I have an issue with marmalade. In fact, I have an issue with marmalade, jam, jelly, honey and any vaguely gelatinous substance (aspic, ugh) all of which I can’t bear to touch. It’s not quite a phobia but I certainly go out of my way to avoid getting the stuff on my fingers. When my sister’s children were small they were big fans of honey sandwiches and my love for them was always sorely tested when they asked me for one. The whole thing is random and illogical: I can eat a jam doughnut, for example, as long as the sticky stuff goes into my mouth not onto my hands, but not a jam sandwich. And although I put honey and golden syrup into cakes I won’t go near them in any other form.
Marmalade, however, has always remained beyond me. Sticky, lumpy and without any positive attributes as far as I’m concerned, it has never entered my shopping basket, let alone my house. But recently I’ve been intrigued by recipes that use it for its citrussy qualities and yet swear you can’t taste it. Nigella’s How to Eat has one, my friend Ben sent me a chocolate marmalade one and then, yesterday, I spotted this prune, fig and apricot cake in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Everyday. Unlike the others he doesn’t make any claims for not being able to taste it but, since my friend Kate made her first ever batch of Seville marmalade this week, I thought I’d take a jar and a risk. And, no, you can’t taste it and, yes, it was worth it.
Fig, Apricot and Prune Cake (adapted from HFW’s recipe)
You will need:
1tsp baking powder
1tsp ground mixed spice (I didn’t have this, so I used 1/3 tsp each of ground cinnamon, ground cloves and ground ginger)
Pinch of sea salt
150g each of dried figs, dried apricots and stoned prunes (I could have sworn I bought all three in the supermarket but, by the time I got home, I had no apricots. I ended up with 75g apricots dug out of the cupboard and about 185g each of the prunes and figs.)
85g orange marmalade
Zest of 1 lemon (I ran my lemon, which was cheap but waxed, under the hot tap, to get rid of most of the wax before zesting)
Zest of 1 orange (how come there’s no market for the unwaxed orange then?)
200g unsalted butter, chopped into cubes
200g light muscovado sugar
4 medium eggs
1. Grease and line a 20cm springform pan. Preheat the oven to 160ºC (140ºC if fan-assisted).
2. Put the flour, baking powder, spice (or spices if you’ve made your own blend) and salt into a bowl and whisk to mix together.
3. Using kitchen scissors, cut up the dried apricots and prunes (a couple of pieces from each one should do it), remove the hard stalks from the figs and cut them up too and combine them all in a bowl.
6. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a spoonful of flour as well to prevent the mixture curdling.
8. Mix the dried fruit and marmalade with the remaining couple of tablespoons of flour and spices then combine with the rest of the mixture. (I recently read in Cook’s Illustrated magazine that if you dust fruit with flour before baking it in a cake or muffin, you can stop it sinking. This is the first time I’ve tried it and it works.)
9. Put the mixture into the lined tin, smooth the surface, then put it into the oven and bake for an hour and a half (mine took exactly that) or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.