In October, I had an early Christmas present, being presented with the Best Reader’s Recipe at the Observer Food Monthly Awards, which were held at a glittering ceremony at the Freemason’s Hall in London.
It was the biggest secret I have ever kept. I had found out in August but had been sworn to secrecy by the Observer and couldn’t risk the news being unwittingly leaked on social media by well meaning well-wishers.
The Observer Food Monthly Awards 2016
My winning recipe, a Glengoyne whisky, orange and almond cake, was nominated by an esteemed panel of judges, which included Sat Bains, Nieves Barragan Mohacho, Stephen Harris, Angela Hartnett, Tom Kerridge, Nigella Lawson, Bruno Loubet, Nathan Outlaw, April Lily Partridge, Lorraine Pascale, Jay Rayner, Lucy Siegle, Clare Smyth, Nigel Slater, Stephen Terry, Gary Usher and Martin Wishart.
For any foodie, it was a dream come true and I got to rub shoulders with some of my food heroes including Jamie Oliver, who won Best Food Personality and Josh Littlejohn who won Outstanding Achievement Award for the amazing work he is doing in helping the homeless with his Social Bite chain of sandwich shops. Pierre Koffmann, who won the Lifetime Achievement Award even told me how much he loved my cake, which was served up at the reception.
Glengoyne 21 Year Old – Christmas in a bottle
So how did my recipe come about? It’s no secret that I love Scotland’s national drink, with the Glengoyne 21 year Old, being my ultimate favourite. With notes of sultanas and hazelnuts, dried fruits and rich spice, it smells of Christmas in a bottle and at £120 a bottle, is a real treat.
On a mission
I’m on a mission to try to get all my friends to at least appreciate whisky. So when I saw the Observer Food Monthly’s competition to develop a recipe, I thought it worth using the last of my precious bottle of the 21 YO, which had been gifted to me in 2008, to try and create something worthy of this amazing dram.
My award winning recipe is a perfect alternative to the traditional cake and can be enjoyed as a cake or a dessert, accompanied by some sweetened orange and whisky cream. It’s also gluten free.
- For the cake:
- eggs, 3 medium free range
- golden caster sugar 150g
- ground almonds 170g
- unwaxed orange zest and juice of 1 small (reserve some zest for decoration)
- whisky, 3 tbsp, ideally Glengoyne 21 year old or Glengoyne 10 year old
- icing sugar to dust
- For the sugar glass
- caster sugar 100g
- To serve (optional)
- 300ml double cream whisked with
- 1 tbs whisky
- 1 tsp orange essence (or 2 tps fresh orange zest)
- icing sugar to taste
- Preheat the over to 180C/gas mark 4. Butter a 17.5cm spring-form cake tin, lining the bottom with baking parchment.
- To make the sugar glass, melt the sugar in a heavy-based saucepan over a gentle heat until it reaches a golden caramel colour. Be careful not to let it burn as the finished result will taste bitter. Pour the melted sugar onto some parchment paper or silicone lining and leave to set. Once set, break into shards of sugar glass.
- To make the cake, separate the eggs - whites into one big mixing bowl, yolks in another. With a wooden spoon, beat the yolks, gradually adding 130g of the sugar, until pale and creamy. Fold in the almonds, orange zest and juice, and whisky to make a stiff paste.
- Using an electric whisk, whisk the whites until they form soft peaks, then gradually beat in the remaining sugar. Keep whisking until the mixture is glossy and the peaks are stiff when you remove the whisk.
- Stir one-third of the whisked whites into the almonds mixture to loosen it slightly, then, using a metal spoon, fold in the remaining mixture into two batches.
- Transfer the mixture to the tin and bake in the pre-heated oven for 30-35 minutes. the cake should be slightly risen, with a chewy crust, but still soft inside. Leave to cool slightly before turning it out. Remove the greaseproof paper and flip onto a plate so the brown side faces upwards. Sieve some icing sugar over the top. Decorate with shards of the sugar glass and the reserved orange zest.
- Great served while still slightly warm, with a dram for drinking or drizzling over your cake.
- I like to serve this with a whisky and orange cream.
Visit Glengoyne Distillery
And if you’ve been inspired by my recipe and want to find out more about Glengoyne or even pay them a visit where you can take a tour, this picture postcard distillery is based at Dumgoyne, an hour and a half from Edinburgh and just under 40 minutes from Glasgow by car.