Tag Archives: orange

a giant jaffa cake (or les pimpants)

11 Sep

jaffa cake 2

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.

jaffa cake 5

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.

jaffa cake 1

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.”

jaffa cake 3


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.

25g flour

50g cornflour

1 tsp baking powder

a pinch of salt

75g caster sugar

zest of 1 orange

3 eggs

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!

jaffa cake 4

granny’s oranges and caramel

10 Dec

orange, peeling 1

“Too busy” seems to be a modern malaise. Too busy, an endless motor of the million tasks and self improvements we feel we ought to accomplish every day.

For the moment, I am working a lot. A lot a lot. I get home after work less than eight hours before I have to get up and go again. It means a few choices – more sleep or a drink with friends? a quick run or a lovingly prepared meal? It can be oddly freeing to choose only the people and things that I love most and let go of guilt for the rest.

Eventually after the holidays and the fifty million Christmas logs we have to bake, everything will calm down. Until then I am calling on a bank of favours and having others cook me dinner. The other week I turned up, sleepy, with a bag of oranges, for lunch with a friend. He made me green tea with vanilla and let me yawn as he chopped vegetables and squeezed lemons.

We had an orange-themed meal, shades of sun and baked earth on a grey Paris day. He steamed a sweet-potato and served it halved, a swirl of this year’s green olive oil and a dash of cinnamon on one side, lemon and salt on the other. Then a turmeric, pumpkin and mushroom stew with cardamom rice. It was nourishing, calming food, full of warmth and spice.

orange, peeling 2

Because I couldn’t face any more baked goods, my dessert was an old favourite from my Granny. I sliced a few oranges, with care, into starry rounds and piled them over thick mascarpone. A couple of handfuls of sugar went into a saucepan, left to go brown, the colour of steeped tea. When the caramel smelled as if it might be on the edge of burning, I poured it quickly over the two bowls of oranges and watched it crack hard on the cool fruit. The combination was just right – heavy, juicy winter oranges against thick cream and almost-burnt sugar set into shards. We chipped the caramel off the bowls with our spoons and finished the meal content.

When I get to feeling too busy, I take a breath and remember that lunch, those kind of lunches, and remind myself of the snippet of poem on my bedroom wall:

I do not mind living

like this.  I cannot bear
living like this.
Oh, everything's true
at different times

in the capacious day,
just as I don't forget
and always forget

half the people in the world
are dispossessed.

-Stephen Dunn

I am lucky to be busy with work, to pay my rent. I can choose to be calm or stressed. And the capacious day includes time for work and oranges and friends.

orange, peeling 3

Granny’s oranges with caramel

serves two tired people

3 oranges

100g caster sugar

100g mascarpone

Choose large, juicy oranges. They should feel heavy in your hands, like a good grapefruit does, and not polystyrene-light. Slice off the top and bottom and cut off the peel on the sides, careful to follow the round shape to take off all the white pith and not the fruit. Slice cross-ways to get those bicycle-spokes patterns.

Scoop mascarpone into two bowls and pile with orange slices. Throw the sugar into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan (this is important, for it will let the sugar melt evenly and not just burn on one side) and heat on high. Watch it carefully as it melt into a clear syrup, then starts to bubble and go brown. Do not stir, but you can swirl the pan gently if one side is cooking faster than the other. Have your oranges ready. When it really smells like caramel – like creme brulee – tilt the pan and note the colour of the syrup at the thinnest part. It should be brown as mahogany. (I like my caramel to taste a little burnt.) Tip directly, and quickly onto the oranges. Done.

It should take less time and effort to make the caramel than it did to read that paragraph. If it were to go wrong, just soak the pan in water and try again.

(Nothing to be afraid of, Rachel!)


%d bloggers like this: