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KUALA LUMPUR, May 1 — Some days we just feel tired and tapped out. The energy sapped from our bodies, the life slowly seeping from our bones.
Some of you may beg to differ: Not days, you say, but weeks and months and years.
Yes, you know the feeling of which I speak. Weary and worn out, of fatigue and fading away.
Fortunately there is always a remedy. That is what weekends are made for: rest and recuperation, letting go of work and worries, finding some quiet time for ourselves and to live our questions rather than attempt to answer them.
As Scary, Sporty, Baby, Ginger and Posh might say, it’s time to “spice up your life!”
Now as dated as the above reference might be (how many of us remember which two Spice Girls share the same first name?), the ubiquitous 90s pop quintet had the right idea. When we are down in the dumps, we need something to pull us out of our doldrums.
Maybe not actual spice though.
Despite the recent heavy rain thunderstorms as we go through the monsoon transition phase, whenever it’s not raining, the weather has been sweltering. Further north, our neighbours in Thailand learn to expect the heat whenever Songkran comes along.
Even when our beloved country is known for its summer all year round, sometimes summer feels more summer than usual, if you know what I mean.
So we wouldn’t say no to something that can perk us up without scorching our palate and our delicate digestive system. Something citrusy rather than fiery, tangy rather than piquant.
Well, what could bring summer into our homes more than the bright, lively hues of a humble orange? Tiny suns in their own right, the very colour of ripe oranges cheers us up.
If we can nurse a cold with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, full of vitamin C, why not revive our senses and souls with this fruit as well?
And if we were to enjoy the zip and the zap of oranges in the form of a cake, blessed with a rich, oily crumb, why all the better.
Just thinking about it is exhilarating. Imagine biting into a slice of zesty orange cake topped with an even zestier crumble. Surely there’s no better way to spice, sorry, ZEST up your life!
ORANGE CAKE WITH ZESTY CRUMBLE
It’s tempting to just buy a carton of orange juice from the supermarket or nearest convenience store. Tempting, yes, but we know it’s not the same as using fresh oranges.
Perhaps it’s because all fruits undergo some form of oxidation when exposed to air, even though citric acid supposedly arrests that. (This is why we lightly coat or soak other cut fruits in lemon juice, for instance, to prevent them from browning.)
So, yes, it’s worth the trouble to squeeze the juice from the oranges right before using in this recipe. The flavour of fresh citrus is inimitable.
If the tang from packaged orange juice is akin to a gentle flick of the fingers, freshly squeezed orange juice is like the back kick from a superpowered mule that sends you soaring across the Grand Canyon.
And it’s not just the juice that we are seeking from our oranges but its zest as well, those slivers of aromatic orange skin. In fact, zest your oranges before juicing them; it’s easier this way.
Some cakes use butter, others use oil. I’m using a mix of both here so that the cake is that much richer from the oil but you wouldn’t have to beat your eggs quite as stiffly to achieve an airy crumb.
Rather than round or square cake pans, I’m using rectangular loaf tins here so we can cut the orange cake into slices. The cake retains its structure better that way given it is moister than a traditional sponge cake.
Lastly, if you can resist tearing into the cake once it is out of the oven and cooled sufficiently, consider allowing it to rest overnight (at room temperature, not in the fridge) to allow the orange flavours to deepen.
That’s the idea, at least. I have never been able to resist eating it on the spot and rare is the occasion when we have any leftovers for the next day…
200g all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
150g caster sugar
60g butter, softened at room temperature
60ml canola oil
150ml freshly squeezed orange juice (approximately 2-3 oranges, depending on size)
Half of the zest from oranges used; reserve remaining half for crumble (recipe below)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
60g all-purpose flour
60g Muscovado or dark brown sugar
Orange zest (the reserved half from cake recipe above)
Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Grease a 28 x 15 cm loaf tin and set aside.
Sift the all-purpose flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir well to combine, then set aside.
Using a mixer on high speed, beat the eggs and sugar together. Once the egg-sugar mixture is pale and fluffy, reduce the speed and add the butter. Continue whisking until well combined.
Next add the canola oil on low speed. Once that is well combined, add the orange juice and zest, vanilla extract and ground cinnamon.
Finally fold in the flour and baking powder mixture. Don’t over-mix the batter; once you have a uniform batter, pour that into the prepared loaf tin.
For the crumble topping, mix the crumble ingredients together with your hands. Scatter the crumble evenly over the surface of the batter.
Bake for about 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting into slices.
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side, if desired.
For more Weekend Kitchen and other slice-of-life stories, visit lifeforbeginners.com.