It’s September 12 on the other side of the world as I type this post about an orange cake from the Middle East that my mother, a true blue Chinese lady, absolutely loves. And it’s easy to see why. Quickly assembled over a few spare hours in an afternoon, this moist, flavorful cake is as delicious as they come. This being my mother’s birthday, I figured it would be most fitting to commemorate it by baking this, from miles away, as a culinary substitute for being with her in person.
I discovered this dessert in my early days as an avid reader and fan of food blogs. Kuidaore was always on the ‘must-read’ list, if not for the eloquent voice of each post, then for a visual treat from the various dishes all deliciously styled and photographed. This, and Chubby Hubby, were the blogs that inducted me into the world of food porn.
This orange cake was just one of the many well-written blog recipes that I gave a go on a lazy Sunday afternoon which actually turned out to be a real hit. Wheat flour is absent, substituted by blanched ground almonds, all held together by a host of eggs and the juicy flesh of two oranges, rinds and all. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more intensely orange-flavored cake than this.
I usually grind a batch of blanched almonds into a fine powder for this recipe, which can be a tricky feat. The line between a well-ground, dry almond meal and an oily almond paste ground a minute too long is a very fine one to tread. Fortunately, specialty produce companies like Mandelin, with their array of almond products, are very accessible and reasonably priced, meaning that a batch of finely ground almond meal will turn up at your doorstep in a matter of days, somewhat more painlessly than trying to achieve the right texture of ground almonds for this recipe. The commercial product lent this cake a much finer texture than my previous attempts, so it was a good deal to buy a 5 lb bag, which I also plan to use for a few batches of macarons.
Middle Eastern Orange Cake (via Kuidaore and adapted from Claudia Roden)
I served this with a side of freshly-prepared chantilly cream infused with a few drops of orange flower water. Or, you could prepare a batch of Kuidaore’s Orange & Earl Grey tea conserves (featured in the same post as this recipe) and chop up the oranges to top each slice of cake.
2 large oranges, left whole
6 large eggs
9 ounces/ 250 grams finely ground blanched almonds
9 ounces/ 250 grams granulated sugar
1 teaspoon double-action baking powder
Place the oranges in a saucepan and barely cover them with water. Bring to a boil, lower the water to a simmer and leave on low heat, covered, for 1 hour. When done, remove the oranges from the pan and leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 375F/ 190C. Butter and flour a 10-inch (25 cm) leak-proof springform tin. Roughly chop the oranges, discarding any pips, then thoroughly blend the orange pieces with the eggs in a food processor or blender.
In a large bowl, mix the ground almonds, sugar and baking powder, then whisk in the egg-orange mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. The cake is done when it turns a deep golden brown, has come away slightly from the sides of the tin and the top springs back when touched. If the cake is still very wet, put it back in the oven to cool a little longer.
Allow the cake to cool completely in the tin before turning it out gently on the serving plate. It can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped.