Welcome to The Storied Recipe! I host a unique podcast where every guest gives me a recipe that’s significant to their culture, life, and memories. I make, photograph, and share the recipe with you. I invite you to listen to Ruth's story in "Cooking with Cancer" as you learn how to make her father's Clifton House Tunisian Cake!
I need to start with two very important caveats to this Tunisian Cake recipe -
First, this is a beautifully simple recipe and requires absolutely no adornment at all, if you don't wish to decorate. Ruth's recipe does *not* call for making this in bundt pans and, in a way, it's misleading, because it makes the cake look fussy and fancy, when in reality, it is easy, effortlessly elegant. The truth is, I felt like doing something extra fancy just for the photographs - so I took a little liberty with the recipe.
Second, I've done a little research and I've yet to find this "Tunisian Cake" on any authentic Tunisian websites or cooking blogs. In fact, this recipe comes from Ruth's father, who owned a world-renowned hotel in the North of Scotland. I'm not sure of the origins of calling this Orange and Almond Cake Tunisian, but I would love to have a guest of Tunisian heritage on the podcast to talk about Tunisian food!!
Update January 14, 2022 - Elyes Taleb found this recipe, reached out, and shared an entire episode of facts about Tunisia & Tunisia cuisine. He centers the conversation around the Oula Ceremony, where women made enough Couscous to last all winter!
When asked, Elyes shares that oranges and orange desserts are common in the north and northeast of Tunisia, but a cake like this is not known. Read more or listen to Elyes's episode here!
With those two things out of the way - just know that this cake is perfection. It's both dense and moist with tremendous flavor right out of the pan. Once brushed with syrup, the cake has those extra citrusy edges just exploding with flavor. I don't love sweet things, so I do highly recommend you follow Ruth's directions of topping with a little plain yogurt or unsweetened whipped cream. Perfection.
What Ruth Says About Her Father's Tunisian Cake
One of a very popular desserts in my father’s hotel [The Clifton House in North Scotland] and one that years later, when he had had a
stroke, he was able to recreate without too much trouble. It is great as well as it bakes from a cold
oven. When reading my dad’s recipes, he wasn’t always so precise, especially with alcohol! In this
recipe I have translated ‘a good slug’ to 1 ½ tbsp!
A Few Questions I Asked Ruth About This Tunisian Cake Recipe
Can you tell me more about the breadcrumbs? Here in the US, you can buy them commercially and they are generally very fine and very dry. Is that what you're thinking of? (I can also make them, of course, from stale bread with a food processor) I make the breadcrumbs from bread, like you, in the food processor - I generally just use fresh bread [Note - I didn't follow Ruth's advice on this one, because my food processor is somewhat weak and I
was afraid fresh bread would just turn into mush in it. So I used non-brand name breadcrumbs in a package.] 2) Ground almonds - Is this different from almond flour? Do you buy your ground almonds or grind them fresh in a food processor? I buy ground almonds from the shop. If not available, I don't see why they could not be ground in the food processor [Note: Ground almonds and almond flour is the SAME, I've now verified from several sources. My food processor was not powerful enough to create a real flour texture, so on my second making of this cake I used commercial almond flour.] 3) Why sunflower oil in particular? It's not something I've ever baked with before, so I'm curious. That is interesting as I know quite a few recipes that use oil instead of butter. Sunflower oil is quite bland, that is why it is used, it is tasteless. 4) I've never heard of baking from a cold oven before! Why does it work for this Tunisian Cake? It is odd, isnt it!!! I guess in most cakes we want the oven to be on so that the gases are immediately released to help the cake rise. This cake has a tiny amount of raising agent, in fact now you mention it, I wonder why it is there! So in answer to your question - this cake is not going to rise much, maybe it is a time saver! I think the longest element of this dish is lining the tin!
How to Contact Ruth MacIntyre
Clifton House Tunisian Cake with Orange and Almonds
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Recipe by Ruth MacIntyre
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A dense, moist cake with almond flour and zesty citrus flavors.
60 g breadcrumbs
120 grams ground almonds
1.5 teaspoon baking powder
200 grams caster sugar
4 large eggs
1 lemon, zested
1 lemon, juiced
2 oranges, zested
2 oranges, juiced;
200 ml sunflower oil
1 lemon, juiced
5 grams caster sugar
2 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 ½ tablespoon Cointreau or Grand Marnier;
To serve Thick plain yogurt or Chantily cream.
- Line and lightly grease a 8in spring form cake tin.
- Add the breadcrumbs, ground almonds and baking powder into a large bowl and mix.
- In a smaller bowl add the eggs, sugar and citrus zests, whisk together. Pour in the vegetable oil and whisk again.
- Add the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and stir together, make sure everything is thoroughly combined. Pour into the prepared cake tin and set on a baking tray.
- Pop into the cold oven, and turn the heat on to Fan 160 C or 320 F, set timer for 45 mins, but it may take up to an hour. Keep a close eye on the last ¼ hour and if the top looks like it is turning too brown, place a sheet of tin foil over the top.
- Meanwhile make the syrup. To a small pan add the sieved fruit juices, sugar, cinnamon and bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 mins, simmer for further 2 mins and leave to cool, When the syrup is slightly warm add the Cointreau.
- The cake is done when a skewer is inserted and comes out clean.
- After removing the cake from the oven, allow to rest in the tin for about 10 min. Gently remove the cake from the tin and transfer to the serving plate.
- Using a small tooth pick, prick all over the top of the cake, using a brush, slowly paint on the syrup over the top of the cake, allow the liquid to be absorbed into the cake before adding more.
- The cloves and cinnamon sticks can be used as decoration for the top.
- It is delicious with plain thick Greek yogurt or a mix of Greek yogurt and Chantilly ( a blend of whipped cream, vanilla and caster sugar).
- Make sure to listen to Elyes Taleb on The Storied Recipe Podcast, Tunisia, Couscous, and The Oula Ceremony with Elyes Taleb while you make Ruth's Tunisian Orange and Almond Cake!
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