A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to the Mumbai launch of Café Coffee Day ’s new premium coffee, Mysore Royal. I have been a loyal Dark Forest drinker for quite a while now—I like my coffee mellow and free from chicory. When I read about Mysore Royal in the invite, therefore, I was a little skeptical. Perhaps I’m getting old and I question change for no reason. Anyway. I went to the event in anticipation of meeting Sunalini Menon , the coffee goddess as she is rightly known.
I happened to reach a tad early—the only other people present were photographers/videographers, PR people, and the CCD people, all busy prepping for the event. There was only one person who really, really seemed to want to get it right, though—the silver-haired Sunalini Menon, elegantly dressed in raw silk, was busy meticulously correcting the angles of the cups and French presses on each coffee table. She was recapitulating the order of events with the barista, Merwin, and softly reprimanding the café staff for not getting something or other quite right. I fell in love with her instantly. I like women who want it perfect. So as tempted as I was to walk up to her and make the most of the empty room, I decided to respect her time and just watch the pro do what she does best. I busied myself photographing the lovely display of the variety of brewing equipment that Sunalini was to take us through. My skepticism about the coffee itself began to reduce as I photographed the elegant box it was packed in.
In time, the room was full of people, and after a brief introduction, Sunalini got down to Mysore Royal—the coffee, its origins and beginnings, the magical way that it transformed itself as it allowed itself to be brewed in a traditional South Indian coffee filter, the gorgeous Siphon with equal ease. If it was thick, luscious, and bitter with one brew, it was light, aromatic, and teasing in another. My table partner, Rushina , and I had moments of enlightenment as we sipped the coffee and thought up recipes and food pairings. If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ll want to try this. It is a coffee that hints at so many subtle flavors without letting go of its own identity, that no cup you make yourself will ever be the same.
As I drove home, my mind went back to Sunalini’s suggestion of pairing it with oranges. “Have it with some orange juice,” she’d said. Hmm. Too much acid for me, I thought. But then I thought it’d be perfect in a cake. After weeks of resisting temptation, I finally got round to baking it today. I have to say, Sunalini was right—the marriage of flavors was perfect. The depth of the coffee was lifted by the lightness of the orange, and the drizzle of dark chocolate ganache on top complemented everything together so well, I had quite a generous slice. Or two.
Coffee and Orangette cake
For the orangettes:
- Peels of one orange—I used Valencia
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 cup of water
- Water for blanching
- 50 gms. dark chocolate
For the cake:
- 2 eggs
- 200 gms. flour
- 120 gms. sugar
- Juice of half an orange
- 100 gms. butter
- 50 mls. coffee decoction
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 2-3 orangettes, not dipped in chocolate (optional)
For the ganache:
- 50 gms dark chocolate
- 2 tbsps. Cream
For the orangettes:
- Carefully peel the orange and remove the fibrous white bits.
- Cut the peel into strips, about ¼ centimeters in breadth.
- Blanch the strips of peel in water. I blanched them twice in order to remove any trace of bitterness.
- Make a syrup using the sugar and 1 cup of water. Tip the strips in this syrup and cook until they appear translucent. The white bits, especially.
- Strain and dry on parchment for 4-5 hours. I allowed mine to cool overnight.
- (Preserve the fragrant syrup for something else; it has all the oils from the orange!)
- Melt the chocolate over a double-boiler or in the microwave.
- Dip the dried strips of orange halfway into the chocolate and cool on parchment.
For the cake:
- Sieve the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl.
- Chop the un-chocolate-ed orangettes into small pieces and toss in the flour.
- Place the eggs, sugar, and butter in blender and combine until creamy.
- Add the orange juice and coffee and blend momentarily.
- Pour the wet mixture into the flour and fold lightly.
- Decant the cake batter into a greased and lined pan of choice and bake at 170 degrees centigrade for about 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
- Remove from the pan and allow to cool.
For the ganache:
- Place the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl and give it a go for 30 seconds or until the chocolate has melted.Combine.
To assemble the cake:
- Spoon/drizzle the ganache over the cooled cake.
- Bedeck the cake with jewel-like orangettes and enjoy with a cup of your favorite coffee.
Store the leftover orangettes for a special treat!
I shared this piece with Sunalini Menon, and the graceful woman that she is, she responded promptly and with glowing praise. I am sharing her response here:
What a beautiful write up and as for your cake, it is so mouth watering. I should get down to baking it sometime soon. I shall also send the recipe to my friends in the hope that they get down to it earlier than myself and send me a slice of it too!!!
It was a pleasure meeting you in Bombay and I hope that I would have the pleasure of showing you my lab, which is a museum containing all the artifacts that I have collected in the 30 odd years that I have been in the fascinating world of coffee.
You are a great photographer too. I was thrilled to see the café filled with so many women journalists. It made my day!
Hope to see you soon in Bangalore.
With warm regards,
I’ll leave you with this week’s Black and White Wednesday  picture: