This is quite an unusual cake.
There is no flour involved, nor is there butter or fat of any kind. There’s also two whole oranges in there; skin, flesh and all! Wanna know what the amazing thing is? It is one of the most delicious and richest cakes I’ve ever eaten. No joke! You should know by now that I simply don’t compromise on taste for anything, not ever.
The secret to this amazing cake lies within two things. One of them I have already told you about: the whole oranges. One normal orange, or as I did here because they are in season, two blood oranges are boiled whole for an hour until they are completely soft and then pureed in a food processor to form the most intensely orange-y and fragrant paste ever, which is then added to the cake.
The other secret is that this cake is made using almond meal, and quite a lot of it. Almond meal (also known as almond flour) is basically just blanched and ground-up almonds. You can find it in most health stores or you can simply make some yourself using a food processor. It has the most beautiful taste, and because of the high fat content of almonds (the good kind of fat!), you don’t need to add any more to this cake. Of course, you cannot always substitute regular flour with almond meal in any old recipe, but here, in this specific cake, it works just perfectly.
Make no mistake; this cake is not a fluffy, light or airy one…but it isn’t a bad thing in this case. It is a moist, rich and fragrant cake that sings with the flavours of orange and almond, which work ever so delightfully together. It happens to be gluten and dairy free, not that I have any problem with either but it is just what this recipe is. There is sugar of course, I mean, this is after all a cake…but overall, I find this to be quite a virtuous and even nutritious treat as far as cakes are concerned. In any case, the real reason I make this cake, as with everything I make, is because I simply LOVE how it tastes. I have fallen for its unique texture, unrivaled zesty-ness and how it celebrates the very essence of oranges.
I baked the cake in a basic loaf pan, but I had a little leftover batter, which I baked in little ramekins. I actually ended up liking the small individual cakes more, as they cooked more evenly and just looked so darn cute! I think I’ll use a muffin pan next time for the entire batter.
I made this cake to celebrate my wonderful husband’s birthday, so I wanted to make it look a little extra special and festive. I decided to decorate it with blood orange segments, flaked almonds and some candied orange and lemon peel. I candied the peel myself, which is SO much less fancy than it sounds (yes really!). I will briefly outline the simple method in the recipe, but of course, feel free to top it with whatever you please…or nothing at all!
…Funny thing is I used to HATE any citrus-flavoured dessert as kid, especially orange. I say as a kid, but in reality, I continued to hate them until just a couple of years ago. My mother, who is relentlessly persistent and simply refuses to accept any food discrimination, used to tell me “you’ll love it when you grow up, you’ll see”, which is a phrase I heard constantly throughout my childhood. Turns out, as usual, she was right. Boy does that drive me crazy sometimes.
- • 2 blood oranges, or 1 regular navel orange
- • 300g almond meal*
- • 1½ tsp. baking powder
- • 3 eggs
- • 200g sugar
- • 1 tsp. vanilla extract or seeds from ½ a vanilla pod
- MAKE THE CAKE: Place the orange(s) in a large pot. Cover with water, place lid on the pot and place on the stove on high heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the oranges for 1 hour, until soft and beginning to crack. Drain the oranges and let them cool for a few minutes until you can handle them easily. Remove the tiny tough green stub on the end of each orange where it was attached to the tree. Cut the oranges open and remove the seeds. Place the rest of the oranges, peel, flesh and all, into a food processor and blend until completely pureed & smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Place puree in a bowl, cover & refrigerate till needed.
- Preheat oven to 170 degrees C (340F).
- Grease a standard 23cm (9”) loaf pan with a little neutral oil or butter and line with baking paper. Lightly grease the baking paper as well. You may alternatively use a muffin tin or small ramekins to make individual small cakes: grease 10-12 muffin holes/ramekins and place a circle of baking paper in the bottom of each. Set aside.
- In a bowl, combine the almond meal and baking powder. Whisk to combine and set aside.
- In another bowl, crack the eggs and add the sugar and vanilla. Beat with an electric or stand mixer until pale and fluffy, about 8 minutes. Add the orange puree and mix until just combined. Pour the egg mixture onto the almond meal mixture and fold gently until well combined. Try not to over-mix.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) until three quarters full. If there is too much batter, bake the rest in extra ramekins or muffin holes.
- Bake the cakes for: 45-50 minutes for the loaf size, 30-35 minutes for the muffin tin/ramekins, until golden brown & a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave the cakes to cool completely in the pan(s).
- Once the cakes are cool, cover with plastic wrap & refrigerate them for an hour (still in the pans).
- To un-mould the cakes, place them in a 200 degree C (400F) for just 5 minutes to loosen them up, then invert onto a plate, carefully remove the pan(s) and peel off the baking paper. Decorate with orange segments, flaked almonds & candied orange & lemon peel (method below), or simply dust with powdered sugar if you prefer.
- TO MAKE THE CANDIED CITRUS PEEL: using a vegetable peeler, peel large strips off the oranges and lemon, careful not to include the white pith. Slice them into thin (about matchstick width) strips.
- Blanch the peel 3 times: Place the shredded peel into a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil over high heat. Boil for 10 seconds, drain, rinse & repeat with fresh cold water 2 more times.
- Place the sugar with ¾ cup clean water into the (clean) saucepan, bring to the boil and stir till the sugar dissolves. Add the blanched peel, reduce heat to low and simmer until strips are translucent, about 10-15 minutes. Leave the strips to cool in the syrup and then use or store with the syrup in a jar in the fridge for several weeks.
Recipe adapted from Jean Michel Raynaud’s Flourless Moroccan Orange & Almond Cake.