Written by Rae
This weekend Benoit brought home a bunch of kumquats from the local mart. I had never tasted a kumquat before and didn’t really know how to eat it. Apparently you pop the whole thing into your mouth, but at first I tried peeling it. When I bit into the tiny kumquat and found there was very little flesh. Kumquats are mostly peel. They are like round balls of zest with a little moisture on the inside. I figured kumquats must be mostly eaten cooked or confit-ed, so I decided to look up some kumquat cake recipes, because let’s be real, I wasn’t about to make anything with a crust . . . I was just too lazy, plus it was already 10pm.
Through my Google search I found this beautiful picture of a cake with candied kumquats on top. It looked simple, rustic and enticing – like the kind of cake I enjoy making. Moreover, I was excited to see that it used buckwheat and almond flour, so it was gluten free. Yay! Of course gluten free doesn’t mean sugar free, but I went ahead with this recipe anyway and it didn’t disappoint. In fact, kumquats might even be my new favorite thing (I feel like I say this each time I make a new recipe)!
The top layer of candied kumquats is reminiscent of an upside down cake. The kumquats taste like a mix between and orange and a lemon. But they are less bitter than oranges, and kind of sour like lemons. The best part about them is they impart a floral note which perfumes the rest of the cake. The cake part has a deep earthy nutty flavor thanks to the almond and the buckwheat (and in my case some barley and brown rice) flour. It has the strong taste of brown sugar and butter, which is probably also why it reminds me so much of an upside down cake, has a nice crumb which is moistened by grated apple. The cake is dense and hardy, and goes perfect with a cup of tea. Benoit described the cake as a little dry, but I really like the way it turned out, which is maybe more bread-like – so for some people, it might be more psychologically appealing to bake this in a couple of loaf pans.
The recipe I used can be found here, or below. I did make a few minor changes to the recipe because I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand. We had run out of 100% buckwheat flour, so we used the mix that we can buy here in Korea (50% buckwheat, 20% barley, 20% brown rice, and 10% white flour). I also used cane sugar instead of “golden caster sugar,” and used 50 grams of brown sugar and 20 grams of coconut sugar for in place of 100% brown sugar. I reduced the amount of sugar by 30 grams, but I suspect it could be even further reduced because the cake is very sweet.
One thing I noticed about the batter of the cake is that it was very thick, almost like a cookie dough. This might have been because of the barley and rice flour, but I’m not sure. I cooked it in a large cake circle with some parchment paper and foil on the bottom. The cake ends up being very tall, and some might find it too much cake vs kumquat ratio, so I think it’s possible to cut the cake recipe in half and still turn out with something remarkable. The recipe also calls for powdered sugar on the finished product and an extra sprinkle of caster sugar on top . . . but I didn’t really find it necessary and enjoy the look of the candied kumquats . . . I mean, just look at the photos 🙂
Here is the recipe given from the website, which apparently comes from a famous London bakery:
For the cake
200g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
100g brown sugar
150g golden caster sugar
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 medium apple, washed and grated
100g ground almonds
250g buckwheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
For the topping
300g caster sugar
300g kumquats, thinly sliced
25g unsalted butter
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
Icing sugar, for dusting
Creme fraiche, to serve
1 Grease a 23cm-diameter cake tin with a little butter and line it with baking paper, then preheat your oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
2 In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, both sugars and the salt, until very light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the eggs (one at a time). The mixture may appear curdled, but take no notice, it will be fine. Mix in the grated apple, followed by the ground almonds.
3 In another bowl, whisk together the buckwheat flour and baking powder. Add to the butter sugar mixture and mix to combine, but do not over-mix. Scoop the batter into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top.
4 Next, make the topping. Put the caster sugar and water in a small, but heavy, saucepan over a medium heat. Meanwhile, slice the kumquats as thinly as possible and remove any large seeds with the tip of your knife. Drop the slices into the syrup once it has come to the boil, and cook for 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the kumquat slices and loosely decorate the top of the cake with them. Reserve the syrup.
5 In a small saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat, adding 2 tbsp of the kumquat syrup. Pour this evenly over the decorated cake.
6 Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until springy and set in the middle. Let the cake cool before dusting with icing sugar and sprinkling with the remaining 1 tbsp of golden caster sugar. Delicious served with creme fraiche and extra poaching syrup.
I’ve just made this version paleo, and I must say it turned out excellent and a lot more moist than the version above! Benoit isn’t home to try it, but I’m sure he’ll be even more pleased with this version.
For the paleo version, I made a few changes to the recipe. I halved the recipe of the cake and put it in a loaf pan (because it was the smallest baking pan I had). I also substituted the cane sugar and brown sugar for just coconut sugar, and added slightly less because I found the cake to be very sweet last time. For the kumquat confit, I used clover honey instead of sugar, and then I drained them before adding them on top of the cake. One thing I didn’t change was the amount of apple. I still added the recommended amount of apple (about 1 grated medium or small) apple because I only added two eggs, plus last time Benoit had a small complaint of a dry crumb. I thought this would solve the problem, and it did!
Here is my version of the paleo recipe (for half a cake):
100 g unsalted butter
100 g coconut sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 small or medium apple, grated
50 g almond flour
125 g buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
200 g kumquats, sliced
150 g honey
150 g water
Make the kumquat topping first, so it has time to cool slightly. Slice kumquats and boil them in honey and sugar for about 10-13 minutes until translucent. Let drain while you make the cake.
For the cake, follow the method for the non-paleo version. Bake for slightly longer at 180, for about 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.