The other day I got a little excited to see bags of blood oranges in store and put one in my basket to make a salad with mint, beetroot and fennel. I got home to dejectedly realise that I had picked up a bag of normal oranges. I made the salad anyway as I was craving something crunchy, juicy and light and decided to bake a cake to use up the oranges.
I have been making versions of this rustic Cardamon & Orange Syrup Loaf Cake for many years. The measurements are easy to memorise, all the ingredients are placed in the bowl and mixed in one go – no creaming, no whipping, no sink full of dirty dishes! The proportion of ingredients are based on the classic sponge cake (equal weights of eggs, flour, sugar and butter) even if the method isn’t. You can substitute limes or lemons for the orange; saffron for the cardamom; sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar before it goes in and use an apple juice syrup – the possibilities are endless. It emerges risen and golden with that characteristic of Madeira cakes – a crack along the middle which is the perfect place to drizzle the syrup.
Cardamom & Orange Syrup Loaf Cake
Makes one loaf (in a 900g/2 lb tin)
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 175 g of plain flour
- 175 g of golden caster sugar
- 175 g of unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
- 2 large eggs
- 75ml milk (5 Tbsp)
- 1 large orange – zested
For the syrup
- Juice of the large orange
- 75 g caster sugar
- 6 cardamom pods
- Preheat oven to 180C/350F
- Melt the butter – see my Tips and Tricks page for easy ways to do this – tips 11 and 12.
- Prepare the loaf tin with a paper liner or butter the sides and lay a strip of parchment paper to cover the bottom and run up the short sides as handles.
- Place your mixing bowl on the scales and measure in the flour and sugar. Add the baking powder and the salt and mix with a hand whisk to blend and aerate. Zest the orange straight into the bowl.
- Add the milk to the melted butter and stir – it also helps to cool the butter down.
- Crack the eggs into the bowl, pour in the milk and butter and mix for about 3 or 4 minutes with an electric mixer. It takes no time at all to combine. Do not over beat unless you want a tough crumb!
- Scrape into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 35 – 45 minutes. Poke with a wooden skewer at 35 minutes to be on the safe side.
- Give each cardamom pod a gentle bash with something heavy – it will crack open, revealing the seeds inside. In a pestle and mortar pound the seeds to a coarse powder. Or using the bottom of a sturdy glass, press on the seeds to break them down.
- Juice the orange and add to the sugar and cardamom seeds in a pan. On a low flame, heat until the sugar dissolves and the liquid reduces somewhat – about 3 or 4 minutes. Take off the heat to infuse and cool. If the seeds are a bit on the chunky side, strain the syrup before using.
- When the cake is ready, let it cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then take it out and place on a rack. Gently prise away the sides of the loaf paper so that if the syrup runs down the sides it will be contained inside the wrapper and soak back into the cake.
- Poke 15 or so holes in the cake using a toothpick; then slowly and gently, pour over the syrup.
- Put it back inside the loaf tin until cold.
- Slice and enjoy with a cup of tea or glass of fizz!