As it is no news to those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while, my other half is allergic to egg whites. And while, at first it doesn’t seem like a huge deal – I mean, egg whites aren’t the most exciting foodstuff on their own, it is also an incredibly annoying allergy – because, among other things, it tends to deprive him of cake.
Now, do you understand the depth of misery that this sort of allergy is?! I mean, no real birthday cakes when growing up, no nice slice of chocolate cake at the cafe, no brownies, no… combine this with his pretty wide nut allergy and you get the full scope of the sadness of a food-allergic dessertless existence.
Till he met me, that is. Now, I am a persistent creature and for a while now I’ve been trying, really trying to make him a good, non-dry simple cake. The sort that we, non-allergic types, able to eat anything in a random coffee shop without a second’s hesitation (other than perhaps wondering what this amount of sugar will do to my waistline), and certainly without any fear for our life, take for granted. Well, I take my ability to eat whatever and not fear for my life for granted no longer – it’s amazing how quickly acquiring a significant person with an allergy adjusts one’s perspective!
The search took me through alternatives such as milk-and-hot-water cake (which turns out pretty lovely with saffron and which I should write about at some point too), and the coconut and orange cake with egg yolks (which was also lovely but not very moist so required good frosting to make it really work), and after a while I nearly gave up on real cake – until I stumbled across a cheaty shortcut which I feel the desire to share with you, along with the recipe for this easy, gorgeous and absolutely delicious cake somewhat adapted to said cheat from a recipe found on Gourmet Magazine website.
And let me tell you – if you only make one autumnal dessert this year, please, do make it this cake! It’s aromatic with orange flower water and cardamom, it’s moist (even with the egg substitute), and the nectarines dry and caramelize under their coat of sugar and spice into a stained-glass-like beauty. The smell as it bakes is like the very essence of Fall, the sort of thing you’d dream of when imagining yourself on a swing with a mug of hot coffee or tea, wrapped in a thick sweater and a blanket and looking out over the colors of the turning leaves. Well, I don’t know about you, but to me, that is how it is.
The cheat in question is a vegetarian egg substitute by Bob’s Red Mill (purveyors of high-quality grains and flours and the like). I have chosen it after reading about a lot of different egg substitutes, and checking their ingredients to find the least objectionable one. This one is made from wheat, soy and algin (extract from seaweed), and while I am not a huge fan of soy, the small amount of soy this would add to our diet is not something I will quibble with when it allows me to simply mix and substitute this in any baking recipe where beaten eggs are called for – and have it work so wonderfully.
To top it, the cake transports without falling apart (great when you want to bring a dessert to a party!), and it keeps very well in the fridge wrapped in cling film (plastic wrap) for 1-2 days. I can’t say if it would keep any longer as I simply don’t know – it’s not survived longer than till the morning of the day after the day it was made here. And that was with me avoiding helping with the eating of it, too.
What you need to make it:
A bowl, a handheld (or stand) mixer or a wooden spoon, some baking paper and a standard-sized springform cake pan. Oven doesn’t hurt either.
- 2.4dl (1 US cup) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1g (1/5 of a teaspoon) salt
- 125g (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small bits and softened
- 180ml (3/4 US cup) sugar + 1 tablespoon sugar (divided)
- 2 large eggs (lightly beaten) or 2 tablespoons of egg replacer whisked with 6 tablespoons room-temperature water
- 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon orange flower water
- Zest of 1 lemon or orange (optional but very recommended!)
- 2 nectarines, pitted and sliced into wedges. I used a golden and a white one in the cake pictured, but the golden ones have a better flavor (more acidic), so the second cake (that got devoured without getting a photoshoot) only used golden and I liked it better.
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
What you do:
- Preheat oven to 175C.
- Butter the cake pan lightly and line the bottom with a round piece of baking paper (you’ll thank me later!).
- Mix the egg substitute with water in a small bowl and set aside to stand. It will thicken a little, but it’s not essential that it does.
- Whisk together flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, salt and citrus zest (if using).
- In a separate small bowl, mix the cardamom and the remaining tablespoon of sugar, set aside.
- Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then pour in the egg substitute (or beaten eggs) slowly in 2 stages, beating well after each addition.
- Beat in vanilla and orange flower water.
- Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and level the top with a butterknife or a spatula.
- Push nectarine slices into the top of the batter in a circular (or any other) pattern, and sprinkle the top of the cake (batter and fruit slices) with the sugar-cardamom mixture.
- Place on a middle rack of preheated oven and bake for 40-45 minutes (ovens may vary so check after 40 minutes and keep an eye on the cake afterwards), until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Cool in the pan on wire rack for 20-30 minutes, then remove the sides of the pan, and cool completely.
- Carefully loosen the bottom of the cake with the parchment paper off the bottom of the pan with a spatula, and slide the cake onto the serving platter. The parchment bottom will help avoid screeching noises when cutting the cake on the platter, and the cake slices come off it effortlessly.
Slice, pour up your hot drink, grab that blanket and go sit on the balcony in the chill wind watching the leaves turn. Happy Autumn!