Jessie Kaur Lehail
Jessie Kaur Lehail

Tangerine Tea CakeRecently, I reread The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, a book that applies the philosophy of phenomenology to spaces and things.The reread conjured a poetic experience with my mom’s rose teapot and orange cake.

The teapot: gold rimmed, beige/white in colour with red roses that looked eerily similar to the ones in our yard. Always nestled in the china cabinet with the matching creamer and sugar. They were rarely used, except when Auntie B (known as Bibi B) came for tea.

Bibi B was an original Kamloopsian, a pioneer of the city, a solid no-fuss woman, who spoke perfect English. Her mannerisms, way of life, and even apparel was quite Westernized. I was always fascinated by her. When my parents settled in Kamloops, Bibi B befriended my mom. She provided guidance about daily Canadian life. A bond between the two was formed and Bibi B would come over for yearly or biannual tea sessions. My mom would bring out the fancy teapot, make English style tea and serve the cream and sugar separately.

Along with an array of Indian namkeen, my mom would always present a Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines orange cake. I suppose this is why I love this cake. It associates my fascination with the teapot, Bibi B and her relationship with my mother.

This cake satisfies my weak spot for seedless, tart yet sweet, bright orange tangerine. The flavour combination of the citrus, butter, and fenugreek, along with a dust of powdered sugar reminds me of Madeleine cookies.

I love a baked good that can stand on its own, but is also the perfect complement to a cup of tea.

This is a nice cake to make for special guests like Bibi B and serve tea in your best china, or to a friend who has a new home or baby, or just to devour on your own. This cake is best eaten within a day or two.

Fenugreek Tangerine Tea Bundt

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds (see instructions below)

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, at room temperature

1/4 cup fresh tangerine juice (about 2)

1/4 cup buttermilk

zest of 3 tangerines

3/4 tsp orange extract

1 tablespoon of fenugreek concentrate

Fenugreek Seed Concentrate

2 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

2 cups water

Put the fenugreek seeds and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for about 25 minutes, until the seeds are plump and tender. Drain the seeds, reserving a tablespoon of cooking water, and add them to the mix.


Set oven to 350F. Prep the pan with butter and flour to prevent sticking.

Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Cream the butter and the sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the zest extract. If using fresh, chopped fenugreek, add in at this time. Mix the tangerine juice with the buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients to the mixer, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Turn the batter into a bundt baking pan. Bake for approximately 28 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out without wet batter clinging to it. Let cool completely before dusting with icing sugar.

Jessie Lehail is the author of Indian Influence, a blog that shares food stories, recipes, and photography. Reflecting a love for meshing global flavors and South Asian aesthetics, Jessie explores culture and identity through food. Find more food stories at