There are days when grey skies and rainy days are fine by me. I love them when I’m sitting at home and don’t have anywhere to be. These are the days that things at home that have been clamouring for my attention for a while, but haven’t been critical enough to actually get it, get done. Stuff like sorting out books, reorganizing a closet or shelf. But there is also a lovely indolent element to these times. They are the best days for curling up on the couch and doing nothing other than reading a good book or watching a bad movie. Amey and I love to sleep in when we have such weather. But that Sunday I was up uncharacteristically bright and early. I sat by the window and watch the rain come down while a steaming cup of cocoa warmed my hands. As strains of Reo Speedwagon‘s Can’t Fight this feeling filled the room (I always get a bit nostalgic and retro when it rains and I don’t know what it is about this song and the rain, they just fit), I watched the rain falling down my window, tracing the drops as they formed briefly-lived lines on the pane. Rains in San Francisco aren’t like ones in Bombay where the terrifyingly dark skies open and a deluge of water pours down. This is gentle pattering down of water from slate skies. I could still see the traffic on Bay street clearly enough to read license plates, something that would never happen in Bombay rains. Nevertheless, rain it was, rhythmically falling and bringing the calming feeling of facetious isolation that it brings for me. The same feeling I get when I am by myself in a crowd.
Draining my cup of cocoa left me me suddenly bereft of the warm cup in my hands. It also turned my thoughts to the week ahead, as Sunday mornings inevitably do. I used to groan at the thought of that early Monday morning. Monday blues used to hit me a whole day earlier. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and my workplace, working as I do with fun people. It is Mondays that are the problem. Like the kid sticking his fingers in his ears and singing to drown out words he doesn’t want to hear, early on in my career I would shut my mind to the thought of Monday and try to push it far back as much as possible, thereby ensuring a full fledged gloom attack by Sunday night. These days I deal with it a lot better (cue in peals of hysterical laughter from my husband).This time though the thought of Monday brightened me considerably as it came with thoughts of cake.
A colleague at work asks “Where’s my cake?” every day recently. I can’t remember how it began or when. I don’t even remember why. I don’t have any sort of reputation as a baker at work. I do seem to supply them easily at birthdays, though not necessarily baked by me. I have some excellent sources. Our receptionist’s girlfriend is one of them, Ruta, baker extraordinaire. Then there is Dianda’s, the bakery with a dark rum cake that would make even Jack Sparrow believe that there are better things to do with rum than just drinking the stuff. I had agreed to supply a cake as requested and figured it may a well be on that Monday. Plus there is something amazing and warm about the smell of a cake baking on rainy day. I had found an excellent recipe for a yoghurt cake on Epicurious that I was itching to try.
This cake is dense and crumbly, a luxurious coffee-cake. It takes oil as a fat of choice, not butter, which was a good thing since I didn’t have any at home that day. The batter starts off as a big old mess when the dry and wet ingredients come together but some deft whisking brought the whole thing together rather well. I baked my cake in a deepish pie pan. It was too lazy a day to be hauling step ladders. and my well-meaning husband had moved my cake pans on to a high shelf to make more room in the lower cupboards, forgetting that they were easy for his six-foot-three frame to reach but impossible for my five-foot-five. The red pie pie dish brought its own cheer to the party. The cake was ready from scratch in an easy 55 minutes, just about the time Amey came yawning out to the kitchen . I cut him a couple of deep yellow slices after it cooled and covered the rest in a syrup made from the fruit and a chocolate icing I made up as he made appreciative noises over his plate. I took it work and unveiled it to my happy colleague the next day, and the rest of my team who loved it. My colleague declared himself completely sated and said he wouldn’t ask for cake anymore. But now, the rest of the team does 🙂
French Yoghurt Cake with Orange Zest
Adapted from Epicurious. Serves 8 large pieces or 14 small
All-Purpose flour – 1 1/2 cups, unbleached
Baking Powder – 2 teaspoons
Plain low-fat Yoghurt – 1 cup
Sugar – 1 cup
Eggs – 3 large
Zest of 1 orange
Vegetable Oil – 1/2 cup
Pinch of salt
For the syrup.
Oranges – 2, juiced
Orange flower honey – 3 spoons, slightly warmed.
Orange liqueur – 2 tsp
For the icing
Semisweet Chocolate – I bar, broken into pieces
Heavy Cream – 1/4 cup
healthy swig of Orange Liqueur
– Heat the oven to 325°F.
– Combine the sugar, eggs and yoghurt in a large bowl and whip using hand mixer (as I did) or fold together with a spatula until it comes together.
– Sift in the flour and baking powder and add the zest and salt and mix.
– Add the oil. At this point it will look like the mess I mentioned but continue mixing and it will all be incorporated into a cohesive batter.
– Line the bottom of a cake pan with buttered sides and pour the batter into this.
– Then move cake pan into oven and bake for about 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
– Take out of the oven and let cool a bit before turning it on to a wire rack to cool completely.
– Mix the orange juice and honey in a small bowl and pour this over the cooled cake. The dense crumb of the cake will absorb this easily.
For the icing:
– Boil some water in a vessel and place another one over it such that the boiling water does not touch the bottom of the vessel above it.
– In this, add the cream and melt the chocolate pieces.
– When the chocolate is melted, add the Citronge and mix together.
Pour icing over cooled cake where it will fall to drape it like a chocolate cloak.
If you are tempted to use olive oil here instead of the requisite vegetable oil, don’t, as olive oil has a strong taste that might overpower the cake. I used canola oil. Also I used orange zest instead of lemon and low fat yoghurt instead of whole milk. I juiced the orange and made a light syrup of it with some orange flower honey and couple of teaspoons of liqueur. The cooled cake drank it up and asked for more. I provided for the lack of marmalade glaze with the bittersweet chocolate and Citronge icing I made up. It all worked splendidly!