The delightful new book from Wakefield Press, Willunga Almonds by Helen Bennetts, is a great look at the history of almonds in South Australia.
It will surprise many to learn that, prior to the explosion in value of olives and regional wines, the small Fleurieu Peninsula town of Willunga was once the home to 90% of Australia’s almond crop. The first almonds arrived in the state in 1836 and by the mid-1930’s almond orchards were being established in the Willunga area which, at it’s peak, had 4,000 acres under almonds.
Helen Bennetts’ delightful book, Willunga Almonds, recounts some of the history and symbolism of almonds and the South Australian region where they held sway, and is illustrated with vibrant photography. The second part of the book offers a selection of delicious recipes – some from the families who bred and propagated this important nut.
Unsurprisingly, my nose led me straight to the cake recipes. Now that the Christmas cake is all gone, the house has been sadly bereft of that particular food group – a situation I was keen to remedy. Happily for someone whose cake needs were urgent, none of the recipes are too challenging and this almond sponge with orange syrup was produced promptly, consumed gratefully and declared by all to be scrumptious.
Local food and local history enthusiasts will love this book and, to tempt cake lovers, I’ll just share this recipe here.
Almond Sponge with Orange Syrup
- 4 eggs separated
- 100 gms caster sugar
- zest of 2 oranges
- 100 gms ground almonds
- 1 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
- zest of 1 orange
- 1/2 cup caster sugar
- 2 tbsp flaked almonds
- Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line a22 cm cake pan.
- Mix egg yolks with orange zest and almonds and set aside.
- Beat egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until stiff, then add sugar a tablespoon at a time while continuing to beat until meringue is very stiff.
- Stir 1/4 of the meringue mixture through the yolk and almond mixture to loosen, then gently fold this back into the rest of the meringue, using a metal spoon.
- Pour into cake tin and bake for about 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in tin, then invert onto a shallow dish.
- Bring orange juice, zest and sugar to a boil, remove from heat and stir to dissolve sugar.
- When cake is cooled, make small holes in the cake, pour syrup over evenly, then sprinkle with flaked almonds.