Even though I’m absolutely certain that I could have been Italian in another life, Nigella’s Nigellisima – Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes is a book I haven’t cooked a lot from.
Sure, I make the parmesan shortbread every Christmas (and any other time I need a little biscuit that works really well with champagne), the shortcut sausage meatballs are a midweek fave in our house, and the pasta with courgettes is the dish I go to whenever I have to feed me and only me (the others haven’t tried it but screw their noses up when I mention it). I also do the eggs in purgatory. Other than that? Not so much.
To be honest, I think the biggest problem I have with this particular book is that the edition I have is the US one with US terminology (eg confectioner’s sugar instead of icing sugar), temperatures in Fahrenheit, dimensions in inches, and measurements in cups rather than weights. All that converting does my head in.
It was, however this book I landed on when I was looking for dessert inspiration. I’d already made ice cream so had six egg whites sitting in the fridge (and plenty more in the freezer). I also had everything other than clementines (which we don’t get here in Australia) in the pantry. (Instead of clementine zest I used the mandarins I had left over from the last time I made the mandarin mini muffins that I seem to make every week during the mandie season.)
This cake, included in the Italian-inspired Christmas chapter on account of the cinnamon, looks deceptively plain. It is, however, rich enough to be served as a pudding cake or as it is with coffee.
A word of warning, when it goes into the tin it’s high and fluffy – so much so that I worried I’d done something wrong or chosen the wrong dimensioned tin – yet upon sitting, slowly deflates into a relatively shallow cake – like the one in the pic.
What you need…
- 8 egg whites
- ¾ cup caster (superfine) sugar
- a few drops of almond extract
- zest of 1 clementine or ½ an orange (I used a mandarin)
- ½ cup light olive oil (not extra virgin olive oil), plus extra for greasing the tin
- ½ cups almond meal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup flaked almonds
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- icing sugar to dust
- 1x 9inch (23cm) springform cake tin
What you do with it…
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and grease your pan, lining the base with baking paper.
Whisk the egg whites until they start to hold their shape and add the sugar a teaspoon at a time, whisking until the mix is thick and shiny.
Add the almond extract and zest. Stir the baking powder through the almond meal and then add a third into the mix, whisk in a third of the oil, followed by another third of the almond meal and so on. Don’t overthink, but the oil and almond should be smoothly incorporated.
Pour into the prepared tin. Mix together the cinnamon and flaked almonds and sprinkle over the top of the cake.
Bake for 35-40 minutes. Nigella suggests checking at 30 mins – especially if you can smell the almonds. It’s done when the top has risen, is set, and the almonds are golden. A cake tester should come out clean.
Once out of the oven let it cool in its pan on a wire rack. Only spring the sides of the pan when it’s no longer hot and don’t even attempt to get it off the base until its completely cool.
Dust over with icing sugar when you’re ready to serve.