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The Unconventional Oven: Dundee Marmalade Chocolate Cake with Oaty Orange Sauce

Another day, another excuse to bake something here in the Backwards Van as we cruise slowly but steadily around Scotland, in and out of all the nooks and crannies along the way. We crossed the Firth of Forth over the brand new Queensbury Crossing and swung a hard right, shunning the busy M90 in favour of the Fife Coastal route east to explore this little chunk of Scotland. Fife is most famous for St Andrews golf courses and its university, its quaint and colourful fishing villages on the south coast and Glenrothes as its capital. Dundee sits just across the waters of the River Tay, and being near Dundee meant to William, for some reason, marmalade.

We go through jars and jars of marmalade a month as we both love it slathered with butter onto warm toast, it has to be as thick cut and as rindy as we can find and it’s handy from the jar or as an ingredient. We shouldn’t make marmalade, William said, so near Dundee, the home of marmalade, we should leave that to the experts and use theirs to make something else entirely, something rich and chocolatey…

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We had just returned from a trip to the shop where unsurprisingly a jar of Dundee Marmalade took pride of place in our basket. I noticed the very last of the Christmas 2017 stock displayed at ridiculously low prices so a Terrys Chocolate Orange came home with us too, a confection made in York which is funnily enough where we are supposed to be headed to next. William set to baking, his ingredients relegated to the table outside this time but with no complaints from himself, the view was stunning and the weather warm and bright. No insects around to bother the procedure either, just a few curious dogs out walking their humans who stopped to take a sniff and wonder.

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He was attempting to bake a chocolate orange cake inside the orange, something we’ve seen before in backwoods campfire cooking recipes but not yet seen steamed on a gas hob. To accompany such a luxurious dessert he planned an orange and Scottish oatmeal sauce made with Dundee Marmalade, all of which sounded absolutely fantastic to me.

Local legend tells a tale set back in the 18th century, when a ship took refuge in Dundee harbour during a bad storm and amongst the cargo was a couple of crates of Seville oranges which a local grocer bought discounted and brought back to his wife, Janet Keiller. Realising the fruit was too bitter to eat raw she set about boiling it up with sugar and making a batch of tasty orange jam complete with chunks of the flavoursome rind and her invention became the now-famous Dundee Orange Marmalade. Ms. Keiller went on to mass produce the marmalade and, in time, the Dundee cake too.

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It wasn’t long before the outside table, the inside table AND the floor were all being used as work surfaces. I got myself comfortable curled up on the bed to read more about marmalade and watch and document the often messy but always hilarious baking show.

Dundee Marmalade Chocolate Cake with Oaty Orange Sauce

Take a half a cup of oatmeal and soak it overnight in a cup of water (No doubt some of you are doing this anyway for your breakfast porridge)

First, wash your hands. If you live in a van, wash them again!

Now, you’ll have to empty two oranges. Carefully (and skillfully) lob the top off and scrape the innards out (into a bowl and not into your mouth, you need to save this pulp and juice for later) Don’t worry about pieces of flesh left clinging inside, the cake will bake around them. Please be careful when operating any bladed article as the Backwards Van accepts no liability whatsoever for injury caused to you or received by you. I’m guessing the marmalade people have hotshot lawyers too so please just be careful!

Start with the wet ingredients:

-50g Terrys Chocolate Orange (7 segments) (eat the rest immediately, in case it spoils 😉)

Pause for a moment here to wonder, are these Terrys Chocolate Oranges getting significantly smaller of late or are your hands getting significantly bigger?

-50g unsalted Scottish butter

-1 tblsp Dundee Marmalade

-2 tblsp golden syrup

-1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt this delightful mixture in a bain marie over low heat. Let cool slightly and add dry ingredients into the pot:

-60 g flour

-1 level tsp of baking powder

-1 pinch of Maldon salt (well ground up)

-3 tblsp fair trade cocoa powder

Give it a good mix, add half a large mashed banana and fold well into a lovely smooth brown cake batter.

Family run business Terrys of York opened their chocolate factory in 1767 and unveiled the iconic Chocolate Orange in 1932 after product research proved modern diners common desire for both chocolate and fruit for dessert. Having enjoyed proud generations of made-in-Yorkshire heritage, following a company buy-over, production of the chocolate orange was ultimately moved to continental Europe in 2005 at a sad loss of 316 jobs to the area.

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Time to spoon the batter into your oranges! We found the oranges slid perfectly into our camping cups and William chose to use these in the pan to keep the oranges shapes while the insides expanded as they baked. Grease the rim of the cup with a little butter to prevent any sticking. Spoon the mixture into the skins, fill up to almost full and place into your cups. I don’t remember cracking any eggs into this raw batter so feel free to eat up any spills and lick the spoon thoroughly.

Wrap the cups individually in tin foil leaving each one wearing a little hat, a pocket of air to allow the steam escape. Place the cups in the pot with a couple of inches of boiling water, wrap the top of the pan in another tin foil hat and twist at the edges, just like in the photo below.

Now, as soon as you have a spare clean pot (we unfortunatey only have two pots, which seems a sparse collection until we consider the amount of burners we have, also only two) get that pot warming and add the insides of the orange (pick the large pithy bits out and any pips you can see, if you happen to own a strainer go for it, we don’t) Boil that up, reduce it down to about half the volume and add 1 tblsp marmalade, allow that to melt and add one heaped tblsp of those soaked oats. The oats will give the sauce a wonderful, hearty texture says William, and will thicken the sauce almost into a marmalade itself. Take the sauce off the heat, add a knob of unsalted butter and melt it in to give the sauce a glossy orangey finish.

Let the oranges steam for about an hour and a half. Baking in the van makes a wonderful aroma but baking chocolate smells so much better….

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It would be remiss of me to share this recipe and baking experience with you without mentioning there is little window of opportunity to boil a large kettle of water which you will definitely need for both washing up during the bake and a fresh pot of coffee to enjoy with the end product, so get that on the boil as soon as you begin baking. We didn’t, and struggled to get our timing right as a result. Don’t be us, kettle-watching anxiously and hoping the cake stays warm until we hear the whistle!

You can use this baking time to wash the dishes and clean away the mess, sweep the floor and guarantee the evening be a pleasant, relaxing and task-free one, or you could go instead to your bag of warm items, root out your winter gloves and see if they still fit. Yup. We came to find Terrys, beloved Yorkshire company was bought over again in 2012 by American mega-corporation Mondelez who immediately reduced the weight of the product from 175g to 157g, making each segment smaller and thinner but not reducing the amount of segments OR the price. Sneaky, greedy corporations, being all corporation-y. Reading a little deeper into the Dundee Marmalade claim and cracks begin to show in the rind of that story too, it turns out the lady in question already ran a successful jam shop so producing marmalade is a rather logical and hardly ‘ingenious’ step for her to take with the fruity cargo, Roman soldiers were eating an orange quince paste very similiar to marmalade and the ancient Greeks had a recipe for it too, the Portuguese called it marmelo long before that ship full of oranges sailed in to Dundee to shelter from the storm.

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Serve the oranges sitting in the oaty sauce and garnished with a beautiful mild Scottish evening if you have one, as it so happened that day we did. The verdict? The Dundee chocolate orange cake was delicious, lightly steamed and warm and fluffy and we devoured it with creme fraiche and heaped spoonfuls of the rich, orangey oaty sauce. Each mouthful was bursting with flavour from the orange skin and the Terrys taste really came through in every bite. I particularly enjoyed the sauce, it was tart and sweet but hearty served warm. Baking in the fruit skin drew the oranges flavour into the cake and the dessert looked great too. A winning recipe and one to repeat!

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We should have stopped reading about marmalade there, but no. As the sun set in front of us, we went on to lament into our coffees the sad statistic that 80% of all marmalade sold on this side of the world is to those aged 45+. It seems today’s younger folk don’t know the taste of the true king of warm toast, favouring the denser and often better value peanut butter instead. Marmalade just isn’t cool anymore. Now I was feeling old. William reminded me he’s already 45+ and I’m going to be 39 soon, I’m quietly shuffling my way into that demographic, hour by hour, day by day, jar by marmalade jar.

Cake baked in a fruit skin is a fun method and you can use any recipe you like really. Watching William at work would have you believe baking is a simple matter of ‘mixing the things together’ but he grew up in a bakery and has a whole life of experience to draw from, a lot of it can be trial and error he says, especially when using new techniques. So Janet Keiller didn’t invent marmalade in Dundee but she did modify it. I wish we had read that Terrys still produced the chocolate orange in Yorkshire and I wish they hadn’t modified that to make me feel like a giant. Adrian Blake of Dorset, who holds the Guinness World Record for quickest time to eat a Terrys Chocolate Orange at 1 minute 16 seconds says Mondelez have changed the game entirely for him with their smaller format. I say it’s an affront to the competitive eaters of the world and it opens up the race to any old chocoholic. They will have to get a lot smaller before I’d attempt that time though, especially after an orange full of delicious chocolate cake!

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