There is something I find incredibly calming about a loaf cake.
It feels like breakfast, which means when you eat it late at night in secret, there’s something light and airy about it so the calorie consumption feels void.
This is delusion.
But calories and delusion aside, I feel comforted any time there is a loaf in my cake tin waiting to be sliced at whenever the kettle boils.
My mother always has some kind of banana bread on the go (and I have a great Brandy Banana & Date Bread recipe too) and I think this has ebbed down the lineage into my Kitchen because I am constantly introducing new loaf cakes into my Kitchen whenever I get a spare weekend.
But there is something about this recipe that elevates the loaf to a whole new level.
I love marmalade – absolutely love it – and use it in both a sweet and savoury capacity. Have you ever had a ham sandwich with both mustard AND marmalade? Game changer.
But for this recipe a big spoonful of marmalade is melted down into an oozy syrup and slathered over the pierced loaf to give it a sticky, tooth spiking coat.
There is a distinct smokiness to the cardamom that infuses this, providing a natural depth to the sponge that isn’t too heavy or perfumed. It’s not heavy so it’s perfect to snatch at for breakfast throughout the week, but I have also brought this out during a wine heavy night in and it still went down well.
Preheat the oven to 170c and grease/line a standard loaf tin.
This recipe calls for buttermilk, so if you don’t have a tub of it – and in the name of full disclosure, have never bought a tub of buttermilk in my life – you can make one yourself by combining a cup of milk (in your biggest jug because you’ll need to mix a lot into it later) with a tablespoon of lemon juice or cider vinegar. Let it sit for a bit while you crack on with the rest.
Throw 225g of plain flour into a bowl followed by 2 tsp of baking powder and fork both together.
Add in 100g of caster sugar and 100g of soft brown sugar and fork everything together, making sure you break up as many lumps as possible.
Now throw in 40g of poppy seeds, 2 tsp of ground cardamom and grate in the zest of two oranges. Mix everything together.
In the bowl of buttermilk, pour in 125ml of vegetable oil. Crack in 3 eggs, drop in a splash of vanilla extract and for a warm whisper of flavour, add 2 tsp of orange blossom water. If you don’t have access to this fairytale scented liquid, just throw in the juice of one orange and be done with the damn thing.
Mix this jug together.
Pour the contents of the jug into the dry ingredients and mix everything together. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf tin and slide into the oven for 1 hour.
Once the hour is up, take the loaf out of the oven and let it sit for 15 minutes (keep the oven on) while you make your marmalade glaze by dropping a big heaped tablespoon of marmalade in a saucepan on a medium heat.
When it begins to melt and bubble, add some vanilla extract. I like to drop in some vanilla sugar syrup here instead of the vanilla which gives it a sweet stab, but it may be hard to get so vanilla extract will do just fine.
Squeeze in the juice of an orange and let everything bubble and simmer.
Grab a skewer (or one strand of dry spaghetti, let’s be honest) and give the loaf a few stabs all over. Now carefully pour the marmalade glaze over the loaf and guide it over the surface with the back of a spoon.
Slide it back in the oven and turn the heat off, and leave in there for 5 – 10 minutes just to set the marmalade glaze. Take the loaf out of the oven and let it sit on the countertop for 30 minutes – if you can resist – before slicing it up.
I serve it with a little clotted cream and an extra heap of marmalade, but it is also perfect in it’s untouched form with no accompaniments.