Whole Mandarin Cake With Poppy Seed Icing

Cake and tea – be it for a celebration or to uplift someone’s spirits after bad news – was always the answer when I was growing up.

Cherie says..

Growing up in the Barossa Valley, I had no idea how much of what I considered “normal life” would be packed into my pockets before I left for bigger adventures. I thought I could outrun my small-town upbringing, and almost did, until I needed to find common ground with a new work colleague or flatmate, in which case a pot of tea or a homemade cake spoke the language of instant community in a way I had completely underestimated. My country childhood had educated me in the most potent language of all: good food and honest hospitality. I stopped brushing off where I came from and started making a lot more cake.

Cake and tea – be it for a celebration or to uplift someone’s spirits after bad news – was always the answer when I was growing up. I remember it so vividly: a freshly baked cake being cut at the table and slices handed around, someone pouring the tea and handing out forks, everyone speaking over each other. Somehow the conversation flowed regardless. That’s the feeling of home to me.

My mum makes the most delicious whole orange cake from a recipe that was given to her years ago by a friend. Mum tweaked the recipe a bit and I made a few more changes so that it could be plant-based. Don’t you love how recipes weave their way through different lives and evolve with each custodian?

Use oranges if you can’t get your hands on good and juicy mandarins. Ice it, or just dust it with icing sugar, make a little gang of small cakes or pop the batter in a bundt tin: this cake will work for all the above. I hope it’s your new favourite.


Whole Mandarin Cake With Poppy Seed Icing


80g dried coconut shavings
180g whole mandarins (about 2 mandarins), unpeeled
280g coconut nectar syrup
100ml extra virgin olive oil
8ml (1½ teaspoons) apple cider vinegar
8g (2 teaspoons) vanilla bean paste
3g (½ teaspoon) salt
230g plain white spelt flour
7g (1¾ teaspoons) baking powder
3g (¾ teaspoon) bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
5g (1 teaspoon) Homemade Mixed Spice

Homemade Mixed Spice

10g cinnamon bark
5g coriander seeds
5g whole mace
3g grated nutmeg
2g whole cloves

Poppy Seed Icing

150g raw cashews
80g coconut nectar syrup
50g cacao butter, shaved
50ml water
15g extra virgin coconut oil
10ml (2 teaspoons) lemon juice
4g (1 teaspoon) vanilla bean paste
10g (3 teaspoons) poppy seeds


For the Homemade Mixed Spice, blitz all the ingredients to a powder in a spice grinder. Store leftover mix in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place.

Preheat your oven to 180ºC. Line the base of a 20cm springform cake tin with baking paper and grease the inside of the tin with olive oil. Alternatively, grease a 20cm loaf (bar) tin, and lightly dust with flour.

Using a food processor, grind the dried coconut into a flour. Add the whole mandarins, along with the coconut syrup, olive oil, vinegar, vanilla paste and salt. Process until smooth.

Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice and blitz until just combined.

Spoon the cake batter into your cake or loaf tin and bake for 45–50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to rest in the tin for 10 minutes, before turning the cake out to cool on a wire rack.

To make the Poppy Seed Icing, place all the ingredients, except the poppy seeds, in a high-speed blender and blitz until super smooth. (Keep the poppy seeds aside to stir through by hand once the icing has set; if you add them at this stage, they will darken the icing too much.)

Pour the icing into an airtight container and leave in the fridge to set for 1–2 hours, until firm but not solid. (If you would like to prepare the icing well ahead of time, simply remove it from the fridge to sit at room temperature for an hour or so, until it is at a spreadable consistency.)

When you are ready to ice the cake, and the cake is completely cool, add the poppy seeds to the icing and stir through by hand.

Smooth the icing over the cake and decorate with your choice of edible flowers, fresh passionfruit pulp or dried orange slices.

Any leftover cake will keep in an airtight container for 2–3 days.

First published in Ed#713