stay home – and bake, maybe? [blood orange stout cake]

Top o’ the morning/afternoon to you! What a weird time. I’m operating with a slight but consistent undercurrent of anxiety that I don’t usually carry with me, but I figure this is normal for the moment. I’m lucky that I can mostly maintain my “normal” by working at home, but (like everyone, I’m sure) am worried about my friends and folks who cannot. While my anxiety spikes when I think of the health and economic impacts of this pandemic, it’s comforting to know there are things we can do to help so here’s my little list (with some Ottawa links for locals):

  • Practice social distancing! Stay home unless you must go out (and thank all the folks who are working at grocery stores, pharmacies, in health care, etc. who are out there helping while those of us who can stay home).
  • Donate to your local food bank & community partners
  • Donate blood – it is still safe to do so, and Canadian Blood Services is worried about a shortage with so many folks cancelling donor appointments during the pandemic.
  • Support small businesses: get takeout from a local spot and produce from farm vendors, buy gift cards, pay for a service that you have to cancel if you are able to, order beer, wine, or cider online from your fave local producers…there are so many ways to support our indie spots.
    • Edible Ottawa has pulled together a great list of local food businesses we can still purchase from and support (all while maintaining our social distance, of course!).
    • Amy has started a spreadsheet (that you can add to!) of small businesses nation-wide and how you can purchase from them/any promotions during this time (check the tabs to browse/add by province and territory).

What are you finding helpful and/or reassuring these days?

There is no shortage of items on my to-do list, so I’m certainly not bored while I stay in. Between working and listening to the news too much, I’m finding dog walks and food prep really uplifting. If (stress) baking is your thing, Tara O’Brady’s recipe for blood orange stout cake is perfect for today’s subdued St-Paddy’s at home – studded with fresh and candied ginger and warm spices it’s delightful warm, and still moist several days later. I served mine with whipped cream (with a dollop of tangy sour cream tossed in towards the end of the whipping) and more oranges. (For something real low key, but real tasty I’d also suggest this chips & marshmallow combo.)
However you’re celebrating (or not!) at home today, I hope you’re hanging in there. Keep staying in, reaching out, and washing your hands! xo

Blood Orange Stout Cake from Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady

Candied Oranges
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (240 ml) water
2 blood oranges, sliced into rounds horizontally, peel and all, each around 1/8-inch (3 mm) thick

1 cup (240 ml) stout
1 cup (240 ml) unsulfured molasses or buckwheat honey
1/2 cup (120 ml) golden syrup (note: if you cannot find golden syrup, use a light honey in its place – this is what I did!)
1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons grated fresh peeled ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (220 g) packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup (175 ml) neutral-tasting oil
2 1.2 cups (320 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/4 cup (50 g) chopped candied ginger
Sweetened sour cream, to serve

To make the candied oranges, combine the sugar and water in a heavy pan. Bring to a boil, stirring, then lower the heat to a simmer. Add the orange slices and cook until soft and almost translucent, 15 minutes or so. Set aside.

Preheat an oven to 350˚F (175˚C) with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Grease a 10-inch (25 cm) springform or conventional cake pan with butter. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper; line the sides with a strip to form a collar. Butter the parchment paper.

To make the cake, combine the stout, molasses, golden syrup, ground ginger, cinnamon, pepper, and cloves in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Off the heat, stir in the fresh ginger and baking soda, being careful because the mixture will bubble robustly, almost doubling in size. Cool to room temperature.

Whisk the eggs, brown sugar, and oil together in a pitcher, then pour into the stout mixture. Whisk to combine. Sprinkle the flour, salt, and candied ginger on top, then beat until smooth. Rap the pot against the counter to release any trapped air.

Arrange the orange slices across the bottom of the prepared cake pan, overlapping only enough to make a solid layer, and with some slices climbing the sides of the pan. Reserve the syrup. Carefully pour the batter over the oranges. Bake until the middle of the cake has swelled and puffs back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes.

While the cake bakes, boil the remaining cooking liquid from the oranges until it is reduced to the consistency of maple syrup.

Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate. Remove the parchment paper. Carefully poke holes in the cake with a thin skewer, then brush most of the syrup on the top and sides. Serve warm or fully cooled, alone or with sweetened sour cream. Drip the remaining syrup on the slices, if desired.

Store the cake under a cake dome at room temperature. It will keep for up to five days, becoming even more moist as it sits, and in my (Tara’s!) opinion it is at its best after a day or two. Alternatively, wrap tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap and freeze for up to one month.

Glazed variation: To gussy up this cake, whisk 1 cup (160 g) confectioners’ sugar with the seeds scraped from a vanilla bean in a small bowl. Add blood orange juice or water, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is pourable but still quite thick. Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake. Let set completely before slicing.

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