Clementine cake

Sad oranges

I’m not sure this post should be called ‘clementine cake’ because I honestly can’t remember if that’s what the sad looking fruit up there are. They could be clementines or mandarins or satsumas – and now I come to write this, I’m actually not sure what the difference between all three is anyway. Oh well. Good morning, sad looking fruit. I bought you last week thinking that it would be good to have a change from apples every day but that’s where the appeal ended and now you look a little tired, leaves withered and skin wrinkly. Think I’ll boil you for two hours and make a cake out of you, how does that sound?

I’m talking to fruit. Oh dear.

Today’s recipe really is very simple – boil the fruit, add almonds, sugar, eggs and baking powder, bake. Or as Nigella puts it:


  • 375 grams clementines (i.e. 8 of the sad orange fruit I’m telling myself will be fine for this recipe)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 225 grams white sugar
  • 250 grams ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (Steph’s addition!)


  1. Put the clementines in a pan with some cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 2 hours. Drain and, when cool, cut each clementine in half and remove the pips. Dump the clementines – skins, pith, fruit and all – and give a quick blitz in a food processor (or by hand, of course). Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190ºC. Butter and line a 21cm Springform tin.
  2. You can then add all the other ingredients to the food processor and mix. Or, you can beat the eggs by hand adding the sugar, almonds and baking powder, mixing well, then finally adding the pulped oranges.
  3. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake for an hour, when a skewer will come out clean; you’ll probably have to cover with foil or greaseproof after about 40 minutes to stop the top burning. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, on a rack, but in the tin. When the cake’s cold, you can take it out of the tin. I think this is better a day after it’s made, but I don’t complain about eating it at any time.
  4. I’ve also made this with an equal weight of oranges, and with lemons, in which case I increase the sugar to 250g and slightly anglicise it, too, by adding a glaze made of icing sugar mixed to a paste with lemon juice and a little water.

I’m intrigued by the idea that it creates a drizzle-cake type effect without needing to add the syrup. It’s been boiling away now since 7:43 – the kitchen smells sticky-sweet and heady already and it still has another three-quarters of an hour to go.

Floating fruit

A long, slow bubbling recipe today for a morning where I’m filling my head with facts. After saying last night that I have Mori’s original piece on the uncanny valley down off my heart, that’s really just the original 1970 version. It was updated in 2005 and re-translated in 2012. The original idea was very simply described: as we try to make industrial robots look more humanlike, they become a little more familiar with every human trait they acquire. However, this only holds up to a point: too many human traits and they stop being familiar and suddenly seem eerie. It’s almost as though each addition of humanlike skin or flesh or (particularly) eyes  brings it a little closer to a person but the accumulated weight of these additions eventually becomes too much and down it tumbles, into a valley of unsettling eeriness. There’s a famous chart to illustrate this:

Taken from Robotics and Automation

Taken from Robotics and Automation

The 2005 update added two key points: firstly, that maybe siting dead human at the bottom of the valley was a mistake as peaceful repose in death does not necessarily inspire eeriness. Secondly, that there is a point beyond humanlikeness which should be seen as an ideal: the serene calm of a sculpted Buddha face.

Miroku Bosatsu

This was interesting to me as I do find some statues extremely eerie – in this particular instance I can see how peaceful the face appears but one of my enquiries used statues morphed with humans and some of those were exceptionally unsettling. The 2012 update to the paper was a real gift for scholars of the uncanny. As well as adding welcome detail and clarity to the arguments, it’s also helped us to unpick the knotty issue of the axis on that graph. The x-axis showing increasing humanlikeness is easy to visualise but the y-axis, not so much. The 2007 original labelled this as ‘familiarity’ – an ambiguous word in English as it can either refer to that which is well known because it has been encountered in the past or because it is the opposite of strange. Some translators had already re-evaluted this and concluded that the real reading should be something closer to warmth or likability (Barneck et al, 2009) but the 2012 translation clarifies this further to ‘affinity’. Compared to familiarity this gives more of a personal sense of closeness: to feel an affinity with an entity you need to be able to imagine yourself in its place, to experience the world as it would. Immediately it is easier to relate this measure to the eerie experience of encountering something almost human than simply whether it is familiar to you or not.


Very well cooked clementines

By this point, the oranges were well boiled and the whole house smelled of them: sticky and warm and almost sesame-like! I let them cool and chopped them up. Odd texture. Squidgy. I blended them with a stick blender, added the rest of the ingredients and baked for an hour.


It’s emerged, browned and pleasingly cracked and tantalising. If I was being particularly critical I might say that it’s perhaps a wee bit too browned – but who knows, maybe it will taste amazing? I’m going to heed Nigella’s suggestion to leave it to think about things for a while, and perhaps have a slice after tea tonight.

IMG_1754 IMG_1756

Until then, I’ll carry on with:

Green, R. D., MacDorman, K. F., Ho, C.-C., & Vasudevan, S. (2008). Sensitivity to the proportions of faces that vary in human likeness. COMPUTERS IN HUMAN BEHAVIOR, 24(5), 2456–2474.

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