What initially began as an attempt at something refined sugar free for “Junk Free June” quickly escalated to being a cake festooned with home-made honeycomb and smothered in decadent white chocolate ganache. This is not something I so much regard as a failure as a delicious celebration of seasonal fruit.
I can pretty much come up with an occasion to bake for anything, and night shift is always my perfect excuse. What I’m finding difficult at the moment is finding the time to capture my creations in daylight: as I write this, we have finally reached the shortest day of the year. I don’t have a light box, let alone an SLR camera, so I’m forced to make do with the gloomy afternoon clouds – albeit in a beautiful, centrally heated kitchen.
This cake is based around a ubiquitous flourless orange cake I initially saw in the Flavour Thesaurus. The original recipe calls for the fruit to be simmered for an hour. My dear friend Elisha who introduced me to the cake in the first place, quickly alerted me to the vastly simpler alternative of blitzing the citrus in the microwave for mere minutes instead. The cake has since been a complete revelation – and this experiment with mandarins instead of oranges is no exception.
While it would be easy and delicious enough to serve the cake on its own simply with a dusting of icing sugar, the ganache and honeycomb take it to an entire other level. Layer cakes themselves are always impressive to serve, and I love the crunch the honeycomb adds as a contrast to the moist, practically pudding-like cake texture. The cake itself, thanks to the convenience of microwaving, takes less than 15 minutes to put together, so it’s well worth the extra effort of creating the toppings to transform it from elegant dessert into something magical.
flourless mandarin cake with white chocolate ganache
- 4-5 large mandarins, around 350-400g – alternatively use 3 oranges if unavailable/out of season
- 8 eggs
- 330g caster sugar
- 330g ground almonds
- 1.5 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp each of vanilla essence and rosewater
White chocolate ganache:
- 125ml/half cup pouring cream
- 400g white chocolate, chopped (for 200g of this I used the Whittaker’s caramelised buttermilk white chocolate)
- 60g butter
- 100g caster sugar
- 40g golden syrup
- 1 tsp baking soda
For the mandarin cake:
- Preheat oven to 160C/320F bake setting. Grease and line two 7 inch round springform cake tins.
- In a covered microwave safe container, cover the mandarins with warm water and cook in the microwave for 8-10 minutes, or until they fall apart when pricked with a fork. Remove from water to cool to room temperature.
- Beat together the remaining cake ingredients in a large bowl until smooth. Pulse the mandarins in a food processor until they form a fine pulp. Add to the cake batter and fold through. The mixture will be very runny.
- Pour half the cake mix into each cake tin. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
- Cool the cakes on a wire rack for half an hour before removing from their tins and allowing to cool completely before decorating.
For the ganache:
- In a medium sized microwave safe bowl, heat the cream on low power at 30 second increments until hot but not quite boiling.
- Add the white chocolate and butter, stirring through the warmed cream so the chocolate melts. If you find the ganache cools before the chocolate is melted through, heat for further 20 second intervals at low power, stirring after each microwave blitz until completely smooth.
For the honeycomb:
- Cool the ganache in the fridge for half an hour before decorating.
- Line a small baking tray with nonstick paper. In a small saucepan, heat the caster sugar and golden syrup over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved through. Continue to heat as the mixture bubbles and turns a richer golden colour – this takes around 3-4 minutes.
- Remove the saucepan from heat and stir through the baking soda. Spread the honeycomb immediately out onto the baking tray and leave to cool completely (around half an hour) before breaking into pieces. Store in an airtight container until assembly.
- Place one of the cake layers on a cake board or serving plate. Spoon half of the cooled white chocolate ganache on top of the centre of the cake, gently spreading out to the edges with a spatula. Sprinkle crushed honeycomb on top before placing the second layer of cake on top.
- Pour the rest of the ganache on top of the top cake layer, spreading to the edges again with a spatula. I left my cake partially naked, but there is enough ganache to completely cover the cake if desired. Cover with crushed honeycomb and decorate with edible flowers and silver cachous if desired.
- Store cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days if not serving immediately.