Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mack the Cake...Jaffa style

 Orange cake with Belgian dark chocolate buttercream and orange whiskey marmalade filling.
Lee Mack has made me pee my pants twice. To be fair the first time was shortly after giving birth, but the second--I have no excuse.

For those of you who do not know this funny man I implore you to get to know him. Start with The Sketch Show, then alternate between his sitcom Not Going Out, his stand-up shows Lee Mack Live and Going Out, and the panel show Would I Lie To You. He's the kind of funny you can laugh freely at without wondering if you've set women's rights back 50 years by doing so. That's not to say he isn't confrontational, or cheeky...just not disturbingly on the edge like many of his peers in his industry.

I have much to thank Mr. Mack for. First, for making me laugh so hard I had complete sphincter failure. And second, inspiring me to get back into writing. He did a short interview, posted on the BBC Not Going Out website, wherein he states:"...people will argue that there are loads of great female (comedy) writers but the truth is all the great female writers are busy...there are more men in comedy than women..." for some reason that struck a chord. In a good way. A little bell went off, "You're a writer. Try your hand at writing comedy." So I dived into books for writing comedy and sitcoms. I wrote an episode for a sitcom as practice and in a moment of delusion sent it on to the production company. I've been building a repertoire of sitcom and feature film synopses ever since. I'm no stranger to film. I have a masters degree in Cinema/TV production. But it has been collecting dust for a dozen years. It's nice to be back.

I was eager to read his autobiography because I wanted to know what it takes to get into comedy and if I had the goods. 

His autobiography reads like a timeline but he cleverly ends each chapter with conversations in script form with a psychiatrist...for, you know, (*whispering*) the touchy/feely bits. He says you don't have to be special to write comedy. But after talking it out with the psychiatrist he also worries he might have ADHD and mentions schizophrenia...both of which sound pretty special to me. Also "Mack" is a stage name not his real name, so he puts on someone else when he's writing or performing a "defense mechanism" (a term that comes up a lot).

So I gleaned from his psychiatrist that to make it in this business you have to be convinced your real life is normal, but put on the armor of a hyperactive alter ego with attention deficit so no matter what people throw at you, it isn't really you they're beating...and somehow that gives you the strength to persevere and keep getting back on stage until the beatings turn into sitcoms and theater tours.


As this information was sinking in, a line he says in an episode of Not Going Out kept playing over and over in my mind, "If I only had a Jaffa cake right now, life would be grand." Of course you like Jaffa cakes. They're the most schizophrenic treat on the planet. Are they a cookie or a cake? Probably a cookie at home but a cake for the fans.

Jaffa Cakes...sort of a sponge biscuit with orange jelly with a thin coating of chocolate.
Since we'll only really ever know the Mack side of his personna, cake it is. So, inspired by Lee Mack and his psychiatrist I created a version of a Jaffa Cake layer cake, but one that is more sophisticated than it leads on and without additives or a punishing chemical aftertaste...much like the man himself, I suspect.

In line with my series of posts on autobiography inspired treats, if Lee Mack was a cake he'd be an orange cake with Belgian dark chocolate buttercream and orange whiskey marmalade filling.

Cheers, Mr. Mack. And thanks for the laughs!

Orange whiskey marmalade
use buttercream to make a dam to prevent marmalade from oozing out the sides

Orange Cake with Dark Belgian Chocolate Buttercream and Whiskey Marmalade filling

Cake Adapted from Martha Stewart
Orange Whiskey Marmalade recipe
Dark Belgian Chocolate buttercream recipe (read *UPDATE for correct version)

Cake Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups granulated sugar
7 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup whole milk plain yogurt
zest of 2 oranges
  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. prepare 3 8" round cake pans (butter and dust with flour and add a parchment round to the bottom of pans)
  3. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. in a mixer fixed with paddle attachment cream butter and sugar until fluffy
  5. add eggs one at a time scraping down the bowl after each addition and blend until smooth
  6. add vanilla
  7. add orange zest to flour
  8. add flour and yogurt alternately beginning and ending with the flour
  9. divide batter among pans
  10. bake 25-30 minutes until tops give a little bounce.
Let cool completely before filling and icing.
Prepare dark Belgian chocolate buttercream.

When layers are ready cut the tops to make and flat even surface. Use the buttercream to make a "dam" and prevent marmalade filling from oozing out. You don't have to cover the cake with buttercream if you prefer less icing. It's just as flavorful with some on top and the "dams" in between the layers.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Marmalade gets tipsy...

Orange Whiskey Marmalade
"I looove marmalade!" (she shouts and jumps up and down on Oprah's chair) It is the Katie Holmes to my Tom Cruise...well, when the love affair first happened. And I'm not planning to brainwash my marmalade or use it to get a seat on the big space ship after I die (or however that religion works). So I don't see us breaking up any time soon. I do, however, plan to get it a little drunk.

I've been wanting to make it for some time to use as a filling for a cake befitting of an autobiography I've been devouring. But regular marmalade just wasn't going to cut it. No. This had to have a touch of unsuspecting twist on a very popular flavor...slightly more posh than it appeared, but quietly so.

I came across this beautiful blog and recipe on Edible Ireland: Seville Orange Marmalade with Whiskey and Ginger and I knew it was just what my marmalade filling needed. Because I had a very specific cake in mind I chose not to add the ginger, but I certainly will on the next round. Also, Seville oranges are not available in small town Canada so I used navel oranges and adjusted the recipe a little. The key to this marmalade: the whiskey!

I have tried to like whiskey on its own but it's tricksy. It smells beautiful and full of caramel...I think we'll be friends, but when I have a taste, it sucker punches me. But in this marmalade it transforms to the flavor I've longed for. It is the best thing to ever happen to whiskey.

wash oranges really well, best to use organic.
let peels soak over night. helps activate the pectin
boil to 220 F
you'll know its ready when you put a few drops on a really cold plate and it firms enough to wrinkle when you push the drops.
I'm not a whiskey connoisseur but I was pretty sure this would serve the marmalade well.
let boiled and ready marmalade sit for 10 mins before adding the whiskey
make sure jars are sterilized
let firm up overnight
testing with orange cake and chocolate buttercream for new blog post.
Orange Whiskey Marmalade
Adapted from Edible Ireland

Makes 3.5 liters of marmalade
Just a note: this process could take 48 hours or longer before you're gobbling it up.

Edible Ireland says: When making preserves, you need to use spotlessly clean, sterile jars, lids and rings. If you have a dishwasher, you can simply run everything through a hot cycle. Otherwise, wash everything in hot, soapy water, rinse well, then place the jars and lids on a baking tray in an oven heated to 140°C (285°F) and keep them there until you’re ready to use them.

1 kg navel oranges (if you have access to Seville oranges - use those instead!)
10 cups water
4 lb granulated sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup whiskey
  1. Scrub the oranges well and cut each orange in half. It is best to use organic if you can find them.
  2. Squeeze the juice from the oranges and set aside. 
  3. Slice the peel, including the pith, into whatever thickness you like, i.e. thin or thick cut. *NOTE* the pith and peel is where the pectin lives. Don't scrape out the pith thinking it might make it too bitter. If the marmalade is going to set properly you need the pith.
  4. Put the orange peel slices into a large bowl along with the orange juice, then pour over the water. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave the oranges to soak for 24 hours.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a large preserving pan or nonreactive pan (such as an enameled cast iron Dutch oven). Make sure the pot is big enough to accommodate all the mixture so that none splashes out, as all that boiling sugar can burn badly. 
  6. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about 2 hours, until the peel is tender. It’s important that the peel is soft before you add the sugar, because once you do, it won’t ever get any softer.
  7. Add in the sugar and lemon juice (also packed with pectin), stirring until the sugar has dissolved (if the sugar hasn’t dissolved before it comes to the boil, it will crystallize once it cools). 
  8. Raise the heat to a rolling boil and keep boiling, without stirring, until the setting point is reached (either when a sugar/preserving thermometer reads 105°C (220°F) or when a teaspoonful of the marmalade wrinkles up when placed onto a fridge-cold plate and you push it with your finger), which should take 20 to 30 minutes but could take longer. Once it’s done, take it off the heat and allow it to cool for 10 minutes. 
  9. Stir in the whiskey, which may cause the mixture to bubble up a bit again. 
  10. Pour the marmalade into warm, dry, sterilized jars (see above) to within a few millimeters of the rim and seal immediately. Store in a cool, dry place and use within two years.
The first time I tried this it didn't was very runny. But I had scraped much of the pith off the peel and didn't have enough lemon juice. So I put everything back in my dutch oven and added more lemon juice (adjusted in the recipe above) and boiled it longer (about an hour) but tried to keep it at 222°F and re-jarred it in sterilized jars. It firmed up considerably more the next day but next time I will leave the pith in tact and I think I'll have a jammier marmalade.