Wednesday 18 March 2009

Jack's Granadilla Cake: best with Coca-Cola and a sunbeam

Jack's Granadilla Cake
The cake in this picture is made with double the quantities in the recipe below.
If you double up the recipe, it will take around 45 minutes to bake, and it will
also be slightly denser than the 'single' version.
The cool dusty scent of hydrangeas, a slice of Jack's heavenly granadilla cake and a little glass bottle of icy Coca-Cola are my fondest memories of my grandmother's house in Pietermaritzburg. Ndudlane Jack Mthalane was my Norwegian granny's ancient Zulu cook: he had salt-and-pepper hair and a face as wrinkled and enigmatic as a tortoise's.

Granny would herd my mother into her bedroom to Talk About Things, while my sisters and I were parked on the warm sun-porch to wait until the conference was over.

The moment when Jack came out of the kitchen with a freshly iced cake and a clinking trayful of bottles was the highlight of our annual trip to the coast. We didn't drink Coca-Cola at home, and I'd watch, thrilled, as Jack popped the tops and the dark elixir hissed as it rose in its frosted bottles.  I'm convinced my life-long love of cold Coke started here, and to this day there are few swigging sensations that satisfy me more than the bubbling sting of iced cola against the back of my throat.

I cringe now at the thought being waited upon - as a girl of six or seven - by such an old man (at least Jack seemed old to me; he might have been in his fifties for all I know).  That's how it was in South Africa in the 1960s.

This is the first recipe I ever wrote down (when I started my own recipe book at nine) and I've been making it for over 35 years. I still have the original, torn-out pages (see left) containing the recipe (a basic, Fifties-style chiffon cake with chocolate-, granadilla- and orange-flavoured variations ) written in laboured cursive and spattered with oil, egg, cocoa powder and the occasional fossilised granadilla pip.

It's a plain recipe, but the sharp granadilla perfume of this cake, and the crunch of its seeds between my teeth, makes me feel as if I've just seen (in the words of one of my uncles) Father Christmas's red coat whisking around my bedroom door on Christmas Eve.

Jack's Granadilla Cake

1½ cups (375 ml) cake flour
2 tsp (10 ml) baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 cup (250 ml) caster sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup (80 ml) sunflower oil or vegetable oil
80 ml milk
100 ml fresh granadilla pulp [passion fruit], seeds and all

For the icing:
2 T (30 ml) soft butter
the pulp of a large granadilla
icing sugar (about 2 cups; 500 ml)
a little freshly squeezed lemon juice
extra granadilla pulp, for drizzling

Heat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line the bases of two 21-cm cake tins with buttered baking paper.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and half the caster sugar (1/2 cup) into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk together the egg yolks, oil, milk and granadilla pulp. Tip the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and stir well. In a new, spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff (but not dry). Add the caster sugar in batches and continue whisking until thick and glossy. Stir a big blob of egg white into the cake batter to loosen the mixture, and then, using a metal spoon, gently fold in the remaining egg white.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins and bake at 180° C for 25-30 minutes, or until the mixture is pulling away from the sides of the tin and a skewer comes out clean. Immediately turn onto a cake rack, remove the rings and bases and peel off the baking paper. Allow to cool completely.

To make the icing, combine the butter and granadilla pulp. Work in the icing sugar, in batches, adding enough lemon juice to make a spreadable icing.

Sandwich the two halves of the cake together with half the icing, and spread the rest over the top. If you like, you can drizzle more fresh granadilla pulp over the top.

Eat in a sunbeam.

Makes one 21-cm cake.

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Anonymous said...

love memories like this. Food is always inextricably linked with such stories for me. If you've been making this cake since you were six it must be damn fine!

Jane-Anne said...

Thanks, african v. It's really a very ordinary cake, but it tastes so good to me! I love your blog - your cakes are just amazing.

Jeanne said...

Oh I love the recipe with the fossilized granadilla pip!! What a lovely memory. The highlight of summer holidays for me was when my mom wudl walk out to the pool carrying glasses of orange juice mixed with lemonade, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in each glass. Mmmmmm!

Marisa said...

What a great post! I love recipes with a bit of a background like this one.

Linda Harding said...

I made this cake last evening and it tasted even better knowing the beautiful history behind it. I could almost taste your memories in every bite! Thanks for sharing such a wonderful, heartfelt and special recipe so that we may also experience it.

Kitchenboy said...

We get such gorgeous granadillas in Taiwan - I just HAVE to make this! I can almost smell it!


Zaahedah said...

Hi, I tried this cake out today and it's AMAZING!!! Everyone loves it! Thanks so much for sharing it.