Clementine, chamomile and poppy seed cake

One of the perks of being on facebook is that one meets many like-minded people, some of whom can become your friends even if you have never met. I belong to a group that has some lovely ladies, mostly Palakkad Iyers like me, who come up with interesting topics every day on the forum. Last week I invited some of my Mumbai based friends from the group. It was a lunch date and only four could make it, Wednesday being a working day. Sometimes small groups can be merrier than large.

I made a basil focaccia, roasted tomato soup (without fennel this time), undhiyo, bhakri and a chamomile bundt cake with strawberry coulis. I am no good at creating a huge menu. I get confused and stick to basics when I have guests. Though it was the focaccia that  won praise, I was taken by the bundt cake. Nikhil, friend and fellow food blogger, known to many as the ‘non-chalant gourmand‘ gifted me a packet of ‘dried chamomile’ a couple of weeks ago. Once I snipped the edge with scissors, I could not stop myself from sniffing at the flowers  repeatedly. It is aromatherapy, I tell you! Since then I have used small portions of the flowers in panna cottas, puddings and cakes. Last evening my children announced that they needed ‘many snacks’ because of a function happening at school. Snacks, I have learnt from experience mean cakes and anything sweet. I made some gluten-free, cocoa and pecan cup cakes for the gluten-free girl (they were delicious and will soon come up here when I make them again), and a loaf cake for my son. The loaf cake included the last of the sweet clementines S gave.

Since the last two years, clementines (or satsuma mandarins) have been making an appearance in our markets in Late November, and they are available upto end of January.  But December seems to be the best time to have them.  They have few seeds and are very sweet.  The fruit had very thin peels and I found that I could consume them with the skin.  The rind was sensuously citrus but not overpowering.  Any other day I would have insisted in using them in recipes, but these were delicious and I followed Jr.H’s advice and we ate up most of them.  When I was left with ten, it struck me that not being overpowering meant that they would compliment the chamomile flowers.  I wanted some texture.  I had poppy seeds.  We did not see this cake coming, but when it was done, it won us over completely.

The sharpness of clementines go well with the mild chamomile and as expected the poppy seeds lent a nice texture.  If you do not have them leave them out.  This cake is a winner.

Despite the fact that the electricity was disrupted without warning after 20 minutes of baking there was no damage done, except that the loaf domed on one side.  It might have been the power cut, or maybe I did not tap the tin enough to remove the air bubbles.  Do make sure that the tin is lined with baking parchment.  The loaf is delicate and I would not bake it directly in tin.  I held my breath and prayed that the electricity would return.  It did after some 15 mins. and I simply continued baking as if nothing happened.  All was well.

Recipe:  Clementine, chamomile and poppy seed cake
Yield: One loaf – 8 x 4 inches


All purpose flour | Maida – 221g | 1.75 cups
Corn flour (or corn starch) – 9g | 1 tbsp
Baking powder – 1.5 tsp.
Baking soda – Just one pinch
Pecans – 11g | 6 Nos.
Sea salt – 1 pinch
Muscovado or raw sugar – 130g | 0.75 cup
Clementine rinds (Just peel a few and cut into thin strips – mine had thin peels) – 14g |2 tbsp

Chamomile flowers – 2 tbsp.
Poppy seeds – 1 tbsp.

Olive oil – 78g | 0.5cup
Corn syrup – 2 tsp.
Mirin – 1 tsp.
Freshly squeezed clementine juice – 1 cup
Soy / Coconut milk – 90g | 1 cup


Line and prepare a cake tin. I used a rectangular loaf tin measuring 8 x 4 inches. Any shape should do.

Pre-heat oven at 180 deg. C, with the rack in the center of the oven.

Place all the ingredients under ‘A’ in a mixer and run it to blend evenly. Not too long, just enough. About half a minute.

Remove into a wide mixing bowl and add the ingredients under ‘B’. Stir through.

Now place the ingredients under ‘C’ into the mixer. Blend just enough to emulsify the ingredients. Do not run too much and make it frothy.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and fold. Turn the vessel as opposed to vigorously stirring with the ladle. Use a cut and fold method rather than just mixing with rotational motions, as this makes the batter elastic, and the cake tough, about a minute.

Spoon batter into prepared tin. Tap several times on the counter to remove air bubbles if any.

Bake for 45-50 minutes till the cake springs back on touch and is golden on the top, and a toothpick stuck in comes out clean.


I did make a basic glaze against my intuition and honestly, I prefer no glaze.  I have never liked any kind of icing on cake.  Here is the glaze I used:

Clementine juice – 2 tbsp.

Icing sugar – 3/4 cup

Clementine peels, chopped fine – from one clementine

Method for glaze:

Place everything in a small blender and run till blended.  Spoon and drip all over the loaf.

Suggested substitutes:

Walnuts or almonds instead of pecans.

Arrowroot instead of cornflour.

Any neutral oil but olive oil is recommended.

Sweet oranges instead of clementines if you cannot find them.

I find ‘mirin’ irreplaceable, but if you must, then use rice vinegar.

I have noticed that the increase in corn flour/syrup can make the cake pasty. If you use any substitutes the texture may turn out different.

This recipe comes to you after many trials, and is now perfected.  The few nuts in it are what give it the crumb structure.  I would not omit it.


Harini is a vegan food photographer, writer and recipe developer. She also loves feeding birds, reading, watching crime thrillers, and travelling amongst other things.

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  • Sujee

    I tried this cake ( & I am a very amateur baker); It tasted great, but I think it came out much too moist/dense. I like when it is more crumbly/airy. Any suggestions? Not sure where I went wrong 🙁

    • Harini

      Did it look as it looks here? Do you mean that it was sticky? If you had poured the icing on it, it would be slightly sticky but not otherwise. This cake has a dense, pound cake like texture, and not as airy as a cupcake. Did you follow the recipe exactly or did you use any substitutes? I need more information, Sujee.

  • Pratishtha Shrotriya Khan

    Been on the planet over 3 decades, and never cooked anything vegan. Now is the time to start a new way of living, and so good I found your blog. Love this recipe.

  • Wanda

    Lovely! I can just imagine having tea time with my friends with this beautiful cake.

  • radhika25

    Dear Harini,

    I have nominated your delicious blog for the Super Sweet Blogging Award!
    Please pick up your badge and information on how to pass the torch and pay it forward at:

    Happy New Year!


  • Sujata

    Looks great. I do not have corn syrup, is there a replacement for that?
    Also instead of soy milk/coconut milk would regular milk work the same – but am not sure about mixing oil and milk in that case..
    Also waiting for your gluten-free recipe..

    • Harini

      You can leave it out – the cake will still turn out right. Yes, regular milk works, but the flavour of the cake is strong only because of the vegan nut milk. Regular milk has an overwhelming smell and can suppress the orange flavour to a certain extent.

  • narf77

    A beautiful post and a beautiful cake to make for after Christmas slow tea sipping and extended belly recovery. Thank you…this will be perfect 🙂

  • radhika25

    Hi Harini,
    Did you manage to pick up the agar agar from Powai?

  • Nandita

    Loved the recipe and the photography!!! Awesome post 🙂

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