Recipe: the best cake for Christmas


Good food connects and brings people together. A sentence that many people should have heard more than once and that not a few will find trivial. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to briefly remind you at Christmas what a privilege the group table is, even if it should be smaller than usual again this year, the view a little dimmer and the general cohesion just expandable. But eating together in peace cannot be taken for granted; and the effort people make to make it possible is one of the most beautiful and moving things the kitchen has to offer.

There is, for example, the “Conflict Kitchen” in Pittsburgh, a restaurant that cleared away one prejudice after the other among its guests by only serving food from countries that were enemies with the United States. Or the Kreuzberg “Weltküche”, which only employed refugees from two dozen countries. There are chefs like the Italian Massimo Bottura, whose foundation opens restaurants for the homeless around the world. Or cookbook authors like the British Claudia Roden, who this column is about, because her life’s work can also be read like a kind of Christmas message.

The cake works without flour and butter

Roden comes from a Jewish family with origins in Syria and western Turkey. Like her parents, she grew up in Cairo, but in the course of the Suez Crisis, the family was expelled from Egypt and moved to London. Roden, who was not to see her homeland again for a quarter of a century, might have had reason to be sad or angry. Instead, however, she began to write about food. More precisely about the cuisine of the Middle East, and also with the aim of wiping all reservations of the English and American against it from the table. A woman who was also socialized in the west, who traveled to Arab countries on her own to collect dishes and culinary experiences or simply to listen, strictly following the motto of the Arab proverb she liked to quote: “Once you have eaten together, you can no longer deceive yourself. ” A Jewish woman displaced from the Middle East who drank tea in the kitchen of Iraqi housewives and must have caused confusion at the Iranian embassy in London when she called to ask for favorite recipes.

Roden, now 85, has written more than a dozen books, worked for the BBC and is a lecturer at Oxford and the University of London. Her latest book “Mediterranean Kitchen” (Dorling Kindersley) is less about Pinot Grigio and sunsets on the Riviera than about the unifying power of the kitchen. After all, Roden is not a tourism officer, but a cook, anthropologist, sociologist, philanthropist. For them, the Mediterranean is neither a romantic cliché nor a border, but the center and link of a great cultural area in which everyone has influenced each and where one would not be there without the other. No tapas or antipasti without meze, it’s that simple.

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Claudia Roden has collected many recipes, but none should be as meaningful and unifying as her orange and almond cake, whose forerunners are said to have brought Sephardic Jews to the Middle East in the 15th century and which today, in many different forms, in many countries is served, whether in Spain, Morocco or Iran. A cake that does without butter and flour, saffron-golden color, moist, but light and fluffy and with an intense aroma that tastes a bit Christmassy to Central Europeans. Since a whole orange goes into the dough, the taste combines sweetness and acidity with delicate musky notes. That makes the cake extravagant and suitable for the masses at the same time. And once you have a piece on your plate, maybe with some ice cream and / or cream, you will immediately understand why this cake recipe is New York Times, Guardian, Youtube should be one of the most cited in the world.

If you disregard the cooking time, the preparation is not very laborious. Simmer a large, untreated orange in a saucepan of water for 75 to 90 minutes until soft. Allow to cool, remove the stem and seeds, puree the fruit and set aside. Then beat six eggs (M) with 250 g sugar in a bowl until creamy. Mix 250 g of finely ground almonds well with 2 level teaspoons of baking powder and stir into the egg mixture. Finally fold the orange pulp into the batter.

Pour the fairly liquid dough into a (dense!) Greased springform pan (24-26 cm) (if necessary line the edge with baking paper) and bake at 190 degrees (convection) for a good hour. The baking time varies a bit. The only trick is that the cake is reasonably firm (prick it with a skewer to test it), but does not burn. If necessary, reduce the temperature at the end and cover the cake with aluminum foil. Then let cool on a wire rack.

Every bet: everyone can agree on this cake. It tastes particularly good with a thin layer of dark chocolate. Merry Christmas!

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