In loving memory of Aunt Florence and her famous orange cake

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My Aunt Florence was quite a character: tiny in stature but huge in presence. We used to call her Mrs Tiggy Winkle, after the famous character in Beatrix Potter’s Tales from the Lake District.

In her later years, she seemed to have shrunk in stature, but certainly not in personality.

When she recently passed away at the age of 88, tributes poured in from around the world from people who had crossed paths with her in life and especially from the students for whom she was a familiar presence at the culinary school.

Numerous mentions of “a warm welcome from this colorful character”, “always ready to party”, “always up to mischief with a twinkle in his eye”. ‘A much loved social butterfly’.

She was always beautifully dressed in her imitable, quirky style and loved bright colors – pink, orange, rose, colorful beads, striped socks, jaunty scarves, sun hats in summer, fur hats in winter.

She has had a lifelong passion for horses and racing – even in her last days a mention of Cheltenham brought a smile to her face. Her interests were broad and varied. She loved to entertain, to play bridge, to watch the archaeological society, the Georgian society, the stormy seas…

She traveled all over the world, sparking valuable friendships, making new friends everywhere and always genuinely interested in people. She had an uncanny way, especially later in life, of getting people to do things for her. In one of the many memorable messages on Instagram, a former student wrote that she even “asked him and his friend to wash their Yaris outside of school on the last day of exams”!. My reply was, “I’m glad I didn’t catch her”!

Aunt Florence will be remembered for many things, but we will also remember her for her recipes – she loved to cook. Aunt Florence’s orange cake is legendary: it was chosen to celebrate the anniversary of the European Parliament and is the favorite birthday cake for many.

I can still see her standing next to the Aga, flipping over her famous crumpets, the standby treats for any unexpected guests. She even occasionally made soda bread until a few weeks before her death.

Back in the 1950’s, before there was electricity in the village of Cullohill, County Laois, where I was born, she rode her little bicycle all the way from Johnstown (8 miles) with a piece of HB ice cream carefully wrapped in Wrapped in layers was newspaper and a packet of waffles. You can’t imagine the joy and excitement when we saw them come over the hill. Later we made raspberry buns out of it Everything in the kitchen together at the kitchen table, a perfect first cooking lesson for children who are enthusiastic about cooking. There are so many memories associated with food.

I remember helping to clean the wild field mushrooms we collected together and then watching her stew them in milk on the old ESSE stove – I can still taste the taste….

Another random thought: she loved lamb kidneys and would sneak up on the students during butcher class here at school and say, “I’ll have that, please”! She loved them simply dipped in seasoned flour, seasoned with salt, a few dollops of butter, a little water and cooked in the oven between two pyrex plates. Try it – delicious!

And of course broth, Aunt Florence loved broth and certainly knew the value of it. She’s made a few attempts to die over the past few years, but each time we’ve brought her back from “almost dead” with organic chicken broth. Unfortunately it didn’t work this time, but watching the bubbling soup pots will always remind us of Aunt Florence, as will these recipes that I’m happy to share with you.

Aunt Florence’s orange cake

Here it is, the recipe for the legendary orange cake.

preparation time

60 minutes

total time

1 hour 35 minutes

ingredients

  • 225g butter

  • 200 g (7 ounces) powdered sugar

  • finely grated zest of 1 organic orange

  • 4 organic eggs

  • 225 g (8 ounces) plain white flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice

  • Orange Buttercream

  • 110 grams of butter

  • 225 g powdered sugar

  • finely grated zest of 1 organic orange

  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice

  • orange glaze

  • juice of 1 orange

  • 300 grams of powdered sugar

  • 1 or 2 pieces of homemade candied orange zest, optional

  • 2 x 20 cm (8 inch) round cake pans or 1 x 28 cm (11 inch) diameter and 5 cm (2 inch)

method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

  2. Grease and flour cake pans. Line the bottom with silicone paper.

  3. Beat the softened butter until fluffy and gradually add the icing sugar. Whisk until soft and light and fairly pale. Add the orange zest, followed by the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.

  4. Sift together the flour and baking powder and gradually stir in. Mix gently, then stir in the orange juice.

  5. Divide the mixture evenly between the molds and hollow out the middle slightly. Bake for 35 minutes or until done. Turn out onto a wire rack and let cool.

  6. In the meantime, prepare the orange cream. Cream the softened butter; add the sifted powdered sugar and the orange zest. Gradually stir in the orange juice.

  7. For the glaze, simply add enough orange juice to the icing sugar to create a spreadable glaze.

  8. When the cakes are cold, use a serrated bread knife to slice each cake in half. Spread with some filling and then put the two bases together.

  9. Spread the icing on the top and sides and decorate the top with small diamonds or heart-shaped pieces of candied orange peel.

Aunt Florence’s Crumpets

are prepared in minutes using ingredients you would likely have in your pantry. A perfect solution if you don’t have anything in the can when a friend drops by for tea. The problem is, you always eat too much! If you can’t find bex tartar, substitute self-raising fl

Aunt Florence's Crumpets

preparation time

10 mins

method

  1. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and rub with the butter.

  2. Put the eggs in the middle, add a little milk and stir quickly with a whisk so that the flour gradually drizzles in from the sides. When half of the milk is added, beat until air bubbles appear. Add the rest of the milk and let stand for an hour if possible.

  3. Place a tablespoonful in a hot pan and cook until bubbles appear on top. It usually takes a little trial and error to get the temperature right. Flip and cook until golden brown on the other side.

  4. Serve immediately with butter and homemade jam or even better apple jelly.

Hot Tips

Farmsy

Another great initiative born out of desperation when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Farmsy sources local, seasonal and sustainable West Cork and County food that people can order directly online through their website. There is a wide range of produce including free range eggs, nutritious vegetables, organic meats and delicious artisanal foods. They deliver weekly to areas in West Cork, Cork City and East Cork.

farmsy.ie

Ballymaloe May Fair

The Ballymaloe May Fair takes place from 20th to 22nd May at the Grainstore in Ballymaloe, East Cork. Ballymaloe’s latest festival is an ode to good food, gardening, green living, home, health, fashion and summer fun. Lá Bealtaine is one of Ireland’s ancient Celtic festivals celebrating the start of summer.

Tickets are available now through the Grainstore website. ballymaloegrainstore.com

Wild food of the week: wild garlic

We have been enjoying wild garlic for a few weeks now. Gather some before it goes out of season – it loves dappled shaded areas. We’re adding it to salads, flavored butters, and of course pesto, so head to the woods this weekend.

There are two cultivars: Allium ursinum or Ramps, a broad-leaved bulbous plant that grows in damp woodland, and Allium triquetrum, also known as triangular leeks, often found growing along roadsides. The latter has a flower resembling “white” bluebells and narrow leaves. In my opinion, the leaves of Allium ursinum are best suited for wild garlic pesto.

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