Sunday, July 14, 2013

Clementine & Almond Syrup Cake with Chocolate Icing

Every once in awhile I have a total failure in the kitchen.  I don't really mind having kitchen failures because they help me learn what works and what doesn't work.  Those same failures also help me learn what kind of recipes my family likes and dislikes.  I'd go so far as to say that I've learned just as much from my kitchen failures as I have from my successes.    

However, this cake was the kind of failure that bothers me.  It bothers me because it was a rather expensive failure (clementines, almonds, good quality chocolate, and lots of butter).  It also bothers me because it was a very time-consuming failure (the majority of an afternoon and lots of dishes to wash). 

We didn't like this cake....AT ALL!  The picture of the cake certainly looks pretty in my copy of Jerusalem and it seemed like a really good choice since I found some great clementines at my market. I had high hopes, but they were crushed when I tasted a bite of the cake.  The cake was extremely dense and gritty (I'm guessing from the large amount of ground almonds).  The chocolate icing was gritty as well and there was really little I could do to fix it.  Additionally, the clementine flavor didn't really come through, although I'm not sure why.  The cake gets brushed with a beautifully aromatic clementine simple syrup that tastes very sweet and delicious, but you just don't get that flavor in the cake (either with or without the chocolate icing).  

All in all, I was very disappointed.  My family really enjoys the combination of orange and chocolate and we were all looking forward to this cake.  My husband and I shared a slice, both with and without the chocolate icing, and we just didn't like it at all.  Right now the cake is chilling in the fridge to see if that helps matters, but I'm thinking the cake will more than likely get tossed.  Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with the recipe.  It's possible that other people enjoy a very dense and gritty cake, but it's just not for us. 

Clementine & Almond Syrup Cake with Chocolate Icing
Adapted from Jerusalem
by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Serves 8 to 10

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter
scant 2 cups sugar
grated zest and juice of 4 clementines
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
 2-1/2 cups ground almonds
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, sifted
pinch of salt
long strips of orange zest to garnish (optional)

Chocolate Icing:

6 tablespoons butter, diced
5 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, broken up
2-1/2 teaspoons honey
1-1/2 teaspoon Cognac

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Lightly grease a 9-1/2 inch springform pan with butter and line the sides and bottom with parchment paper.

Place the butter, 1-1/2 cups of the sugar, and both zests in a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment and beat on low speed to combine everything well.  Do not work the mixture too much or incorporate too much air.  Add half the ground almonds and continue mixing until combined.

With the machine running, gradually add the eggs, stopping to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl a couple of times as you go.  Add the remaining ground almonds, the flour, and the salt and beat until completely smooth.

Pour the cake batter into the pan and level it with an offset spatula.

Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes (mine was finished at 50 - watch closely).  Check to see if it is ready by inserting a skewer into the center.  It should come out a little bit moist.

When the cake is almost done, place the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and the citrus juices in a small saucepan and bring to a boil (the juices should total about 1/2 cup; remove some juice if needed).  When the syrup boils, remove it from the heat.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, brush it with the boiling syrup, making sure all the syrup soaks in.  Leave the cake to cool down completely in the pan before you remove it.  You can then serve it as it is, garnished with orange zest strips, or store it for up to 3 days in an airtight container.

If you wish to ice the cake, we recommend doing it on the day you want to serve it so the icing is fresh and shiny.  Put the butter, chocolate, and honey in a heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water).  Stir until everything is melted, then immediately remove from the heat and fold in the Cognac.  Pour the icing over the cooled cake, allowing it to dribble naturally down the sides without covering the cake completely.  Let the icing set and then garnish the center of the cake with the orange zest strips.
Theme: Fruitfull!


  1. That is such a bummer. I hate it too when a high effort/high cost recipe doesn't work out--especially when you were looking forward to it. ;-(

  2. Well, it looks gorgeous. I'm so sorry you didn't care for this cake; it certainly sounded very promising. I also made a dish I didn't love (I just can't eat fried onions at room temperature!)

  3. My first thought when I saw the title and the photo was "Shut, the Front Door" damn that looks good. I am bummed that it did not work out. That is what the passion for cooking is all about ....Some recipes we love, and others just don't work out (sigh).


  4. Hi Kim,
    So sorry about the cake! It does look very nice though! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I would not come across a recipe that I'll end up hating, especially when the ingredients are costly!

  5. Ugh I hate it when that happens! It's so disheartening. I wonder if maybe it would have been better to use almond flour instead of grinding the almonds yourself because it's almost impossible to get really finely ground almonds when you do it yourself!

  6. Your pictures--especially the last one--make this look like a total knockout. It stinks that this wasn't the case. Those are some expensive ingredients!

    I don't know where my mind has been lately. I've been getting my egg post ready and it's potluck week. duh.

  7. Oh, Kim, how disappointing for you. It certainly looks sensational, and those kind of dense almond and orange cakes are the kind of thing that I love. Not sure why it was gritty though. Joanne might be right - did you grind the almonds yourself? If so that might have been the problem - I would be inclined to try using commercially ground almond meal. But really spending all that money on expensive ingredients for a dish you didn't enjoy really sucks. Hope the next one is better :-)


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