Paul Cézanne tribute: chocolate ginger cake with simmered oranges

Cézanne’s 'Still Life with Ginger Jar, Sugar Bowl, and Oranges' was painted during a period of turmoil in his personal life.

Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Paul Cézanne, 'Still Life with Ginger Jar, Sugar Bowl, and Oranges,' 1902-06.
Feasting On Art
Chocolate ginger cake with simmered oranges.

A baker I am not. I am not diligent with measurements – often adding a bit too much of this and not enough of that. With that being said, I am pleased when a recipe just works, especially with my unmeasured prodding. We had very special guests visiting this weekend and I was able to accrue other opinions re: the deliciousness of this cake. It is moist and decadent with the sweet/sour of the simmered oranges cutting through the richness of the chocolate and molasses. The fresh ginger pops and is mirrored by the ground ginger in the batter. Believe me, it is highly addictive and if possible, best enjoyed on a picnic with a cup of strong coffee and a view like this.

Cézanne’s Still Life with Ginger Jar, Sugar Bowl, and Oranges was painted during a period of turmoil in his personal life and completed in the year of his death, 1906. After an estrangement from his wife, Cézanne purchased a property in Aix-en-Provence where he built a studio and most likely completed this painting. The work from this late period is characterised by a richness of colour and depth. The skilled compositions are an attempt to return to classic modes of representation and the forms attain a sculptural quality with thick black outlines delineating shape and shadow. During this time he focused his attention on the landscape and painted Mt. Ste. Victoire multiple times after climbing it in 1895. It is thought that the sharp peaks of the mountain found their way into the folds of the tablecloth in his later still life paintings.

(See next page for recipe)

Chocolate ginger cake with simmered oranges
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, January 2009

2-3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup molasses
1 cup water
1/2 cub + 4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 bars dark chocolate (85 percent cocoa), chopped
Greek yogurt
Simmered oranges (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C./355 degrees F. In a bowl combine the molasses, 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Stir to combine and set aside.

In a frying pan, add 2 tablespoons of butter and the minced fresh ginger. Stir over medium heat until the butter is melted and the ginger becomes fragrant. Remove from heat and pour into baking dish. Tilt the dish ensuring the butter/ginger mixture covers the entire surface (including the sides) and that the ginger is evenly dispersed over the bottom of the dish. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream 1/2 cup of butter for about 30 seconds with a hand mixer. Add the sugar and continue to beat until the butter becomes light and fluffy (about one minute). Add each egg, one at a time, mixing well between each one. Add the ground ginger, ground cloves, salt, baking soda, baking powder and 3/4 cup flour and mix well. Add half of the molasses mixture and mix well. Alternate between the remaining flour (2 more cups) and the molasses until all of the ingredients are incorporated. By hand, stir in the chopped chocolate and then add to the prepared baking dish.

Bake for about 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool and serve warm with simmered oranges, Greek yogurt and crystallized ginger.

Simmered oranges
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, January 2009

1 lemon
1 orange
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar

Thinly slice the orange and set aside. Juice the lemon and add to a small pot with the water and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce the heat to a simmer and leave to cook uncovered for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, once the liquid becomes syrupy, add the orange slices and bring back up to a boil. Once boiling again reduce the heat to a simmer and leave for three minutes turning the oranges occasionally so that they are all evenly cooked. Remove from the heat and let cool. Spoon over the cake & yogurt.

Megan Fizell deconstructs fine art into recipes at Feasting On Art.

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