Apricot almond cake with rosewater and cardamom

In the academic literature, there is a tendency not to report negative results. For example, you perform (sometimes extensive) experiments to check if your favourite protein has a function of interest, and if the result is “no,” you deem this uninteresting and continue with the next experiment/protein/function.

Of course, it would be interesting to know that you performed this experiment, if only so that other people do not need to repeat your effort. There are small efforts to resolve this issue, but the fact remains that—in most cases—a negative result is not a sexy (read: publishable) result.

In the food blogosphere, I think there is a similar tendency, with the notable exception of epic fails. I am sure much of You Tube’s ad earnings is based on failed cooking experiments, with the protagonists barely escaping the nomination for the Darwin award.

This post is my small contribution toward publishing negative results with recipes.

I first saw this recipe in the show based on Nigella Lawson’s book Simply Nigella. Even with her clumsiness in the kitchen, she easily managed to prepare it, probably because the main tool is a food processor. Dump everything in, job’s done.

I had some stressful moments recently, and the best way for me to relax is to cook and bake. So I took a day off, cooking and baking, among others this cake that sounded very enticing and exotic. In the words of immortal Nigella, “I’ve been making this sort of cake, in one form or another, since my clementine cake in How To Eat, and I can’t help but feel, with a certain calm excitement, that it has reached its apogee here.” Yes, I too had to look up the word apogee. Sounded good, so I went on and made the cake.

Sadly, it did not work. A couple of reasons: 1) the polenta I used was too coarse, so you could feel it gritting in your teeth; 2) the boyfriend did not like the flavour of the cake. He is not of the adventurous type. I know, because I am not either; 3) I did not cook the cake enough, and this is completely my fault. Should have done the toothpick test.

However. I would make it again, with finer polenta, cooking it longer, and serving it as part of a dessert buffet, along with some black tea. It is truly beguiling. (This is again Nigella; she and the good people of TOEFL are the main drivers for our expanding vocabulary.)

So, here is the recipe, copied from here. In case Google decides to index this, it is gluten-free.


150 grams dried apricots
250 ml cold water
2 cardamom pods (cracked)
200 grams ground almonds
50 grams fine polenta (not instant)
1 teaspoon baking powder (gluten-free if required)
150 grams caster sugar
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon rosewater
nonstick cooking spray (or sunflower oil for greasing)

To decorate

2 teaspoons apricot jam (or rose petal jam)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 ½ teaspoons very finely chopped pistachios


You will need: 1 x 20cm/8-inch round springform cake tin

  1. Put the dried apricots into a small saucepan, cover them with the cold water, and drop in the cracked cardamom pods with their fragrant seeds. Put on the heat, then bring to the boil and let it bubble for 10 minutes – don’t stray too far away from the pan, as by the end of the 10 minutes the pan will be just about out of water and you want to make sure it doesn’t actually run dry as the apricots will absorb more water as they cool.
  2. Take the pan off the heat, place on a cold, heatproof surface and let the apricots cool. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350ºF. Grease the sides of your springform cake tin and line the bottom with baking parchment.
  3. Remove 5 of the dried apricots and tear each in half, then set aside for the time being. Discard the cardamom husks, leaving the seeds in the pan.
  4. Pour and scrape out the sticky contents of the pan into the bowl of a food processor. Add the ground almonds, polenta, baking powder, caster sugar and eggs, and give a good long blitz to combine.
  5. Open the top of the processor, scrape down the batter, add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and the rosewater, and blitz again, then scrape into the prepared tin and smooth with a spatula. Arrange the apricot halves around the circumference of the tin.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes, though if the cake is browning up a lot before it’s actually ready, you may want to cover loosely with foil at the 30-minute mark. When it’s ready, the cake will be coming away from the edges of the tin, the top will feel firm, and a cake tester will come out with just one or two damp crumbs on it.
  7. Remove the cake to a wire rack. If you’re using apricot jam to decorate, you may want to warm it a little first so that it’s easier to spread; rose petal jam is so lusciously soft-set, it shouldn’t need any help. Stir a teaspoon of lemon juice into the jam and brush over the top of the cake, then sprinkle with the chopped pistachios and leave the cake to cool in its tin before unspringing and removing to a plate.

STORE NOTE: Store in an airtight container in a cool place for 5–7 days. In hot weather (or if the central heating’s on) keep in fridge.
FREEZE NOTE: The cake can be made ahead and frozen for up to 3 months (though the nuts may soften slightly on defrosting). Wrap the fully cooled cake (still on the springform tin base) tightly in a double layer of clingfilm and a layer of foil. To defrost, unwrap and leave it (still on the tin base) on a plate at room temperature for about 4 hours.


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