To know the true significance of this cake you must watch the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Failing that though, this is a darn good cake, and maybe just watch the trailer so that you appreciate it has at least some significance to the theme of my new feature: “film food”!
Walter Mitty's Clementine Cake
I decided to start a new feature on the blog where I bake food (probably mainly cakes) from my favourite films – and this series will be based on films about people who partially live in imaginary dream worlds. The first of these is Walter Mitty, a film inspired by the short story by James Thurber. Below is one of my very favourite clips, and it features the clementine cake (and a poetry falcon).

The cake isn’t exactly the linchpin of the story, although it does turn up at unexpected moments and links a couple of story-lines together. One of the real successes of this film for me is the interaction between epic scenes, some of which are dream sequences and some of which actually happen, with the small, perhaps irritating or disappointing to some, parts of Walter’s story which are interspersed just as often. Things like going to an exciting foreign country and then getting stuck in a bar with a drunk guy who really wants him to sing karaoke. Or doing his finances in fast food stops while abroad. A question this raised by the humdrum of his everyday life and even moments during his adventures might be… can his fantasies, which are hugely exaggerated and unrealistic, ever be matched by reality? Are those of us who are borderline pathological dreamers deliberately weaving impossible expectations so that there is simply no prospect of trying to live up to them and potentially be disappointed?

I suppose that the answer is that if we don’t try, we’ll never know. And that probably at some points during an ‘adventure’ it will turn out that what seemed like an exotic & significant photograph at first is actually a chip in an old piano. Or the person that motivated us to move out of our comfort zones in the first place is not what we thought they would be. But unless you take the risks or chase a ‘dream’ instead of perfecting it inside your head, you’ll just never know. So I bought a new diary this week, and decided that it’s time to make some plans.
And if the film meant none of this to you at all… seriously, poetry falcon. That’s really funny.

Ottolenghi’s Clementine & Almond Cake
(and Charlie’s candied clementines!)

200g butter, 300g caster sugar, grated zest & juice of 4 clementines + 1 lemon, 280g ground almonds, 5 free-range eggs, 100g flour, pinch of salt.
  • Preheat oven to 180C(160C fan/Gas 4) & grease a deep round cake or loaf tin.
  • Beat together butter, caster sugar and both zests until just combined. Mix through half the ground almonds.
  • Add the eggs gradually while continually beating (scrape around the sides to make sure mixture is evenly combined).
  • Add remaining almonds, flour (plain recommended but I used self-raising and had no issues!), and salt and mix gently until smooth.
  • Spread batter into tin, level out & bake for 50-60 minutes. Cover with foil half way through to avoid a hard crust/burning the outside.
For candied clementine slices:
I didn’t have a lot of time so I made this up as I went along! So follow your common sense if in doubt…
  • Slice clementines into your preferred thickness of slice (thinner will make the peel softer) and place into a pan of boiling water. Boil for about 10 mins and then drain, pour in new boiling water, and boil for another 10 mins or until the steam stops smelling sour and the skins are soft. This is a necessary step to take away the bitterness of the skins.
  • Drain off the water and in its place add the juice from the clementines in the previous recipe and about 80g of sugar. Stir a little so the sugar dissolves, but once you heat it try and let the sugar dissolve with as little stirring as possible.
  • Then simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until your slices have a good coating of sugar syrup and the syrup has reduced to become thicker.
To decorate:
To decorate the cake, I poured the syrup the candied clementines were boiled in over the hot cake. Then once cooled I also mixed up a little icing sugar and water to make a white icing for the candied clementine slices to adhere to. This does make it very sweet – but despite not always liking a sugar overload, I find the strong citrus taste balances the sweetness out.
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