Going Nuts (from Math and a Macadamia Nut Cake)

Adapted from: Grub by Jane Lawson (featured on Chubbyhubby)
Photos by: JS

The title is inspired by my current state of mind that is very much linked to a mathematical linearization problem for a process control system of a flash tank that involves many ugly looking ordinary differential equations with variables that are dependent on each other and integration terms WITHIN it ….and…its just driving me CRAZY.

ok. I shan’t go on.

Another issue driving me nuts? Macadamia nuts. WHY can’t i find them over here?

So, the story goes like this: I was recipe hunting on Chubbyhubby last week when I saw this fantastic one that involves Macadmias+Cake and thought that it was worth a shot because I don’t think I have eaten one before. Decided to grab the ingredients on Friday (my self-proclaimed baking day)at Meijers, the largest supermarket that Ann Arbor (and the Midwest region) has to offer. It sells a million things under then sun, from bake ware, fresh produce, electric drills, tents, hunting rifles (oh yes they do) to hamsters and fishes! They have this incredible section of plastic containers filled to the brim with nuts of all sorts that are sold by the pound. However, it seems like Macadamia nuts do not make it pass the equator into the Northern hemisphere since seven out of the 10 countries commercially cultivating macadmia nuts (not counting Australia, the largest producer)are situated in the lower half of the globe. I was in disbelief and continued scanning the 2 long rows of nuts unwilling to face up to this harsh reality. I gave up on finding the macadamias eventually but still harbored hopes of baking some kinda nutty cake. I eventually settled for the cashew nuts, knowing that it will have the least chance of screwing up the recipe since it gives off a natural fragrance that goes down well with most people. (think pistachios and pecans, yea, yew?)

My friends gave a thumbs up for the cake but I personally felt that it came out a little too dry. The best part however, was the lime syrup glaze that was made from scratch (my housemate Sel was a big fan of the glaze!). It was a painstaking effort slicing key limes and using the garlic presser (oh yes, i found an ingenious way to squeeze limes efficiently without having to fish out the seeds afterwards!). I must have squeezed about 20 limes to get through 2 recipes worth of fresh lime juice.

Back to the dryness of the cake: I figured that my choice of using cashews instead of macadamias contributed to the downfall of the it because the texture of both nuts are different. After putting it in the food processor for a whole 45 seconds, the cashews were still coarse. I would imagine the macadmias to be much finer than cashews after blending because of their smooth texture. As I didn’t tink that it would matter much, I threw the slightly coarse cashews into the cake mixture..the result was a slightly crumbly cake (plus,I didn’t use caster sugar!), not the smooth texture I expected a decent cake to be. However, I think the idea of a cashew nut cake wasn’t that bad after all because I especially enjoyed the aroma of it (especially when it was fresh out of the oven).

As I have mentioned earlier, I think that the lime syrup glaze is a MUST for the cake because it gives it a tangy twist, a sudden jolt that chases away your judgements on the pastry before tasting it. However, some of my friends voted for more glaze while others thought that it was too overbearing. The choice is up to you.. I personally would use just 3/4 of what the recipe quoted but will put the full one up here just for the sake of completion.

At this point, I would like to stress that not everything that appears on this blog is perfect. Michelangelo once said: “The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection” and so, my imperfect creations do not stop me from featuring it because everyone learns from mistakes and my purpose here is to point them out (from the POV of a beginner baker) so that you could look out for it=)

Also, I realised the importance of having the right ingredients, kitchen equipment AND much patience for a pastry to turn out right. The creaming wasn’t done well (till pale and creamy) because of my lack of patience with the handheld cake mixer (which gave me massive forearm cramps the very next day), caster sugar wasn’t used (because I can’t find them here!! I am pretty sure any supermarket in Singapore have them though), the cashew nut wasn’t blended enough and the cake tin was not of the right size (which affects the baking time and all). I am working with money and ingredient constraints here though so I try my best to work as closely to the recipe as possible.

Would love to get my hands on the real recipe book – Grub.Word has it that she is an awesome Australian foodwriter whose recipes are very much sought after. Enjoy this one for now.

Try the real version (with macadamias!) and tell me how it tastes like.

Macadamia Cake with Lime Syrup
serves 10-12
temperature: 160 C, 315 F
size: 10 inch wide, 3.5 inch deep non stick bundt tin/scalloped edge ring cake tin
time: 45 min

200 g macadamia nuts
185 g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda (baking soda)
200 g unsalted butter, softened
230 g caster sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
2 tsp finely grated lime zest
80 ml milk

Lime syrup
170 g caster sugar
3 tsp finely julienned lime zest
80 ml lime juice
1 tbsp rum

1. Very finely grind the macadmia nuts in a food processor, then tip into a mixing bowl
2. Sift flour and bicarbonate of soda over the top and combine well.
3. Beat butter and sugar using electric beaters until pale and creamy
4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. Beat in vanilla and lime zest
6. Mix in half the flour, then half the milk, repeat with remaining until all ingredients are well combined
7. Spoon into prepared tin and smooth over
8. Bake for 45 minutes or until cake is dark golden
9. Allow cake to rest in the tin/wire rack for 10 min before inverting onto the rack to cool completely (IMPORTANT! or the cake might collapse)

Lime syrup:
1. Put sugar, lime zest, lime juice and 125ml water in a small saucepan and stir over high heat until the sugar has dissolved
2. Boil for 5 min or until slightly syrupy
3. Lift out lime zest with a fork and set aside as a garnish.
4. Take the syrup off the heat and stir in the rum
5. Brush the syrup over the entire cake surface
6. Decorate top of cake with reserved lime zest and serve with whipped/ice cream.


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