In other news, I have a new job. I’m not going to share details but I will say that I am looking forward to the change. Change is enlivening (remember) and there has been far too little of it lately for my liking. It feels good to shake things up.
Even so, just because I’m looking forward doesn’t mean that I’m not looking back. I have grown to love so many of my colleagues at my current work and I am sad that soon I won’t get to see them every day. We have a great camaraderie: daily bitching sessions blow the steam away, homemade date scones get delivered to our desks, and lunch time chats let the crazy out, allllll the way. The nature of my work has often meant that I’m never in a single workplace for long, but the last three and a half years have been long enough to really get to know people. These guys have been my sounding boards and reality checks, my fellow caffeine abusers, my biggest supporters, and even my public transport companions. It’s been swell.
I’m terrible with goodbyes and hate getting mooshy. I’m much better at concealing my awkwardness by creating distractions, like saying “look, I baked you a cake”. The giveaway here is that I’m making these guys four cakes – one for each week of my notice period. Four cakes is excessive. Basically, this is me baring my soul. So…yeah…you guys rock. You get a whole Month of Cake.
The recipe for the first of four cakes comes from Julie Le Clerc, a New Zealand cookbook author of Syrian and French heritage. The cake is dense with semolina, tangy with yoghurt and bright with orange. It smells utterly divine in the oven, and then after it’s baked, you drench it in a syrup made from orange juice and honey. The finishing touch is to drape strips of orange zest over the top – an eye-catching addition that transforms the plain brown cake into something vibrant and gorgeous. Years ago I made it for a friend’s birthday and placed a posey of red geraniums and green herbs in the centre with candles around the rim. It worked because this is a cake of humble origins with a touch of celebration about it. It was perfect for week 1 of the Month of Cake (plus they ate it, which is probably a good sign).
Orange & Yoghurt Semolina Cake
250g salted butter, softened
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1 cup castor sugar
3/4 cup Greek yoghurt
1/2 cup semolina
2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
For the syrup:
Stripped zest and juice of 3 oranges
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup liquid honey
Preheat the oven to 175°C / 350° F on fan bake. Thoroughly grease a 20cm ring or bundt tin then dust with flour and shake out the excess. Set aside.
Measure the flour and semolina into a large bowl and whisk together to combine and aerate. Set aside.
Place the softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer along with the grated orange zest and sugar. Beat until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each until well combined. Add the juice of one orange and the yoghurt, and combine by hand using a whisk. Add the dry ingredients and gently stir together using a large spoon.
Spoon the mixture into the tin and level out evenly. Bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a rack to cool completely. When the cake is completely cold, pierce the surface all over with a skewer. This will encourage the cake to absorb the syrup.
To make the syrup, use a zester to remove strips of zest from three oranges. Place the zest, the juice of all three oranges, water and honey into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Spoon the hot syrup over the cold cake, draping the strips of zest artfully (or not). Serve slices of the cake with more Greek yoghurt on the side.