Mar 23, 2012

Orange cake from a land so far away. They call it Morocco

There is a spring in the leaves. There is a waft in the breeze. Yes it is spring. 

I once was working at a little dock. Right by the small fishing village in this far off land .. I don't know....thirty forty years back? I was hired as a helping hand by a spice merchant. He was not a good best person to work for. He was stingy, dirty and he swindled his customers in every way he could. What made matters worse was at that time, I did not even understand the language very much. This place had a language of its own which was a mixture of some known and mostly unknown languages. The village wise man told me that people from all over the world came to here to trade. And the result was this unique language. The spice merchant would even cut my meager wages without notice! If I so much as dared to ask for an explanation, he would give me a look. Yes, a look so stern that made me laugh so hard. I don't think I have laughed half as hard ever.  It was a really piercing look that was almost comic :) If you did not know him, you may be even scared. But if you knew him, and kind of loved him, you could see through that look. It reflected the character of the land in which he sold his spices. 

It was a beautiful place. The ocean was as blue as the Mediterranean and the dessert was lurking there' it used to rain in the winter drenching the markets, the fruit stalls; people of all colors were always haggling trying to make a buck. So you see the place was rough and complex on the outside. Some would say even scary. But there was a tune underneath it all, that was lively and fragrant with the smell of saffron, mint, olives, lemon and oranges. He was a spice merchant in this land that was beautiful, diverse and in spring was ripe with oranges.

This days they call the place Morocco, I hear. I was told by the village wise man that indeed Morocco was derived from the word Marrakesh which in the old days meant 'far'. Yes this place was very far. 

But on a spring day in southern California, when the waft of oranges and mint and lemons are abundant in the air, I cannot but help  think of this beautiful land, so enchanting, inviting and yet so distant. 

Oh I didn't finish my story I see. So this merchant who smelt of spices would give me this look. Right. That's where we stopped. Oh no, we stopped where I laughed at his look. Age does that to you. Anyways, as I kept laughing, he would slowly and cautiously break into a laugh as well. Soon we would be in sync. Finally he would reach  into his dirty dirty vest, and bring out a crumbled piece of cloth and  give me the tiniest crumb of a cake. The likes of which I never had in my life. And I did have a great life with many a good cake from many a land, far and wide. He never told me who made this cake. I suspect he made it every morning. Because, now that I think of those days, he used to smell pretty cakey in the morning.

Anyways, the other day when it was starting to feel like spring, I got some big naval oranges, looked up a recipe of Moroccan orange cake online and found one in I tell you, it tasted exactly the one I thought I had from the spice merchant. After all maybe there was no real magic in that cake. Maybe all the magic was in the events that preludes the cake :)

Or maybe dreams are magical :) I can be only so accurate when I am dreaming so nice. 

Honestly... the best Orange cake I think you will ever have. I feel very confident that I will someday be able to say this story to my grandchildren and it will all be real. Morocco really comes from the Arabic word meaning far 

Here goes the recipe. You would do it with vegetable oil or olive oil. Its fragrant, takes 2 secs to put together and pleases everyone. Just vanishes :)

Moroccan Orange cake  

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 40 minutes; Total Time: 50 minutes 

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil. You can jolly well use olive oil. Gives an incredible flavor
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • zest from 1 or 2 oranges (Usually you can use two medium sized oranges for the zest and the juice)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat your oven to 350° F (180° C). Grease and flour a tube pan. If using fresh oranges, zest and juice them.
With an electric mixer or by hand, beat together the eggs and sugar until thick. Gradually beat in the oil.
Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt, and then the orange juice. Beat until smooth, and then mix in the zest and vanilla.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan, and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake tests done.
Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 7 to 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling.

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