Hunger Management

Recipe: Passion for fruitful cake

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Sept 1, 2013

My friend H and I like to joke about how well-marinated we are.

Between the two of us, we take enough spice and herb supplements to make an East-West marinade of some kind.

I blame British actor Michael Caine for all this.

In April, the 80-year-old told a British newspaper that he takes turmeric supplements to keep his mind sharp.

He sounds very lucid and has aged gracefully. In the report, he said his India-born wife Shakira, to whom he has been married for 40 years, was the one who had introduced it to him.

What sealed the deal, at least for me, was when he said: "I have been taking turmeric tablets for 30 years and I have a memory like a computer. I remember everything."

Some people worry about losing their looks, I stay up nights worrying about becoming gaga in my old age. It makes me shiver to think I might just lose it.

So if taking capsules filled with the golden spice can go some way in keeping me lucid, then it is a worthwhile investment.

I cannot tell if it is working, of course, but I hope to give a full and clear report in about 30 years' time, when I am 75.

My friend and I are also taking sage capsules. Its cooling effects are a boon on hot days and it has all sorts of benefits, including the power, it seems to restore colour to white hair.

Since nobody, not even me, has seen my real hair colour since I started greying in my 20s, I am willing to give this a shot too. It would free up so much time if I do not have to colour my hair every six weeks.

Something else I do daily is eat passionfruit.

This regimen comes courtesy of my parents, who were puzzled when they saw a scramble for it at their neighbourhood wet market one day.

They asked the fruit seller what the fuss was about and she told them that her customers like how the bright yellow pulp keeps them, well, regular, and how it gets rid of bloating.

Naturally, my parents bought a bag and gave me some.

I was sceptical at first but I do like the lush aroma of the fruit and its flavour, and decided there was no harm in eating a few of them every day.

As it turns out, the fruit seller is right.

I did some more investigating and like with the searches for turmeric and sage, the Internet threw up lots of pages extolling the virtues of the fruit.

It is also said to lower cholesterol and help people go to sleep. I am not entirely convinced, but being a chronic insomniac, any little bit helps.

So every night, I have the pulp of three passionfruit before going to bed.

They are available practically year-round and I buy them from the supermarket. Dad, however, has a friend with a passionfruit orchard in Johor Baru and he brings back the fruit when he visits.

Those passionfruit are particularly good, with the perfect balance of sweet and tart. The skins are thin so there is a lot of pulp inside. Eating them is a treat.

However, I sometimes have more passionfruit than I can handle.

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The good thing about the fruit is that they keep for a few days. But when the smooth skin wrinkles, the fruit is ripe and it is better to eat or use them up fast.

Sometimes I scoop out the pulp and refrigerate it, but really, I prefer to have my passionfruit fresh.

I used some of the extras recently to make a simple cake and it turned out well.

My friend H, who has a sweet tooth, does not mind the tart flavour either. She says it is a gentle sort of tartness.

That could be why she ate three slices, one after another.

I leave the seeds in because I like crunching into them. Straining them out is a chore and defeats the purpose of making a simple, homespun treat.

The cake is one of those no-fuss ones made with a handful of ingredients. Apart from the fruit, there is just butter, sugar, eggs, flour and milk.

What comes out of the oven is a golden brown cake with a bright yellow, nubbly crumb and a deep passionfruit flavour.

Cool it down completely on a metal rack before serving. A slice of it and a cup of tea are the perfect companions for when I am surfing the Internet for information on the supplements I am taking.

I have begun eyeing Nigella Sativa, also called black seed and black cumin. The supposed benefits seem to cover everything except death.

That is quite something. I might add it to the marinade if I read enough sensible things about it.


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4 to 5 large passionfruit, for 200ml of pulp

175g butter, plus extra for greasing the tin

175g caster sugar

2 eggs

250g self-rising flour

125ml milk


1. Pre-heat oven to 180 deg C. Grease a round, deep 20cm pan with butter.

2. Cut each passionfruit in half and scoop out the pulp - be careful not to scrape out any of the white pith. When you have 200ml, whisk gently with a fork to separate the pulp so it will be evenly distributed through the cake.

3. Beat the butter and sugar in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a hand-held mixer until pale and fluffy.

4. Crack one egg into a small bowl and add it to the batter, beat at low speed. The mixture will curdle, just increase the speed until it is well incorporated into the mixture. Repeat with the second egg.

5. Add half the flour to the mixture and beat until it is incorporated. Add half the milk and beat until it is mixed well. Repeat with the remaining flour and milk.

6. Pour the pulp into the batter and beat gently until incorporated.

7. Scrape the batter into the cake pan and place in the oven. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

8. Remove from oven and let cake stand in the tin for five minutes before removing. Cool completely on a rack before serving.

Serves six to eight

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