if at first you don’t succeed

chocolate sorbet 

I really believe that the only good thing about failure is that it makes you appreciate things so much more when you do manage to succeed. I mean if we were perfect and everything worked spot on first time life would become a little dull, wouldn’t it??

This week I’ve been doubly lucky in the over-coming-recipe-adversity department and have managed to turn around not one but two previous failures with the added bonus of them both complementing each other in such a way that one without the other would not be any where near as delicious.

I have the lovely Jane Strode to thank for inspiring this turn of events. You see a couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a wine dinner at Jane & Jeremy Strode’s cheekily named Surry Hills restaurant ‘Bistrode‘. And while the savoury courses that accompanied the various Chianti were delicious in their own right, it was Jane’s dessert course that stole the show. A super-moist intensely citrussy orange cake with a partnering scoop of luscious Valhrona chocolate sorbet, it was one of those desserts that stopped everyone talking to focus on their food, which at the end of a particularly boozy Wednesday night wine dinner was no mean feat.

As someone who doesn’t consider herself to be much of a fan of chocolate and orange as a partnership, I was even more blown away by how much I enjoyed this dessert. And considering that I had had several unsuccessful attempts at making a classic orange and almond cake, along with one seriously wrong run-in with a mealy chocolate sorbet, I was very surprised to find my thoughts turning to Jane’s creation when planning dessert for an upcoming Sunday lunch.

A recent dinner at my dear friend Fel’s where she had wowed us with an orange cake that wasn’t based on whole boiled oranges, rather a generous dose of orange zest had got me thinking orange cake. But there’s something about the boiled orange bit that appeals so I had the bright idea to combine the two concepts, just decrease the number of oranges, compensate with a little extra almond meal and freshen things up with extra orange zest. Risky but, lucky for me, a success.

The chocolate sorbet side of things had me even more worried. My previous attempt was based on water, cocoa powder and chocolate and it had turned out so disappointingly dry and grainy in texture that I knew I wasn’t going to make that mistake twice. Jane’s sorbet had definitely been on the creamy side so I figured why not ditch the cocoa powder, up the chocolate and add in some cream to smooth things out….. So after lunch when my pregnant choc-aholic friend Bluey proclaimed it the best sorbet ever, I guess you could say we’re on a winner …. all good things.

orange & almond cake
serves 10-12

Although it is a little time consuming boiling the oranges first, this really is a lovely simple cake that turns out deliciously moist. If you aren’t in the mood for making chocolate sorbet you could just serve it with some tart natural yoghurt or a dollup of marscapone.

The key thing with this cake it to use smallish oranges and to make sure you take the time to remove the seeds and give it the time to drain.

2 small oranges (not navels)
zest 2 oranges, extra
6 eggs
220g (1C) sugar
400g almond meal
2t baking powder

Place oranges in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for approx 45mins or until tender. Drain and carefully cut each orange into quarters, discarding any seeds. Place in a colander over a bowl and allow to drain for at least 30mins.

Preheat oven to 200C and grease a 24cm spring form cake tin. Puree oranges and zest in a food processor until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and whizz until smooth. Pour into tin and bake for 50-65mins or until browned and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin.

chocolate sorbet
makes approx 1L


As with all chocolate desserts, it is only ever going to be as good as the quality of the chocolate you use. I went with the readily accessible Lindt 70% cocoa solids blocks but if your budget will stretch to Valhrona, by all means give it a go.

1/2C (125mL) water
1C (220g) sugar
200g chocolate, finely chopped
600mL pouring cream
pinch salt

Place sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 mins or until sugar is dissolved, add half the cream and bring back to a simmer. Remove from the heat. add chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted. Stir through remaining cream and salt and allow to cool. If the mixture separated whiz in a food processor to combine.

Refrigerate until well chilled before freezing in an icecream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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