The extraordinarily nice French flatmate is leaving for a few months in Berlin, to be replaced by a new English girl. I am testing each nationality – from Italian to French to English – as the perfect colocatrice. Luckily so far they all like tea as much as I do; we have collected at least 20 kinds over the last three years.
The progression reflects my life in Paris so far: first I made friends with Italians, because they were the most friendly and the most forgiving with my clumsy language; then I found some French friends, colleagues, even a boyfriend. I worked on improving my conversation, my subjunctive, my petit accent. I purposefully avoided anglophones. Then I got lazy – single again, I found a lovely group of Canadian, American and British girls with whom I could relax and be myself.
Full circle. This cake too marks a circle. In the first year of university, a girl on my staircase discovered Pimp That Snack, and we passed sunny afternoons creating sugary monstrosities in the kitchen below the stairs. We made an enormous and heavy Jaffa Cake that fed more than a dozen people out on the quad. It was a good moment. (I forget when we studied?)
Now at least five years have passed, and the nice French flatmate tells me that les Pim’s were her favourite childhood snack. Les what? Somewhere the French got their wires crossed: though they admit that the little sponge cakes with orange jelly and a chocolate coating are indeed ‘so British’ they choose to name them (minus an M) after another British institution.
She explained that she was furious by the Pim’s slogan when she was small, ‘biscuits pour adultes.’ Mais pourquoi! Not unlike the English advert I still remember, in which the school teacher eats all the Jaffa cakes herself while teaching astronomy: full moon, half moon…
For her leaving party then, another supersized Jaffa-Pim’s biscuit/cake. This time a la francaise, from a cute book called ‘La Super Supérette,’ recipes to create all your (French) childhood favourites. The quantities will make 50 something biscuits or one sponge cake to feed eight. It is less hefty than the English sponge we made years ago, this is a thin génoise scented with orange zest. Not rich at all, almost exactly mimicking the fluffy and light shop version. A simple jelly made of marmelade and orange juice and of course a chocolate topping. It turned out remarkably like the real thing and vanished before you could say “total eclipse.”
A Jaffa Cake – or multiple ‘Pimpants”
makes 1 large cake or 50 small biscuits
Recipe adapted from La Super Supérette – I suggest using the orange zest as well, so as not to waste the deliciousness.
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
75g caster sugar
zest of 1 orange
for the jelly:
250g orange marmelade
50g fresh squeezed orange juice (half a large orange or one whole small one)
1 tbs vanilla sugar (use caster sugar if not)
5g leaf gelatin
for the chocolate coating:
150g dark chocolate
Heat the oven to 180C. Grease a 22cm cake tin and line the bottom with greaseproof paper.
Sift the flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt together. Rub the orange zest into the sugar. Separate the eggs. Whisk the whites in a clean metal bowl (with an electric beater if you have one) until you get soft peaks. In another bowl, beat the yolks with the orange sugar until pale and tripled in volume. (You do not need to wash the beaters if you do it this way round – but for whites you should always start with clean dry utensils.) Carefully fold in the flour mix with a spatula, and then the whites, trying not to lose any of the air you have incorporated.
Pour into the tin and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden and the top springs back when pressed.
**If you want to make little biscuit versions, pipe small circles or dollop a heaped teaspoon worth onto a tray lined with greaseproof paper, and bake for 10 minutes.**
Meanwhile, prepare the jelly. Soak the gelatin leaves in very cold water. Heat the marmelade, orange juice and sugar in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from the heat. Let it cool to under 60C before adding the gelatin. Stir well. Line a shallow bowl, smaller than the size of the cake, with clingfilm. Pour in the jelly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (You can cheat and start it off in the freezer for 30 minutes.)
**For small biscuits, let the mixture cool until it starts to set, and spoon a little jelly onto each cake. Then refrigerate for 2 hours.**
Carefully flip the set jelly onto the middle of the cooled sponge, peel off the clingfilm. Melt the chocolate gently over a bain-marie, and smooth over the top with a spatula or palette knife. Let the chocolate set and enjoy!