Tuesday 2 June 2009

And a big slice of cake goes to …

Mango cake

As a child growing up in a small market town in the north of England, I was obsessed with passport stamps, luggage labels and my parents’ old Bakelite radio in the dining room. I used to lie on the floor and trace my fingers across the etched dial - Rome, Paris, Cairo - it seemed impossibly exotic, almost magical, to me. My grandmother had just retired from her career as a nurse and was determined to see as much of the planet as possible. I used to gobble up her traveller’s tales from Denmark or Greece or Spain like a bowl of perfectly ripe berries.

At school, I was a studious, dreamy, often-inky-fingered kid, usually to be found gazing out of the window waiting for my life to start. On the first day of the autumn term when I was 10, Rosie Sinha came and sat next to me. She had a ripple of glossy hair, shiny and dark as just-poured molasses, and was sweet, funny, clever. She was also good at maths – something I still find amazing in anyone of any age. The kid from Delhi and the kid from County Durham became firm friends.

Once, Rosie’s uncle came to visit from India and brought a crate of mangoes. As she described them her eyes sparkled and she cupped her hands in front of her mouth, as though she were eating one. Well, I was happy for her, sure, but fruit seemed a funny sort of gift unless you were in hospital. When my Dad went on business trips, he’d bring me back comics or chocolate which I loved. That was a proper present.

What a difference a few decades make. Every May, I start stalking our local Indian grocers, waiting for the first Alphonso mangoes to arrive in their crates, little tufts of shredded paper sticking out of the sides protecting the golden fruit inside.

Mango crateWrapped in shredded paperMangoes

I found some today. I bought two cases, not just because I’m greedy - which I am - but because they were all strapped together, still with their British Airways freight sticker clinging to the sides (remember that love of passport stamps and luggage labels?) and it seemed a shame to split them up. After 4,000 miles, fruit can get friendly.

Now, the only practical way of eating an Alphonso mango is over the sink, ideally naked. This is not a perfect solution, particularly if the back of your house is almost all glass like ours is. You could always run a bubble bath, light a few candles and take your mango and a very sharp knife into the tub with you. However you eat them, you won’t be disappointed. Their spicy, honeyed perfume and intensely sweet, rich and creamy flesh is positively addictive.

Really, there’s nothing better than eating them just as they are, but even I can’t eat two crates of perfectly ripe mangoes. So here are a few other things I do with them.

  • Blitz a couple in a blender with a handful of ice cubes, a big dollop of whole milk yoghurt and a squeeze of lime. It’s the breakfast of (culinary) champions.
  • Slice them and serve simply with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkling of cinnamon.
  • Purée three or four in a blender with some lime juice and fold into about a third of their weight of lightly whipped cream to create a luxuriously perfect fool.

Lady de B is coming over this afternoon to discuss menu plans for our friend Paula’s wedding in September, so I thought I’d make a mango upside down cake to nibble on as we discuss the feast. And, ddddddddrrrrrrrrruuuuuummm roll, I want to offer a big slice of cake to my blogging friends who have visited Licked Spoon so often and left such lovely comments since I began this little adventure a couple of months ago. I’ve taken such pleasure in visiting your blogs, too, it’s only fitting that I offer cake (and awards) in return.

Ready, steady, mango…

....served with cream

This is based on a recipe I clipped from Olive magazine a while ago, with a few twists of my own. I added some cardamom, as I often like my sweet things balanced with a bit of spice, but you can certainly leave it out if you prefer.

4 Alphonso mangoes or 2 large mangoes
100g light Muscovado sugar
40g unsalted butter

For the batter:
170g unsalted butter, softened
170g golden caster sugar
3 eggs, 2 of them separated
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
A pinch ground cardamom (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
60ml milk
1 Alphonso mango, peeled and pureed

To prepare the mangoes, peel them with a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife. Stand them upright on a chopping board and cut down each cheek, as close to the stone as you can get. Put each cheek flat on the board and cut into thick slices or about 1.5cm. Be careful – they’re slippery little so-and-sos.

Peel and stones 

Butter a 24cm solid-bottomed round cake tin. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4. Put the light Muscovado sugar in a small pan with 2tbsps of water and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and continue to cook without stirring until the sugar is syrupy and a deep caramel colour. Stir in the butter and pour immediately into the pan, covering the bottom with an even layer of caramel. Cool then arrange the mango slices in circles over the surface.

What an unsuitable tin

 Now, this is really a case of do as I say not as I do. I was all ready to make the cake when I realised I didn’t have a 24cm solid-bottomed cake tin. I made a half-hearted attempt to convince myself I could cheat by wrapping a loose-bottomed tin very tightly with foil. Take it from me, you can’t. You’ll lose lots of the buttery, caramelly juices which will then have to be scraped from the foil and spooned hastily onto the hot cake. That’s the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is that  it will drip down onto the oven floor and transform itself into some sort of volcanic gunk you’ll never, ever be able to remove without the help of explosives.

Slices of mango line the tin

Sieve together the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom if you’re using it. In a separate bowl, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the whole egg and egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla, then half of the flour. Stir in the milk and puréed mango. Stir in the rest of the flour. Don’t overmix, you want it just to be well combined.

 Puree for the batterMixing Beater

Beat the egg whites into stiff peaks then fold into the batter gently but thoroughly. Spoon over the mangoes and spread with a spatula. Bake until golden and a cake tester comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. Cool for no more than five minutes then turn out onto your serving plate. If you leave it in too long, the caramel will set and you’ll be excavating the thing from the tin with a spoon. Eat warm as a pudding, with perhaps a little cream or crème fraîche, or at room temperature with a cup of tea.


Lovely Blog Award

Now, onto the ceremony. First, can I start by saying you all look fabulous (though if you get any Alphonso mango cake on those lovely frocks I’m not responsible for the dry cleaning bills). After receiving this award from the divine Lady P a few days ago, here’s my list of some Lovely Blogs that have me pressing F5 Refresh at a worrying rate, because I can’t wait to see if they’ve updated.

Catherine at Unconfidential Cook who, in her stylish, entertaining blog embodies all that great cooking is about – sharing a delicious plate of food with friends, with a few stories on the side.

Scarlett the Heavenly Healer because I love to see what she’s up to on her organic, biodynamic London allotment.

Fran at A Taste of Tottenham because I like to see what she’s growing too, and also what she’s rustling up in the kitchen because we share a love of Mediterranean flavours.

Dana at Eat This House is a poet from Ithaca, New York, and she writes - as you might expect - beautifully and humorously. I love her easy, tasty recipes.

This is what you’re supposed to do next. Accept the award and post it on your blog, together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link. Then pass it on to up to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered. (Well, I haven’t been doing this very long, and I need to share out my favourites between two awards, so this’ll have to do!). Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.


Sisterhood Award

What a delightful week it’s been. Not one award but two, the second from Catherine at Unconfidential Cook, who has given me a Sisterhood Award. I’m really delighted, Catherine, and I swear I had planned to give you the Lovely Blog award before you showered me with honours!

The Sisterhood Award is given to bloggers by bloggers in recognition of attitude and/or gratitude, and I hope you’ll agree that the three I’ve nominated below do just that.

Lady P at Madly Creative because I love her style, her verve, her wit and her near-addictive ebullience.

Mariana at Through my Kitchen Window because she tells a wonderful story, writes a mouth-watering recipe and when I look at her blog, I can imagine for a little while that I live on a beautiful farm in Queensland Australia.

Wendy at A Life Twice Tasted which, despite it’s name, isn’t about food at all. It’s a fascinating insight into a writer’s daily life. Wendy Robertson’s written shelf-loads of great novels over the years and has taught creative writing to everyone from school children to prisoners. She also happens to be my wonderful, inspirational, brilliant mum.

Now, you three, please put the logo on your blog or post. And it’s your turn to nominate up to 10 blogs. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post and let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog, or sending them an email. Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.


  1. As improbable as it might sound, this a fantastic recipe I love Mangos they are in season Just perfect!

    Thanks for sharing your recipe with all of us:)


  2. Oh, I am so gonna ask for seconds!

    You are such a dear - I can't believe this! I have been out all day, but due to the wonderment of my Blackberry phone, was able to read and salivate and giggle and blush over this entire post hours ago.
    You are such a great and witty writer - how could I not have become a follower of your lovely blog. Thank you so much for providing such fun, and yumminess and now a bit of "sisterhood" (which is what I feel whenever I visit your blog)
    You have made my day now a couple of times over!!
    Thanks lovey

  3. Thank you for the lovely words about Eat This House! I feel the same about your writing - you have a style and humor that keeps me reading and, well, makes me hungry. And this post about mangos makes me suspect that I've never had a real mango before. I've eaten ones from the supermarket, but they didn't look or taste anything like you're describing. I obviously need to remedy this somehow.

  4. You are too kind Debora, and I can assure you the admiration is mutual. I'm so happy that you found me here, and so pleased you enjoy the allotment updates. Earth magick is very pure healing. Thank you so much.

    I look forward to your next yummy recipe!

  5. I'm laughing thinking of someone eating mangoes in a bubble bath! This cake looks so deliciously moist!

  6. Your story evoked such beautiful images; as usual. "Inky-fingered", what a wonderful expression. Who needs maths when you can write this well!
    Your mango cake is pleading to be devoured. When I have to bring my nose one inch away from the computer screen, then you know it's gotta be good.
    And a very humble thank you Debora for your acknowledgement. I feel truly touched.

    PS. What is "golden" caster sugar? We only have white caster sugar in Australia, so I am curious?

  7. Even though I have no blog, I'm sneaking in to snatch a slice of this cake! Blog or no, I am a mango maniac and this sounds like the stickiest slice of heaven available! Love to you and your bloggie host of honeys.
    Karen, the Lanky Yankee

  8. I think I could get used to eating mangoes in a bubble bath. How decadent. Your cake sounds wonderful.

  9. Dearest D

    Thankyou! What a paradox it is for a non-cooking mother to be given an award on the best (excuse my pride) cooking blog in cyberspace.
    And a sisterhood award is especially nice as it seems that licked spoon attracts a great bunch of witty sistercooks who know oodles about cooking. It's an honour to find myself among them, even though the only thing I taste (twice!) is life.

    I'll go and boil an egg to celebrate.
    Debora,, you're a peach!
    PS I remember Rosie S very well. She was a lovely girl.

  10. Mangoes -ummm!! Blitzed with yoghurt - it reminds me of how, many moons ago, I ate them every morning in Sri Lanka, with fresh curd delivered in tiny terracotta pots tied with raffia and strung across the handles of the curd man's bicycle.

    A x

  11. Oh, you! You're all great. Thank you so much for your lovely comments.

    Foodcreate - You're welcome.
    Lady P - And you mine.
    Dana - I think you need to go on a mango voyage of discovery right away, you won't regret it! Just remember, if you can't smell it from yards away, it's not the mango for you.
    Scarlett - I love your allotment updates, they provide a little oasis of wonderful earth magick in the middle of a busy day. Keep on digging.
    Meghan - I tell you, it's the only way. Adding pureed mango to the batter helps to keep it moist.
    Mariana - You're so welcome and thank you, too. 'Golden' caster sugar is unrefined and has more flavour than normal sugar, but white caster would be fine too. You can use them interchangeably. I tend to use golden all of the time for everything that requires caster sugar - it's often FairTrade too, which I like.
    Karen - Love and mangoes to you too. If it weren't for you, I probably wouldn't have a blog at all, so as the Fairy Blog Mother you deserve a really big slice.
    Penny - Everyday acts of hedonism are what we're all about...
    Mum - You're boiling an egg. That is a very encouraging development. Next stop, toast... Can't wait to see you next week.
    Avril - Oh, what an image. I envy you that experience. Stoke Newington High Street is rather low on tiny terracotta pots of fresh curd tied with raffia. I need to remedy that immediately.


  12. Manic Friday - with maniac red hands, no less! Oh you are a stitch! Don't you love a good thrifty find? And I must ask, for my Mom and I both do love beets - what are you up to over there?
    Glad that you came round and had a moment of respite - we all need it. Maybe the time off from the computer was good - I am in a little *slower* mood these last couple of days where the internet is concerned!!

  13. Speaking of manic red hands, you must do something come July about cherries. The last time I attempted anything using REAL cherries (not that nasty goop in the can), both my hapless daughter and I looked like we had murdered someone on the kitchen table. Who on EARTH said it was easy to fetch a cherry stone out with a crochet hook??
    Caught red-handed,

  14. Lady P - I was trying to create a recipe for the perfect goat's cheese and beetroot tart. This quest is an ongoing one, hence the axe-murderer hands. Hope you have a blissfully slow weekend, dear.

    Karen - Ohhh, yes. I adore cheries. I once read a tip in Martha Stewart's magazine about using a paper clip to stone cherries. This seems like the wildest folly to me. After an hour, you might have enough to make a pie for an anorexic elf. A cherry stoner is quite a cheap little gizmo and certainly a good investment if you ever plan to stone more than a couple of cherries. Leave the crochet hook for crocheting, I say!


  15. Thank you Debora! Just back from hols, so catching up and this was a lovely surprise. And I love dem mangoes!

  16. Debora, lovely to hear from you again, thanks for visiting my blog and for introducing me to yours. This is a delightful blog, beautifully written and evocative. Eating mangoes naked. Of course! Why have I never-ever thought of that? I love the easy-to-follow pics. I often start baking and then realise I do not have the right equipment. I hear you: there is no substitute for a solid-bottom cake tin. No substitute...

  17. Hi Debora!!
    Thanks so much for your comment on my blog - Its nice to be connected through others creativity be that food or craft!
    I really enjoy cooking and at the moment masterchef is on in Australia and my husband has found the "chef" within himself. Its very sweet. I come home and put things down and get ready to go to my "domain" and he's taken over the kitchen getting things ready for dinner. It is a strange feeling, but nice. I think I could get used to it!! lol.
    Anyway - I definately think we should get mariana to audition for masterchef next year. She would be brilliant - or is she better than that??
    Thanks for the mango cake!! i'm going to try that for sure. Just have to wait for the mango's to be ready. Forget the tin stuff. I am very jealous of your bench mixer. I'll just dream of having one of them.....

  18. Fran - You're welcome! I hope you had a lovely break.
    RFL - Thank you. One of the things I like about blogging is that you can share the cooking process as it really is, mistakes and all. It's very liberating!
    Kylie-Jo - How lovely that your husband has discovered his 'inner chef'. I really think that Marianna could do anything she set her mind to. I love my mixer too, a wedding anniversary gift from my husband a few years ago (no self interest there, then), and it's put in sterling service ever since. Thank you so much for visiting my blog.

  19. Hi Debora!

    I am drooling over this mango article, I am totally addicted to Alfonso mangoes and eat tons of them when they are in season (which is far too shaort for my liking), I may have to make a special trip back to London just to get some this year!
    Hope you're keeping well, Fergus says "Woof" to Barney.


  20. Anna! How lovely to see your comment. I hope you're all settled into your new home, though we miss you in the park. Barney sends Fergus a big lick and wonders if he' like to come over and share a stick sometime... If you click on the Barney link on the right you'll see lots of doggie pics of Fergus's old pals.

    Love, Dx

  21. a truly wonderful cake it is.......first time here and loved it....i have a few mango recipes posted on my blog.

  22. Sangeeta - Thank you so much for visiting my blog. You're the first person to leave a comment from India, which is very exciting to me! I'll definitely go and check out your mango recipes.

  23. ooh - nice cake! Can I tempt you to enter Iron Cupcake London perhaps?
    www.ironcupcake.co.uk for more details

  24. The Caked Crusader - Thanks! Oh, Iron Cupcake London sounds great fun, but I may not be back from France in time. Perhaps next time?

  25. A mouth watering stuff........


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