I watched this cake being made by Nigella in her last TV series called "cook, eat, repeat" and knew that before long I would have to make it. It's her version of an Italian cake that I had never heard of before but wish I had known about years ago. A slice of it is pretty much like eating cold rice pudding but even better!
I made it for guests early on during our spell in France this summer. Nick had taken the car to go golfing with a friend and I was chez nous looking forward to a happy day's cooking and titivating the house in peace and quiet all by myself. That's when I discovered that the packet of arborio rice I could see in the cupboard in my mind's eye was in our UK kitchen, not our French one! I considered wrestling my old Harley out of the barn to see if it would start so I could go to the shops, but was convinced there was a packet there somewhere. A more determined search in the depths of the cupboards revealed an unopened packet of Sainsbury’s old fashioned pudding rice so I used that instead! I have no recollection of ever taking such a thing to France (and I confess it was a few years out of date) but it worked fine.
Rice pudding is basically comfort food for children but this cake was much more sophisticated and grown up. It's rich and lemon scented and absolutely delicious. If milk puddings are not your thing you might not be fussed but if you fancy serving something a bit different at a dinner party I urge you to give this a try! The leftover cake was kept in the fridge and was good for several days.
One of the places you can see the original recipe is here.
Because I was making several dishes for the meal at the same time, I got a bit distracted and made a few mistakes but it still worked out and was delicious. *One thing I wouldn't do again was to leave the mixture cooling for so long that it was absolutely solid before I attempted to fold in the egg whites! The recipe has a few more steps (and more washing up) than I usually go for but it's not difficult or fiddly.
150g arborio rice (or pudding rice), rinsed
700ml full fat milk
pinch of salt
1 lemon, zest and juice
75g unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
75g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
nutmeg, freshly grated (or from a jar as was mine)
Put the rice, milk, salt and lemon zest into a heavy based saucepan. Over high heat bring it to almost but not quite boiling, stirring all the time.
Reduce the heat and cook gently without boiling for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the milk has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter which will melt into the mixture.
Transfer to a large bowl and set aside to cool completely for about an hour. (*See notes above.)
When the rice is cold, preheat the oven to 160° C / 140° fan. Butter and line the base of a 20cm round springform tin.
Separate the eggs, putting the whites into a large bowl and the yolks into another. Whisk the whites until stiff using an electric whisk and set aside. Add the sugar to the yolks in the other bowl and whisk (using the same whisk if you like, I did) until pale and mousse-like.
Add the vanilla and just 2 tsp of lemon juice to the egg yolk mixture, stir together then pour gradually into the cooled rice, folding in as you go.
Add a large spoonful of the stiff whites to the mixture and stir to loosen it, then add the rest in three goes, folding in gently but thoroughly with each addition.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, sprinkle some grated nutmeg over the top and bake for 45 minutes until it is golden brown and set with no wobble at all.
Remove from the oven and place the cake, still in its tin, on a wire rack. Cool until it's still just very slightly warm, run a knife or spatula around the edge of the cake to loosen it then unclip and remove the tin, leaving the cake on its base.
You can serve it on the base or very gently lift it off using a large cake lifter. I found this quite easy to do because I have a large round cake lifter - the cake is very fragile and a small one or a couple of fish slices would probably result in it breaking up! Even so, the cake crumpled slightly as I pushed the lifter under it but was easily teased back into shape without any damage. Phew!
Serve on its own or with a fruit compôte or coulis. Keep leftovers in the fridge.
Cuts into 10-12 slices.