown cake with a sticky top, but my taste buds were doing a little fandango, and only writing this post is stopping me marching off to the kitchen for another slice. Maybe a bit of Greek yoghurt with it next time, or a dollop of labneh?
Hmm. I’ll need another slice to help me decide.