I, like most children, grew up with mandarins in my school lunch box. Their easy to remove skin, and segments that easily break apart, make them the perfect snack for children, as opposed to their more fiddly cousins, the orange.
Despite their user friendly nature I always tend to reach for oranges when baking, so when I came across this recipe for a mandarin and polenta cake with mandarin syrup in the latest Donna Hay magazine I was eager to give it a try.
Much like my favourite chocolate orange cake by Nigella Lawson, this cake uses whole mandarins (skin and all), which are boiled until soft and whizzed to a fine pulp in the food processor. Just be sure to remove any seeds before doing so! Using the flesh and skin makes this cake deliciously aromatic, with it’s perfumed scent wafting through the house as it’s baked. The other delightful thing about this cake is the combination of polenta and almond meal (almond flour), which forms the basis of the cake, making it wonderfully gluten free. This combination of polenta and almond meal, and the eggs and sugar whisked to form creamy ribbons, makes it deliciously light, as opposed to most gluten free cakes, which can be a little on the heavy side.
The icing on the cake, so to speak, is the sweet sticky and delicious mandarin syrup drizzled over the top of the cake, making it incredibly moist, whilst adding a beautiful sheen.
So tell me, did you have mandarins in your school lunch boxes when you were growing up and do you prefer oranges or mandarins?
- 2 mandarins
- 85g (½ cup) instant polenta
- 90g (¾ cup) almond meal (ground almonds)
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 3 eggs
- 110g (½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- MANDARIN SYRUP:
- 150g (⅔ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 tbs water
- 80ml (⅓ cup) mandarin juice
- Place the mandarins into a small saucepan and cover with water. Use a plate to weigh the mandarins down to fully submerge and bring to a boil over a high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, or until soft. Cool slightly before pureeing in a food processor.
- Preheat the oven to 180 celsius (350 fahrenheit) and line the sides and base of a 20cm springform tin with baking paper. Combine the polenta, almond meal and baking powder in a small bowl and stir to combine. In an electric mixer whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and creamy (around 10 minutes). Add the mandarin and polenta mixtures and fold through.
- Pour the mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until cooked. Allow to cool in the tin completely.
- To make the mandarin syrup place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and whisk to combine. Place over a medium heat and bring to a boil and cook, without stirring, for 7 minutes or until golden. Add the mandarin juice stir to combine. Allow to cool completely at room temperature.
- Remove the cake from the tin and spoon the syrup over the cake to serve.