This is one of those recipes that just takes me back. I created it during my time at pastry school. I was trying to recreate a recipe that my Maternal Grandmother used to make when we were kids. I hated myself for not getting the recipe in writing from her, so every chance I got to experiment, I would.
She would make it in the winter, when oranges were in season, bustling about her kitchen, using a vintage tea cup as her only measuring tool. She would fill it up with as much fresh Malai (fresh cream) as the milk conjured up that day, then add oil to fill the cup to the brim. She’d use her mini chopper to crush up the large granules of sugar, native to Pakistan, then crack in the eggs, one at at time. She’d add the flour and then tell me my nana (maternal grandfather) had brought some fresh oranges that morning, so she would add some juice to the batter and it would taste really good. The cake would come out just as the chai was brewing, in those small metal bowls everyone used to freeze ice in. I was the fat kid so I ate half the cake just like that, and I wouldn’t even feel bad about it.
It’s safe to say that I was overjoyed when I tasted the fifth attempt at my recreation and I jumped with joy as my chef looked at me like I was crazy. This was as close as I’d ever get, and I’ll take it! So here it is, my Nani’s orange malai cake, but with butter, because I have two kids and no nanny so I don’t have time to make my own malai! This is as simple and hearty a cake as can be, and you’ll be addicted.
Here’s what you’ll need for 2-6 inch tins
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup oil
1 cup sugar
1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
juice and zest of one orange
1 Tblspn milk
1/2 cup blanched almond halves *
Preheat your oven to 360 F. Start off by whisking the butter, oil, sugar and orange zest together till fluffy, about 4 minutes. You can do this by hand, but using a stand mixer makes life easier! Then crack in the eggs, one at a time, and mix only until just combined. In a separate bowl add the salt and baking powder to the flour, mix, then add to the batter along with the orange juice and mix until just combined. Add the milk and mix just a few more seconds.
Grease two 6 inch baking tins with oil or butter. I always use two small baking tins because that’s how my grandmother used to make them, but you can also use a loaf pan or a bundt pan (adjust baking time accordingly). Divide the batter into the two tins. Take almond halves and place them in a circular pattern on your cakes before baking them. It looks great and adds a nutty crunch. This is completely unnecessary but I do it sometimes for the nostalgic Pakistani bakery look. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn the cake 180 degrees halfway through baking. This is the perfect cake to go with your chai and coffee. This will become a regular in your home, as it has been in mine for generations.