Warming Winter Cumquat and Almond Cake

A delicious cumquat and almond cake - perfect for winter nights
A delicious cumquat and almond cake – perfect for winter nights

As anyone who grows their own food knows, it’s incredibly satisfying creating dishes from ingredients from your own garden. So we got double pleasure making this cake using home-grown cumquats and almonds.

The first step was picking the cumquats.

The almonds were picked at the end of summer, and have been sitting in their shells waiting for attention since then, so the next job was taking off the outside husks, then using the nutcracker to crush the shell and get the almonds out. A quick whiz in the blender turns almonds into almond meal, and we’re ready to make the cake.

Home grown almonds waiting to be shelled and turned into delicious cake
Home grown almonds waiting to be shelled and turned into delicious cake

Gluten Free Almond and Cumquat Cake
(This is our adaptation of a recipe by Helen Goh that appeared in ‘The Age’.)

Fruit prep
500 g cumquats
160 g raw sugar

Cake
250 g cream cheese
250 g raw sugar
4 large free range eggs
2 tsp brandy
140 g almond meal
120 g rice flour
1 tspn baking powder

  1. Slice and de-seed the cumquats (roughly into quarters if they’re small, eighths if the fruit is larger). Toss in a bowl with the sugar and leave.
  2. Cream the cream cheese and sugar together in the blender, then add the eggs and brandy.
  3. Mix the almond meal, flour and baking powder together and add the dry mixture to the egg mixture.
  4. Use a 23 cm round cake tin, and be warned, the cumquat mixture is syrupy so if you’re using a split-rim two-piece cake tin, definitely line it with baking paper or foil. 
  5. Spread the cumquat and sugar mixture in the base of the tin, then cover gently with the cake batter.
  6. Bake at 180C for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes and then invert the cake onto a plate.

As always, serve with lashings of excellent cream, and preferably eat next to a roaring open fire.  For some of our other favourite ways of using your home-grown fruit you might want to check out our comprehensive Fabulous Fruit Preserving short course.

Almond harvest time

Green almonds pre-harvest before the husks have opened
Green almonds pre-harvest before the husks have opened

Apart from all the fruits that are grown commercially in the orchards on our farm, we also have a pretty big garden, with a wide variety of fruit and nut trees, including 8 almonds (2 each of 4 different varieties) under net.

We’re big fans of nut trees in gardens, particularly if you’re trying to build a permaculture (which stands for “permanent agriculture”) system. We’ve written about them before here and you can find out more about how to create a permaculture system here.

Almonds ready to harvest - the husks have opened and started to dry
Almonds ready to harvest – the husks have opened and started to dry

You can tell when they’re ripe because the husks open up, as you can see above, exposing the shell underneath (and the almond nut is inside the shell).

This week we started picking them, because some of them had started opening up. The other indication they’re ready is that some are on the ground, but we don’t want too many on the ground because in past years we’ve found they’re a pain to find in the grass, because we usually let it grow quite long underneath the almond trees.

Long grass under the trees can hamper the harvest!
Long grass under the trees can hamper the harvest!

This year we learned from previous year’s pain, and cut the grass a few weeks before harvest, which made the process much easier!

After we’ve picked, we remove the husks before we store the nuts, and then we shell them as we need them through the year as they stay much fresher in the shell.

Mowed grass under almond trees makes it easier to find the fallen nuts
Mowed grass under almond trees makes it easier to find the fallen nuts

Now that the trees are mature, 8 trees supply us with enough nuts for eating all year, plus we grind some into meal and use them in cooking as well.

Our small almond block is planted in 2 rows, with 2 trees each of 4 different varieties. Like so many other well-meaning but vague gardeners, we lost the tags, so we don’t know which variety is which! (This is one of the things we caution against in our Grow Great Fruit program — so do as we say, not as we do!)

Variety 1 in our almond block

Normally we pick the whole crop together, but this year we’ve kept the different varieties separate, and will attempt to identify them. As you can see from the photos of the first 3 varieties we’ve picked, they’re all quite different. Variety 1 has a very papery shell (which suggests it might be Canadian Papershell).

Variety 2 in our almond block

We planted pollinisers together, so variety 2 must be either Ne Plus Ultra, Mission or IXL. Ne Plus Ultra has very large kernels, and as you can see from the photo (the sunnies are there to give a size comparison between varieties), #2 is much smaller than #1, so that rules out Ne Plus Ultra. It’s more likely to be Mission, which yields relatively small kernels. Other options include Johnsons Prolific or IXL.

Variety 3 in our almond block

Varieties #3 and #4 were also pollinisers for each other, so the likelihood is that they are Brandes Jordan and Chellaston, but we have no idea which is which! Oh well, they’re all delicious, so it doesn’t really matter, though it’s going to leave me forever curious…

A beautiful almond flower at sunset
A beautiful almond flower at sunset