Seriously, what is going on with the weather atm? One day hot, one day cold. We know autumn is always a bit here and there – warm days, crisp nights – but this hot-cold-cloudy-sunny-rainy-windy feels a little bit crazy. Yes, we like to complain about stuff.
The good thing about the crazy is a) the sun has kept a lot shrubs fruiting in the garden and b) a random rain storm earlier this week knocked a baby hippo-sized pile of kumquats off the tree where we proceeded to drive over them until there was a jammy sticky orange mess all over the driveway and all up in the car tyres. The smell was obscenely delicious. Cue recipe for kumquat cake. Yay!
Kumquats are one of those things you see every now and then but don’t know what to do with. They seem to be mainly used to make marmalade to give to relatives you only see at christmas that then sits at the back of the pantry next to the chocolate coated coffee beans and tinned oysters.
To be honest, this was the first time we’d tried cooking with them. We adapted recipes for orange cake from talented artist alice and food writer diana lampe, substituting almond meal for semolina and oranges for kumquats because a random rain storm knocked a baby-hippo-sized pile off the tree blah blah blah the smell was delicious (see earlier explanation, above). They taste kinda like mandarins but not as sweet. Weirdly, the skin is the sweet bit while the flesh is all sour (not bad sour; like lemon warheads sour). Seemed perfect for a recipe that uses the whole fruit. Flesh, pith and peel. It all goes in here.
for the cake
500g kumquats (about 20)
1 cinnamon quill
250g caster sugar
3 large eggs (or 5 small ones)
1½ tsp baking powder
for the icing
zest of 1 orange
125g butter, softened
125g icing sugar
If you have some time to spare or feel like getting decoratey, thinly slice four or five kumquats and an orange into discs (about 4mm for the orange and 1–2mm for the kumquats) and place on a wire rack. Dry in the oven at 110º celsius for an hour or two or until they are dehydrated. They key here is to use as slow a heat as possible and just to let them do their own thing. When they are done, remove from the oven and set aside.
Take butter and mascarpone out of the fridge to soften. Preheat the oven to 170° celsius. Put the kumquats and cinnamon quill in about 5cm of water and simmer for an hour or so, until the skins are super soft. Remove from heat to cool. Blend the peel and flesh into a smooth puree.
Combine the semolina and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are smooth and fluffy. Fold in the semolina and then the kumquat puree. Line the bottom of a 20cm springform tin with baking paper then grease the sides and dust with semolina. Pour in the batter and bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool a little before attempting to turn it out. Once turned out, remove the baking paper and allow to cool completely on a cake rack.
To make the icing, cream the butter and icing sugar until smooth. Slowly add the mascarpone and orange zest. When the cake is completely cool, ice it generously, and garnish with fresh and dried orange and kumquat slices, and a few small leafy branches.