Despite being chocolate-free this is one of my favourite ever cakes. Or is it a pudding? The original recipe is one I harvested as a youngster, about ten years ago. It came on a recipe card from the Observer and was by Sophie Grigson, who described it as being Tunisian. I'm not sure about the North African origins, but this is a fantastically light and moist cake which is first baked and then left to soak in a lightly spiced syrup. Although it's quite sweet, the generous amounts of citrus balances this out and results in a fresh and fragrant taste.
It's also great for people on gluten-free diets as the breadcrumbs can be replaced with crumbs from gluten-free bread. As it's a minor ingredient this substitution doesn't affect the flavour or texture of the finished cake.
Recipe (for one large-ish cake):
45g fresh breadcrumbs
200g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
1.5 tsp baking powder
200ml vegetable or sunflower oil
4 medium eggs
Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
Finely grated zest of half a lemon
For the syrup:
Juice of 1 large orange
Juice of half a lemon
85g caster sugar
1 stick cinammon
Mix all the cake ingredients well and pour into a shallow-ish cake tin (I use a rectangular one that's approximately 25x15cm) lined with grease-proof paper. The cake mix will be more liquid than normal due to the oil in it (and it's therefore easier to cook it in a shallow dish). Bake at gas mark 5 for around 50mins. If it looks like the top is colouring too quickly cover with some foil. The cake definitely needs to be cooked through, so a skewer or fork poked into the middle should come out clean if a bit sticky.
As the cake cooks, make the syrup by gently heating all the ingredients together until the sugar has dissolved (which should also be enough time for the spices to infuse) and then put to one side.
Once cooked let the cake cool for 5-10minutes, but while it's still warm turn it out onto a plate and spike it with a fork. Slowly pour the syrup over the cake, allowing it to sink in before pouring on more. Ideally leave the cake for a few more hours for the flavours to develop. Serve on it's own or with some mascarpone cheese, sweetened with icing sugar, and mixed with whipped cream or yoghurt. It's what a dessert fork was made for.