This recipe is in memory of my dear friend Helena, who died on 2 November 2015. It is slightly adapted from Nigella’s Apricot Almond cake, which was broadcast on that date, and I made it for her family a couple of days later. Helena was the best cook I have ever known, so cooking seems the best way to remember her.
Nigella simmers the apricots in water, but remembering Lindsay Bareham’s delicious apricots with orange, I simmered mine in orange juice and replaced some of the sugar with honey.
These quantities are for a 15cm tin – just double them for a 20cm tin.
75g dried apricots
125ml fresh orange juice (juice of 1.5 medium oranges)
seeds from 2 cardamon pods, slightly crushed
100g ground almonds
25g fine polenta
1 tsp baking powder
35g caster sugar or Total Sweet
3 large eggs
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp rosewater
spray or butter for greasing tin
1 tsp apricot jam mixed with 1/2 tsp lemon juice to glaze
1 heaped tsp of chopped pistachios to decorate
Put the dried apricots in a small pan with the orange juice, honey and cardamon seeds (you can just crack the pods and put them in, then fish the husks out when the mixture has cooled). Bring to the boil and let it bubble for 10 minutes, keeping an eye on it. Take off the heat and leave on a cold surface to cool.
Grease the tin and line the base with greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 160ºC Fan/180ºC/Gas 4.
Remove 2 or 3 of the apricots, tear in half and put aside. Put all the dry ingredients, the apricots and the eggs into the food processor. Blitz thoroughly until smooth. Scrape down the sides if necessary, add the lemon juice and rosewater and mix again briefly.
Use a spatula to scrape all the mixture into the tin. Place the apricot halves round the edge of the tin. Bake for 35 mins (40 mins for larger cake) – I baked mine with the fan for 25 mins, then switched the oven to regular at 180ºC for the last 10 minutes to brown it. When the top feels firm and a skewer comes out with only a few crumbs on it it is ready.
Put it in its tin on a wire rack and brush the glaze over the top. Scatter with pistachios (I had run out, hence their absence in the photo) and leave to cool in the tin, before unmoulding. Nice with a spoonful of greek yoghurt or crème fraîche alongside it. A glass of orange muscat dessert wine would probably be good too!