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Orange Almond Cake

OrangeAlmondCake-6

17th of February – we’ve made it more than half way through winter now. The last of these winter days seem to creep though, slow and dark towards Spring. There’s hope of it, and there are signs. Brilliant green soft points of daffodils are pushing through the wet earth near our front door. I put my nose close to a tree’s branches this morning and saw the tiniest swellings of buds. I was in need of seeing them there. I find comfort knowing that tightly folded leaves are tucked safely beneath those leathery coverings until the sun is high enough in the sky to warm this winter air. Weeds, opportunistic and first-comers always, are springing up in our herb garden. It’s time I put my rubber boots on and got after them.  All good signs. I count each one. So while I can know that Spring is inching closer, with bright green leaves and clusters of blossoms only just beneath the surface, I’m still missing the sun very much these days.

It’s about this time of year that I go piling my basket with oranges, and grapefruits, Meyer lemons and limes. Is it the same for you too? We’re craving the citrus. Maybe it’s the wisdom housed in our bodies telling us we need those extra stores of vitamin C to fight the last chill and bugs of winter. Maybe it’s the very shape and color we crave, round and warm. Most irresistible to me though, of all the beautiful citrus this time of year, is this brand new crop of freshly-picked oranges. To me they are

s u n   in  a  winter  sky

and when we lift them to our mouths it’s like eating sunshine. They grew with their juices inside warmed and multiplied by the sun. Our very sun is beneath those peels, in each plump segment, and in each tiny puckery pouch within those segments.

A whole bag of the most beautiful heirloom oranges came home with me the other day. Some of them found their way into a not-too sweet dessert that manages also to be gluten free. No flour here. No butter either. Mostly just oranges, eggs and almonds, ground to a fine flour. After baking, the cake is doused in a delicate orange syrup, laced with a bit of Grand Marnier. It’s optional, but you’ll see it here decked with candied thin slivers of peels, every last bit of bitter removed, their color a glimmering translucent orange. Serve alongside some whipped cream, lightly sweetened, and if you have it on hand, a touch of fragrant Orange Flower Water, from the very flower that becomes the fruit.

For this cake, including the candied zest, you’ll need a total of 5 oranges. Because you’ll be using the zest as well the juice, it’s best to use non-sprayed organic oranges. If you can’t find them, wash the oranges very well before zesting. 

Orange Almond Cake

(makes 8 to 12 servings)

  • 6 eggs
  • ¾ cup (155 g – 5¼ oz.) sugar
  • Zest of 3 oranges
  • 1½ cups (200 g, 7-1/8 oz) finely ground almonds (almond flour)

For the syrup

  • Juice of 3 oranges
  • ½ cup (95 g – 3½ oz.) sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier  (orange liqueur) – optional – but strongly advised ;)

For the candied zest

  • 2 oranges
  • 1 cup (200 g – 7 oz.) sugar*

For serving

  • Whipped cream, lightly sweetened – with an optional bit of Orange Flower water sprinkled in

* If you’re concerned about the amount of sugar, keep in mind that this cupful is making a syrup that candies the peels – but the bulk of it is tossed after the peels are finished.

Heat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a 9- or 10-inch (23 or 25 cm) springform pan, and line the bottom of it with a circle of parchment paper.

For the cake, separate the eggs into two large bowls. Beat the yolks with the sugar and zest until very thick, pale, and ribbony. (You’re looking for the mixture to run from the whisk in a steady ribbony stream, one that can write on the surface of your batter.) Then stir in the almond flour.

Beat the whites to stiff peaks.

Stir a spoonful of the whites into the yolk mixture to thin it a bit, then gently fold in the rest. The loft for this cake all comes from the air you’ve whisked into the batter, so be gentle not to deflate it. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake until set, about 45 minutes, but check after 40. Allow the cake to cool slightly, then un-mold it onto a serving platter.

For the syrup, boil the juice and sugar together in a saucepan for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the liqueur (if using). Spoon slowly over the cake, allowing the syrup to be gradually absorbed. It may take some time before all the syrup can be taken up, but with patience, it’ll happen.

For the candied zest, with a knife or vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the oranges into strips. Using a very sharp knife, remove all the bitter white pith from the back of the peels and discard. Cut the peels into very thin juliennes, and place in a medium saucepan with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, drain into a sieve and rinse with cold water. Repeat this process twice more. (This will remove all the bitterness from the zests.)

Put 1 cup sugar into the saucepan along with only 2 Tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil. Swirl the pan gently from time to time, but do not stir, until the caramel turns a rich, golden color. Remove from heat and allow to stop bubbling. At this time carefully add ½ cup water (slowly, not all at once) along with the zests. Return pan to the heat. Boil until the zests are translucent and candy-coated, about 7 to 10 minutes. The zest will be sweet and chewy with an intense orange flavor. Remove from the heat, and using a fork or two, remove the zests and arrange atop the cake. Serve with whipped cream. 

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for a printer-friendly version, click here

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This recipe, with only slight modifications, comes from French Taste, by Laura Calder

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And by the way, and as a shameless plug of a previous post, if you like candied orange peel, you can find them dipped in chocolate here.

53 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is just the perfect cake. I love the use of zest, the Grand Marnier, everything.

    February 17, 2012
    • aw thanks Greg. it all went down awfully easy! ;)

      February 17, 2012
  2. What a lovely spring cake, spree and so pretty with the candied bits on top:) Like a summer sun! Beautiful photos as well!! xoxo Smidge

    February 17, 2012
    • Thanks Smidge. It would look pretty alongside your sunny little frittata! xoxo

      February 17, 2012
      • I was thinking the same thing… pretty, pretty pretty cake.. would like to have some this aft with my tea… sigh.. I will have to wait until there’s a day I can make it:)

        February 17, 2012
  3. I feel the joyous satisfaction of just having eaten sunshine. Thank you for that gift on this dreary cloud morning.

    February 17, 2012
    • Nothing like a good bite of sunshine to lift the clouds, huh Ashley?!

      February 17, 2012
  4. AMAZING! I love everything about it Ani.
    Believe it or not I was hunting for the first signs of spring with my camera yesterday :)

    February 17, 2012
    • I DO believe it, Sawsan! We’ll FIND it too, won’t we! ;)

      February 17, 2012
  5. I can’t wait to try this! It looks so refreshing.

    February 17, 2012
    • Thanks, Humble Crumble! :) (Love your name by the way!)

      February 17, 2012
  6. This is so beautiful! And it feels very Andaluz, we are swimming in seas of citrus fruit right now…I love it! And my daffodils which I bought over from England are starting to bloom…all is good with the world, at least, my little corner of it!

    February 17, 2012
    • This FELT like a very Andaluzan dessert Tanya. I know you have the most gorgeous oranges in Spain. And daffodils all the way from home! Ahh, life is good!!

      February 17, 2012
  7. I have made this cake for Passover and we love it. But the addition of the candied peel on top is absolutely gorgeous, and I’m sure delicious–I can’t wait to add that flourish this year!

    February 17, 2012
  8. Your images are FAB! Is there an egg substitute I can work with? You have a lovely space here. When you have the time, do drop by my space. I just made some lemon and cream spaghetti and would love to hear what you think. See ya!

    February 17, 2012
    • Thanks so much “Harry”! No substitutes that I can imagine for the eggs, reason being there’s only a few ingredients to this cake and eggs make up a huge portion of it…besides every bit of the leavening comes from the eggs. So…sorry to disappoint! I’ll head over to see what you’ve got cookin!

      February 17, 2012
  9. Deb schneider #

    Everything exquisite – photography, description of the season, and cake itself! It looks so sunny & delicious :)

    February 17, 2012
    • Thanks dear friend! You’re a bit of sun yourself! Hurry home!

      February 17, 2012
  10. Wow, this looks like very little sugar! The photos make my mouth water! Thanks for sharing!

    February 17, 2012
    • Entirely my pleasure Anastasia! :)

      February 17, 2012
  11. This looks and sounds absolutely divine :) I am trying this one for sure!! I really love your photos.

    February 17, 2012
    • Thanks for the sweet comment Sydney!

      February 17, 2012
  12. That is one gorgeous cake, Spree, for so few ingredients! So, glad, too, that it calls for so little sugar. And, once again, your photography is the best ingredient of all. Even so, the thing that caught my eye was your direction to include the optional Grand Marnier. Any recipe that demands alcohol is a winner in my book! :)

    February 17, 2012
    • Well, John, I’m glad you read it as a demand, because I would have liked it to be! :) Instead, it’s just the strongest recommendation I can make without being too bossy! Thanks for the compliments!

      February 17, 2012
  13. Amazing Spree, it’s fairly similar to my marmalade cake I suppose. Sounds truly great – very impressed, as usual – especially with the photography.

    February 17, 2012
    • Thank you Nick…and yes, very like your marmalade cake!

      February 18, 2012
  14. Looks so delicious!!
    I really need some holidays soon, so I can make some of your recipes :)
    Nice photos too :)

    February 17, 2012
  15. Jean-François #

    The photos and colors are beautiful, and anything with Grand Marnier and zest gets my vote.

    February 17, 2012
  16. looks amazingly refreshing, with beautiful photographs..!

    February 17, 2012
    • Thanks for your kind words!

      February 18, 2012
  17. Orange is absolutely my weakness. Love these photos – especially the one of the batter. Gorgeous!

    February 17, 2012
    • We share the weakness for oranges. Thanks for leaving such a nice comment!

      February 18, 2012
  18. Looks divine!

    February 17, 2012
  19. I love the candied zest topping! I bet that’s delicious.

    February 17, 2012
  20. This is so gorgeous. Perfect for a garden party!

    February 17, 2012
    • I suppose “someplace” it would be. Here, it would be a sad and soggy cake! :) Hope it’s sunny where you are!

      February 18, 2012
  21. Very, very elegant shots – beautifully seen. I’ve got to remake my orange cake that went so badly last time!

    February 18, 2012
    • I appreciate those kind words very much Roger. I’ll look forward to seeing your re-take!

      February 18, 2012
  22. Was that bite as divine as it looked? Yum!!!! — I was out walking in some woods today and saw the wild rose bushes are coming to life again with their delicate, tiny green/rose leaves unfurling from the spined branches. I am looking forward to the warm sun…

    February 18, 2012
    • Really, when you think about it, there’s so much more that we enjoy, and enjoy so much more deeply, because we wait and watch for it to come around again. Missing it, longing for it, then seeing it again is probably very good for our hearts and souls. I loved your report on what’s happening in your neck of the woods. Thank you for that.

      February 19, 2012
  23. stunning. If that cake isn’t calling for a pot of tea and some comfortable afternoon conversation…I don’t know what is.

    February 18, 2012
  24. Such a gorgeous cake! It comes from a great book — I’m a fan of Laura Calder (and you!).

    February 18, 2012
  25. These are on my most favourite cakes in the world and you have done more than given the justice it deserves – wonderful recipe, photography and blog and I am so happy to have visited :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru
    Latest: Choc Truffle Chunk Muffins + Surprise Choc Cookies

    February 19, 2012
    • I’m glad you visited too! And thinks for leaving kind words for me! :)

      February 19, 2012
  26. Another beauty. And one I shall definitely want to try. I might wait a little, though, if only because I have a homemade attempt at a Grand-Marnier-like liqueur (with ginger and coconut, would you believe) steeping away in the cupboard . . . what remains to be seen is if I can resist trying this recipe for that long. :) Your description of oranges and their inner sun is so *fitting*.
    xoxo

    February 19, 2012
    • Oh!! I hope either you remember to tell me, or I remember to ask…I’d love to know how your Grand-Marnier-ala-Kathryn turns out! Having a divine concoction like that steeping away in one’s cupboard sounds like something I’d like to try! ;)

      February 19, 2012
  27. Gasp. You always nail it with the images. Shimmer, froth, delicateness, pop…Can’t take my eyes off these soulful pics.

    February 20, 2012
  28. Ditto on the beautiful photos. Really lovely. I’ve got a similar recipe but more of a tea cake… where you boil 2 oranges and combine entire oranges with ground almonds. I love the candied orange topping. This and the ricotta pancakes will be printed shortly.
    Glad I clicked on your apron from Movita. Will click follow next!
    wendy

    February 24, 2012
    • Thanks SO much Wendy! When you clicked on the ricotta pancakes, you hit upon one of my very favorites! So happy you’re following!! :)

      February 26, 2012
  29. This is a beautiful light and citrus cake. Just gorgeous photos and a great way to use those oranges in season. I am a happy new follower. Take Care, BAM

    February 28, 2012
    • Bam! I am happy you dropped in, even happier you liked what you saw and stayed awhile! I’ll be visiting your place next. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave kind words! See you soon… spree :)

      February 29, 2012

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