You will need at least five mandarins for this recipe – make sure you keep two of them whole, for slicing. If mandarins are out of season, this cake works perfectly well with oranges, blood oranges or meyer lemons.
This cake is beautifully moist with slightly savoury, grassy notes from the olive oil and bay leaves, and freshness from the mandarin.
- 160 ml (5½ fl oz/⅔ cup) mild extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 fresh bay leaves, crumpled/bruised, plus extra to decorate
- 5–6 mandarins (about 600 g/1 lb 5 oz), depending on their size
- 225 g (8 oz/1½ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- ¼ tsp salt
- 100 g (3½ oz/⅓ cup) apple purée
- 80 ml (2½ fl oz/⅓ cup) buttermilk
- 3 eggs
- 4 large apples (about 800 g/1 lb 12 oz)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Cooling time: 35 minutes
For the apple purée, peel, core and roughly chop the apples. Put the apples and a splash of water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8–10 minutes or until tender. Stir and mash the apples, still over the heat, until broken down – they should be mushy and quite thick. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. It is fine to have a little bit of texture, but if you prefer a smooth sauce, whiz in a food processor or use a hand-held blender and purée until smooth. The purée will keep for 3–4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It also freezes well for a couple of months – portion the purée into small containers or spoon into ice-cube trays, freeze and seal in an airtight container.
Heat the olive oil and bay leaves in a small saucepan over low heat for about 10 minutes or until bubbles start to form around the leaves. Set aside to cool and infuse, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves, reserving the oil.
Finely zest and juice 3 mandarins – you need 2 tsp of zest and 80 ml (2½ fl oz/⅓ cup) juice. Thinly slice the remaining whole unpeeled mandarins. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F (fan-forced). Grease a loaf (bar) tin (11.5 cm x 21.5 cm/4½ in x 8½ in; 1.25 litre/42 fl oz capacity) and line the base and two long sides with a piece of non-stick baking paper, extending the paper about 4 cm (1½ in) above the sides of the tin to assist with the removal of the cooked loaf.
Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl. Set aside.
Whisk the cooled olive oil, apple purée, mandarin zest and juice, buttermilk and eggs together in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined. Pour into the prepared tin and top with the mandarin slices, slightly overlapping them along the centre, as they will spread out as the cake rises.
Bake for 45–50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before gently turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely, mandarin-side up.
This cake will keep for 2–3 days in an airtight container.
This recipe is from Incredible Bakes (Smith Street Books). Photography by Chris Middleton.