Sometimes I like to imagine that I'm a champion for ugly food. I pretend I'm battering down conventional norms of beauty with my ill-formed and slightly bizarre creations. It's my way of reassuring myself that it's okay if things aren't perfect.
My imaginings make me feel better, they stop me worrying about my seemly constant ability to create ugly food. Still, I don't consciously set out of create food that looks odd, it just happens again, and again, and again.
The comforting thing about ugly food is that it's not necessarily bad food. In fact, there's something wondrous about imperfect food. Sure, you don't want to be served it at a restaurant, but if a friend makes it for you it becomes oddly comforting. It says: "hey, I made this for you and you alone." You can tell it came out of the oven of someone who is as imperfect as the food they're giving you, someone who as imperfect as you are. You don't feel awkward when you get crumbs everywhere, or when you greedily go back for more.
Ugly food is utterly unpretentious (unlike me, I'm hugely pretentious). It sets the mood for an unpretentious event. In a world where there's so much showing off, ugly food says "don't worry, I'm not perfect either."
Yet, when I serve ugly food I find myself trying to justify why it's ugly over and over again. I'll say "it wasn't meant to look like this, it's because I didn't have the right ingredients" or "they would have risen properly if I used the right pan", or whatever reason I have this time. I'm completely insecure, utterly paranoid that my creations won't be enjoyed because they're not as pretty as they could have been. It's a challenge to accept that, frankly, no one else really cares what they look like.
Essentially, what I'm trying to say is that these cakes aren't pretty but they taste damn good.
Anyway, if you do make these, I highly recommend you make them in the specified metal moulds. I made the error of baking half of mine straight into paper cups and found they didn't rise particularly well and, despite being cooked, sunk as soon as I removed them from the oven. The cakes baked in metal moulds fared much better and did not sink. I transferred the ones in metal moulds to paper cups once they were cool enough to handle.
Almond, ricotta, & raspberry cakes
(adapted from Gourmet Traveller)
90g butter, softened
120g caster sugar
65g brown sugar
Zest of 1/2 an orange
100g gluten free plain flour
80g almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
50g sour cream
40g caster sugar, extra
50g raspberries, fresh or frozen
50g toasted almonds, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 180°C, grease and flour nine 180ml metal dariole moulds and place them on a baking tray.
Beat butter, sugars, and orange zest using an electric mixer until lightened in colour and texture, about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl then add the milk and beat to combine.
Stir in the flour, hazelnut meal, and baking powder. Spoon into prepared dariole moulds and set aside.
Process ricotta, sour cream, and extra caster sugar in a blender or food processor until smooth. Divide evenly among the batter filled moulds. Scatter mixture with raspberries and almonds.
Bake cakes until they are well risen and golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. Cool cakes in moulds for 5-10 minutes, then run a small knife around the sides of the moulds and careful remove cakes. Transfer to paper baking cups, if desired. Cool on wire rack.