Orange Caramel Drunk Cake

I’m on a bit of a caramel buzz at the moment. It started last week when I made sticky buns with caramel sauce. As I was lavishly licking the left over caramel out of the pot I realised how much I really enjoyed its rich, buttery taste.

A fun fact about caramel – no one really knows how it got its name! In her piece ‘Comeback Caramel’ in  the food journal Gastronomica, Samira Kawash outlines:

As for the word caramel, the OED is uncharacteristically vague on the origins of the term. It is traced to France, but questions persist about its reference. Theoretical etymologies attach it to callamellus little tube or reed, or to cannamella, the Latin term for sugar cane, but these are only theories, and not very persuasive ones. OED concludes, somewhat tersely, “origin uncertain.”

The OED’s lexicographers do not mention a more promising (but likely apocryphal) derivation attributing the name to one Count Albufage Caramel of Nismes, France. Tantalizing references to Count Caramel appear (and disappear) in the 19th century, most famously in William Jeanes The Modern Confectioner (1861; also known as Gunter’s Modern Confectioner). The Count is credited with first describing the final stage of sugar boiling just before the sugar would begin to darken. Although Count Caramel sounds more like a character from Jim Henson’s workshop than a bona fide member of the French aristocracy, something in the account rings true.

On Saturday, I got an opportunity to make more caramel sauce. A work colleague of mine, Anika was hosting a pot luck dinner. I originally intended to make Stephanie Alexander’s Mediterranean orange cake but I forgot to put one its crucial ingredients (almond meal) on the supermarket list.

As an aside, forgetting things was a bit of a theme during the weekend. I managed to leave one half of my shoes in the work lobby (it fell out of my bag). Then on Saturday, when I was leaving to run errands I had to go back home four times because I had forgotten various items I needed. Sigh!

But anyway, back to my orange cake. Thankfully, The Cook’s Companion had another orange cake recipe which I had all the ingredients for. I’ve previously made this cake for a small gathering Analiese hosted once. It was a bit of a disaster. Previously, I had reduced the number of eggs from four to two thinking that it wouldn’t affect the final product too much. I was very wrong. The cake was very crumbly.

Like, crumbs everywhere

Worst of all, one of Analiese’s friends who she had invited, had been on a contestant on New Zealand’s Hottest Home Baker and I was paranoid that he might be silently judging my poor cake effort. I felt like having a small card to accompany the cake to explain why I had removed the egg (Analiese’s allergies) and hence the crumbliness of the cake.

This time when I made the cake, I used all four eggs and it turned out fine. It did crack on the top a bit which means I should have used less baking powder and lowered the temperature on the oven. Oh well.

Making the orange caramel sauce for the icing was my favourite part. I adapted the Joy of Cooking caramel sauce recipe. Instead of using water, I used orange juice and added some orange zest. It took a bit longer for it to boil but it turned out pretty good. The acidity of the oranges added a nice ‘cut through’ to the sweetness of the caramel. I drowned the cake in the sauce so it looked like a cake version of crème caramel.

I’ve called this recipe Orange and Caramel Drunk cake because I feel like the cake looks like it has over indulged on the sauce. Go home cake, you’re too drunk.

Orange and Caramel Drunk Cake

Adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion


Cake batter

250g softened butter
1 ½ cups caster sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
100ml orange juice
Zest of 1 orange
250g self-raising flour

Orange Caramel Sauce

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
8 table spoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces1
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt


Cake batter

Preheat oven to 180°C and line a 22cm cake tin

Mix sugar and orange zest in a bowl. Add butter and cream the mixture. Add eggs and orange juice. Add flour and fold mixture together until the flour is incorporated. Be careful not to over mix. Spoon into tin and bake for 50 min. Cool in pan for 5 minutes then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely before icing.

Orange Caramel Sauce

Add orange zest, orange juice and sugar to a small saucepan. Slowly heat up and stir the sugar and water until all the sugar has been dissolved. Bring it up the boil, cover and leave to bubble for 2 minutes. Keep your eye on it or else it will burn! The mixture should become a lovely amber colour. Take it off the heat, add the butter and mix until it has been dissolved. Stir in cream and mix. If sauce is lumpy, place over low heat and mix until smooth. Add vanilla and salt. On a lined baking tray, pour caramel sauce so it covers most of the tray.


Russian Bagels (Bubliki)

Making bubliki is my March bread challenge. I use the word ‘bread’ here loosely as bubliki aren’t really considered bread. They’re more of a half bread, half pastry that you eat with tea or coffee. They have a really scone like texture – dense but quite soft. The difference between them and scones is that Bubliki are sweeter due to the sugar, butter and eggs added.

A wee bit of history

The bublik has its origins in the Pale of Settlement. This was the:

territory within the borders of czarist Russia wherein the residence of Jews was legally authorized. Limits for the area in which Jewish settlement was permissible in Russia came into being when Russia was confronted with the necessity of adjusting to a Jewish element within its borders, from which Jews had been excluded since the end of the 15th century.

Bubliki popularity emerged in the 1920s, under Soviet Russia’s New Economic Policy (NEP), which permitted a certain degree of private enterprise. According to Darra Goldstein:

A new breed of Soviet citizen, the wily entrepreneur, emerged, wheedling the public to buy wares of often dubious quality. Many less sophisticated sellers also took to the streets in an attempt to peddle their goods, and for a while the cities were once again full of all manner of colour hawkers.

One of the most popular products of this era was the bublik, sold hot from portable ovens and immortalized in a contemporary song, “Bublichiki,” in which a young girl bewails her father’s drunkenness and the fact that she must eke out her livelihood selling buns on the street

References to bubliki can also be found in Russian and Ukrainian cultural history. According the page on wikipedia:

A common Russian and Ukrainian phrase is “a hole from a bublik” (Russian: Дырка от бу́блика, Ukrainian: Ді́рка з (від) бу́блика) – which means “absolutely nothing” or “worthless”. Examples:

I worked so hard, and what did I get for it? A hole from a bublik,

He is not worth a hole from a bublik.

Our attempt 

For starters, our bubliki were not worthless! To mix things up a bit I made these with my friend Analiese (who also happens to have a very witty and hilarious fashion and makeup blog) at her house and we ate these for brunch.

They were pretty easy to make, but they didn’t make as many as we thought. Instead of yielding 12, we only made six in the end.

The most entertaining part was when we had to boil the dough in the vanilla milk. It reminded me of watching hot doughnuts being made at food trucks. There is something quite entrancing about dropping dough into hot liquid and then eagerly waiting for it to rise to the surface.

I would recommend eating these with cream cheese and salmon as we did. The slightly sourness of the cream cheese along with the oiliness of the salmon went quite well with the sweet bagels. A few salty capers would have also been delicious.  We also tried it with feijoa and vanilla jam. This was nice, but it was almost too sweet.

Bubliki (Russian bagels or sweet boiled buns) 

I found the recipe for bubliki in Darra Goldstein’s A Taste of Russia: A Cookbook of Russian Hospitality. She notes that her recipe is a less common version.

We did make a few small changes to the recipe. We reduced the number of eggs because Analiese has an egg allergy. We also added a bit of water to the dough. When we initially made it, the dough was very dry and needed a bit of liquid to get it to a point that we were then able to shape it.


¼ cup butter, softened
½ cup caster sugar
2 egg yolks
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 ½ cup flour
¼ cup water
4 cups milk
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract


Cream the butter and the sugar. Beat in the egg yolks. Stir in the baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and enough flour to make a firm dough. If dough is too crumbly, add a bit of water to get it into a wetter texture. Divide the dough into six pieces. Shape each piece into a ring around two inches in diameter.

In a deep pot bring the milk and vanilla to boil. Drop in the rings of dough, a few at a time, and cook them in the boiling milk until they rise to the surface. This should take around one minute.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the rings to a baking tray. At this point you could brush them with an egg yolk, or butter.

Cook in a preheated (160˚ C oven) and bake the bubliki until they are puffed and brown. Around 30 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool.

Yield: Six buns

Apple and Caramel Sticky Buns

There is something a bit naughty about sticky buns. Made out of rich, buttery dough stuffed with a toffee and brown sugar glaze and then baked on a sticky bed of caramel or rich toffee, they are quite a treat.

It’s not just the ingredients either that invite a sense of playfulness. The name ‘sticky buns’ sounds like a remark that you would use to describe a small child who has smeared chocolate sauce all over their face and their bedroom wall and who looks rather pleased with themselves.

These sticky buns came out of an idea I had for this blog. My blog is largely about challenging myself to be a better cook – that’s where the bread challenge comes in. Another area of cooking that I would like to develop my skills is the ability to be more resourceful with ingredients.

To do this, Joe and I have started a small challenge. Every fortnight, Joe will choose a ‘mystery’ ingredient as part of the supermarket run which I will then have to create a recipe staring this mystery item.

This week, Joe bought home a small jar of apple sauce which is a puree of apples flavoured with sugar or honey and spiced with cinnamon. It has a variety of uses – apple sauce cake, a condiment for roast pork or in some cases, as a substitute for butter or oil in baking.

I came up with this idea of apple and caramel sticky buns late at night when I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep. I was so excited I jumped out of bed and rushed into our living room to excitedly tell Joe about how delicious these buns would be.

They are inspired by some apple and caramel pancakes I had during a Wairarapa weekend  as well as the Joy of Cooking sticky bun recipe that I have adapted for this occasion.

Recipe on next page

Grandpa’s Tomato Sauce

This is a very special recipe for tomato sauce. It’s a wickedly spicy and tangy tomato sauce, seasoned with allspice, cloves and cayenne pepper and it knocks store bought ketchup out of the park.

It’s also a tomato sauce that has a lot of history for me.

This is a sauce that has been made in my family for at least four generations and the recipe haven’t changed that much. It can be traced as far back as my great great grandmother Louisa Annie Robinson who taught it to my great grandmother Bernice. On a slightly unrelated note, Louisa is where my middle name comes from.

According to my grandmother, Grandpa learnt how to make this sauce from her mother (my great grandmother) around the time that my grandma was pregnant. She was suffering from a bit of morning sickness and thought that the idea of Grandpa doing all the preserving was a “most excellent idea.”

I remember first trying this tomato sauce at our regular fortnightly family dinners at my grandparent’s place. My grandfather did a lot of preserving and this is a tomato sauce that he would make once a year, usually around the end of January. My aunt Deborah, my grandma and I have now taken over this process as my grandpa is no longer able to.

Making the sauce is a two day process, but it could theoretically be completed in one day if you are able to dedicate an entire day to it. The best thing about this recipe is there is no peeling involved – you don’t have to spend time skinning tomatoes or peeling the skin off apples. Instead, you chop up all the fruit and vegetables and once you’ve cook them all with the other spices, sugar and vinegar and the mixture is cooled, you put it through a mouli. A mouli helps separate the skin from the apples and tomatoes and purees everything into a lovely thick sauce.

Every time we make this, something always go a little awry. The first time I managed to start a small fire on my grandma’s stove element. The second time we seemed to have far too much balsamic vinegar so we had to use a soup ladle to spoon out about a litres worth. And last time, we were cooking on a new stove and it took forever for one of the pots to heat up. Despite this though, everything does seem to always work out in the end.

Spicy Tomato Sauce


4kg tomatoes – use a variety if possible
1 kg apples, cored but not peeled
1 kg onions
110g salt
110g allspice (whole)
10g cayenne pepper (use less if using ground cayenne pepper)
50g black peppercorns
1kg brown sugar
1L balsamic vinegar


Slice all fruit and vegetables. Tie spices in beg and tie with string. You can use the bag twice for more sauce. Add fruit, vegetables and spice bag to large pot and boil and then simmer all together for two hours. The recipe recommends to cook ‘full’ for half and our and then medium for the next half an our and then simmer for the last half an hour.

When cooked, let cool and then process through a mouli. When ready to bottle, heat up on stove again and pour into steralised bottles.

Suggested modifications

There are lots of modifications you can make to this recipe

Tomatoes – if you are using very ripe tomatoes I would recommend reducing the sugar in this recipe. Ripe tomatoes will already have a lot of natural sugars and will add to the sweetness of this sauce. One of the wonderful things about this sauce is that it isn’t as sweet as store bought stuff, so keep this in mind when choosing tomatoes. Green tomatoes can also be used. The same principle would apply here – because they are very tart, and have less fruit sugar you will need to adjust the sugar quantities accordingly.

Vinegar – when I first made this recipe, we used malt vinegar.  We now we use balsamic vinegar as it has a more complex, rich flavour. You could also use cider vinegar as well which would also add to the tanginess of the sauce.

Sugar – the original recipe doesn’t specify what type of sugar to use, so we use brown sugar. It adds a stronger flavour to the sauce because of the molasses in it.

Suggested recipes

BBQ Ribs – this can be used as the ketch up in this piquant barbeque sauce that is from the Joy of Cooking. Use it with pork spare ribs.

Chick pea curry – I use this sauce as the ketchup for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s chickpea ketchup curry.  It really compliments the Indian spices and is such an easy weeknight dinner.

Lamb Shanks – use this sauce as a marinade for Lamb Shanks.