Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Bit of Sunshine

It's officially been two weeks since we turned back the clocks for daylight savings time, and I'm still not used to looking up from my desk at 4:00pm to see that the sun has already begun its descent into nighttime. Although I'm glad that my walk to work in the morning is no longer something that occurs in the dark, I can't shake the feeling that I'm sitting down to dinner at 10pm, even though it's only 8 o'clock.

And since the coldness of winter hasn't quite set in yet (yet being the operative word here), I think I'll kick off my winter complaining with some darkness gripes. How, exactly, are we supposed to survive with just a few chilly hours of sunlight per day for the next several months? I know I've done it like 22 times before, but I'm telling you, I still am not "used" to winter. I love Boston, but it seems to be a colder and darker place every year. Ah well, winter will be over soon, I guess. Just six more months or so.

If I can't have real sunshine, though, the next best thing might just be this citrus-y cake, made with the sunny goodness of one of my favorite winter-time fruits: mandarins (or clementines, if you prefer). They started popping up in sacks and crates at our local grocery stores in the past week or so, and so far they've helped to compensate for the lack of actual sunshine that we've been suffering through.

I usually eat mandarins unadorned and in significant quantity - we're talking thousands of percents of Vitamin C here - but I felt like baking something new today, and I sometimes find it difficult to eat the whole bag of fruit before the ones on the bottom start getting moldy.

This cake is incredibly simple to make, and it's surprisingly healthy, too. The flecks of mandarin zest, coupled with the yellow of the cornmeal in the batter, are pleasingly sunshine-y, and the yogurt and olive oil give the cake a light and slightly crumbly texture. The flavor of the mandarins is present, but not overpowering, and I could see this cake dressed up with some ice cream or whipped cream for dessert, or dressed down for breakfast with a slick of almond butter or a dollop of yogurt. In any case, it's sure to brighten your day, especially the snack-time (or breakfast, or dessert) part of it.

A note on the preparation: I have a small, 7-inch round cake pan that is perfect for little snack cakes like this one. You could probably make this recipe in an 8-inch pan, but it would be a little on the short side. Try using the smallest round or square pan that you have, or try a muffin tin for individual servings of sunshine. Craving sunshine? Give this cake a go!

Sunshine Cake

1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. whole yellow
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbs. turbinado sugar
1/2 c. plain, non-fat or low-fat yogurt
1 egg
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. agave nectar or honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla
zest and juice of 3 mandarins or clementines


Wash and dry the mandarins. Using a microplane zester or fine grater,zest the mandarins, being careful to use the orange part of the peel only (no white pith!). using a reamer or juicer, extract as much juice as possible (some pulp is OK) from the mandarins, about 1/2 c. In a mixing bowl, mix together flour, cornmeal, salt, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and mandarin zest. In a separate bowl, mix the yogurt, egg, oil, agave, vanilla, and mandarin juice. Pour wet ingredients into dry, and stir just until combined. Pour batter into a greased cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes, until top is golden and tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean.


jvh said...

someone told me that vitamin c isn't really very important...

Mia said...

But it's so tasty! At least in mandarin form.

Emma said...

Since when do you call them mandarins?!

Anonymous said...

jvh - scurvy? mia - doesn't the word mandarin conjure up the image of canned oranges in syrup?
btw, what do you think of cinnamon toast crunch made with splenda?

Mia said...

I call them mandarins because the bag of them that I bought at Trader Joe's is labelled "mandarins." Also, it sounds slightly more exotic. It's been so long since I've eaten the little canned orange-like segments that I think I've dissociated the name from them. And what is this about splenda cereal? Honestly, I would rather that people feed their kids sugar instead of chemicals. However, what I really wish is that people would just feed their kids oatmeal - except on their birthdays, of course. On your birthday you should get to eat any cereal you want.

redmenace said...

Looks lovely. Perfect for fall!