When I first started food blogging, I connected with an online baking challenge called MacTweets. The goal of this group was for bloggers to create a monthly French Macaron around a theme for inspiration.
Whether it was a beloved childhood book, favorite dessert or a change in season. Every month a theme was issued to us dedicated Mactweeters and we followed suit with blog posts that showcased arrays of creative concoctions of French Macarons and creative writing. Those challenges not only sparked our culinary skills but also our writers' imaginations. I learned how to make the temperamental macaron and loved each and every one of those assignments and reading the resulting participants' posts.
One of the creative brainiacs behind MacTweets was Jamie Schler of Life's a Feast Food blog. I discovered her blog years ago and immediately connected with her voice as an American expat living in Europe. At the time I was an expatriate in Germany. My husband was working in Iraq. I was living in a small German village and had just started a baking blog as a creative outlet and to mediate my anxiety. Baking became my therapy.
Then, years later my husband's job relocated us back to NYC. At a chance encounter at a blogger conference, I bumped into the real-life Jamie in Soho. It was a thrill to meet her in person. This woman who had inspired me in so many ways.
We stayed in touch through social media and I cheered her on when she and her lovely French husband bought a small hotel in Chinon, France in the Loire Valley.
A few years ago I was back at our home in Germany for a visit and I unexpectedly found my return to my TV job at the time was delayed for a few weeks. Coincidentally, Jamie and talented photographer, Ilva Beretta were co-facilitating a writing and food photography workshop for food bloggers at Jamie's hotel and they had one space open.
I jumped on registering and a few days later found myself ensconced in my beautifully appointed room in Hotel Diderot her charming hotel and in the company of some wonderful and talented women.
It was an inspiring workshop and the background of stunning Chinon was like a dream.
So that's the history of Jamie and me. Recently, she has published this beautiful cookbook photographed by Ilva and I couldn't be more excited to share a recipe from Orange Appeal: Savory and Sweet, a collection of wonderful recipes, all with orange and an ingredient.
Jamie grew up on the space coast of Florida. Her dad worked for Nasa and her winter was filled with juicy, stunning bounties of citrus fruits. Oranges are in her genes and she pours her knowledge, creativity, and skill into this beautiful book.
Reading the book made me think back fondly on the time I spent with this dynamic duo at their workshop in France. It was special and I was so lucky to have attended.
The photos, of course, are gorgeous and inspiring. Ilva did a brilliant job.
I had a hard time deciding what to make first from this book. The sweet and sour Marmalade glazed chicken? The Gooseberry Orange Lattice Pie? OMG- Chocolate Orange Marmalade Brownies? Orange and Brown Sugar-glazed Sweet Potatoes?
There is so much to choose from. So many beautiful orange spiked salads, beef, fish, and chicken dishes in addition to a delicious array of baked goods.
I settled on this beautiful Caramelized Orange Cardamom cake, mostly because Jamie said she had been making this cake for 25 years. The original recipe she obtained from a French cooking magazine an has tweaked and perfected it over time. This cake is perfect for Christmas but I loved the bright spicy flavors and it was a perfect match for this not at all spring-like chill here in the Northeast of the USA.
The cake is wonderful. Perfect with a cup of afternoon coffee on a brisk weather day. I'm reprinting the recipe below with Jamie's permission.
Orange Appeal is a dream. At the front of the book, there is a great guide to orange varieties and orange flavorings as well as detailed instructions on how to prep oranges for cooking and baking. I highly recommend ordering your own copy.
Caramelized Orange Cardamom
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Bake time: 35 minutes
Yield: 8 slicesIngredients:
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, room temperature
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- Pinch ground cardamom
- 2 navel or other large oranges
- 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/16 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1+1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour1/2 cup milk
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Set out a deep, round, nonstick cake pan 8+1/2"
- Beat together 4 tablespoons of butter, brown sugar and pinches of nutmeg and cardamom until smooth and creamy.
- Use a spatula to spread the mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan.
- Zest one of the oranges and set aside the zest.
- Peel both oranges, both the outer peel and the white pith and dice the fruit into small chunks. Capture and reserve any runoff juice and add it to the batter.
- Spread the orange chunks evenly into the pan on top of the brown sugar mixture.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the remaining butter and the white sugar until smooth and creamy.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating briefly after each addition until blended.
- Beat in the vanilla and reserved zest.
- In a small mixing bowl stir the baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cardamom into the flour.
- Beat the flour into the batter in three additions alternating with the milk in two additions.
- Pour the batter into the cake pan over the oranges.
- Bake for 35 minutes, covering loosely with aluminum foil after 20-25 minutes when the cake is browned.
- The cake is done when the center is set and firm and a tester inserted comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
- Slide the blade of a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen, place a serving platter or a cake plate upside down on top of the cake pan and flip the cake onto the platter, the caramel and oranges side up; gently lift the pan.
- Allow the cake to cool before serving.