Not satisfied with making enough jam to slake Steve’s appetite for fruit-laced yogurt, last winter Michelle decided to also make Seville orange marmalade. After peeling, juicing, slicing and boiling, she’d produced several batches—exactly none of which met her stringent standards. Some seemed too thick with slabs of peel, others too runny and light. Steve thought they were all fine, especially the “blended” jars that Goldilocks-edly straddled the thick-thin divide. Unfortunately, Steve does not eat that much marmalade. He finds its citrusy sourness too close to the tang of yogurt. And while he does love a thick layer slathered over butter on a baguette, he will not allow himself to have that very often, fearing a transformation into Papa Bear. So thick, thin and “just right,” much of Gourmandistan’s marmalade remained uneaten until recently, when Steve finally convinced Michelle to start using the stuff in desserts. Steve liked Michelle’s first effort (a chocolate cake with marmalade filling) very much, as he is quite fond of candied orange dipped in chocolate. However, Michelle was not as attracted to the pairing, and sought a more appetizing (to her, at least) option.
Recently, while Steve was in New York attending the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference (when not eating and partying with the amazing Daisy from coolcookstyle), Michelle made a short trip upriver to Madison, Indiana where she rummaged around antique stores, finding some old cookbooks including a copy of Food in Good Season by Betty Fussell containing a recipe for Marmalade Carrot Cake.
Fussell is perhaps best known for I Hear America Cooking, a 1986 book of regional dishes that did not survive one of Gourmandistan’s frequent cookbook purges. (Michelle, after buying several new volumes, may be steeling herself for another.) 1988’s Food in Good Season bills itself as “A Month-by-Month Harvest of Country Recipes for Cooks Everywhere.” And while it’s not quite yet March, Michelle was drawn to this Marmalade Carrot Cake, because it called for both marmalade and carrots (which we happened to have in February thanks to Farmer Pavel’s winter CSA). While Steve staggered about Bushwick and other parts of the Big Apple, Michelle brought out her seldom-used Bundt pan and baked, producing a not-too-sweet, satisfyingly succulent little cake. It was a great way to get rid of “bad” marmalade, though we both thought the recipe could use a bit more carrot. True March, however, is merely weeks away—and Pavel will possibly have more carrots to offer when our non-winter farm share begins. Making marmalade may not be in the cards this season, but this cake will almost certainly get another go.
MARMALADE CARROT CAKE
(adapted from Betty Fussell’s Food in Good Season)
- Butter and flour for pan
- 1/2 c. (or more) carrots, chopped very finely
- 3/4 c. (1-1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 t. baking powder
- 1/4 t. salt
- 1/2 c. orange marmalade, roughly chopped in food processor
- 1/2 c. almonds, finely chopped in food processor
- 1/4 c. crème fraîche
- 1/3 c. fresh orange juice
- 1/3 c. sugar
Preheat oven to 325°. Cook carrots in boiling water for a couple of minutes until done. Drain and set aside. Liberally butter and flour a Bundt pan. Cream butter and 3/4 cup sugar with electric mixture. Add eggs and beat well. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Stir into egg mixture. Add carrots, marmalade, almonds and crème fraîche, stirring until mixed. Place batter in Bundt pan and level with a spatula. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Cool for at least 15 minutes. While cake is cooling, heat orange juice and 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan, just until sugar is dissolved. Remove cake from pan and place on a rack placed over a sheet of waxed paper. Pour the syrup over the cake. You can serve the cake with a dollop of crème fraîche and some marmalade. But, truthfully, it’s better just plain.