Sunshine Whole Orange & almond cake with lemon curd
This is the kind of cake that I like. It’s not all fussed up with cream and decoration, it uses entire fruit skin and all, it is not over-sweet, it uses nuts in place of flour, it improves after a couple of days – in short it is more than the sum of its parts. The cake recipe is adapted from a Claudia Roden recipe for a Sephardic Jewish orange cake and wows with its bitter orange/marmalade taste and for sensitive souls it happens to be gluten free too.
I add polenta for a bit of crunch and the juice the oranges were cooked in. I also adapted the method a little to make a lighter cake so I make a “mousse” or foam with eggs and sugar as if making a genoise. It lends itself well to all kinds of improvs and ideas – in the picture above I added fennel seeds to the mix, decorated with some confit lemon and lime (I ran out of lemons) and sandwiched with a lemon curd.
In Greece I have made it with “mastika” crystals (the incense like flavour I love). Its fabulous with saffron, great with crushed coriander seeds and it marries well with a chocolate ganache. I’ve also added half cocoa in place of polenta to create a gorgeous moist chocolate orange cake.
Before the “How To”, a quick word on quantities and a quick math lesson. When assessing recipes and wondering if your battered old cake tin will accommodate the cake mix, whip out your calculator/ flex your excel skills! The recipe below is for a 20 cm circular tin… Say the sides are 4cm (and this is a mousse cake method so it will not rise on cooking)…we need the volume, so first the base area ..that’s pi x radius squared ie 3.142x10x10 = 314 cm squared. And now the volume …multiply by the height…so we have 314x 4 = 1257 cm cubed of cake mix. So if you had a square tin that was 18cm x 18cm x 4cm that would give you a volume of 1296 cm cubed and work out fine.
INGREDIENTS for a circular 20cm cake tin
1 orange plus the juice it was boiled in (I’ve sometimes boiled them dry and when that happens as long as you haven’t cremated the thing its fine to add a little boiled water – approx 100ml)
125g Ground almonds (I blitz them in a blender and I often use almonds with the skins on)
65g polenta (“malai”) or 35g cocoa powder/ 30g polenta if making the chocolate version
120g Sugar (I have used 100ml honey or agave syrup but you need to increase the almonds a little as this is quite a liquid mix to begin with)
Wash and boil the orange unpeeled, in water to cover for 1 hour or until it is very soft. Let cool then cut open, remove the pips and turn into a puree in a food processor adding the water that is left from the cooking pan – approx. 100ml of cooking juice.
Fold in carefully, so as to just amalgamate the ingredients but not knock out all the air from the mixture. Pour into a cake tin with a removable base that you have buttered or oiled.
Bake in a preheated moderately hot 160C convection/ 180C non convection oven for about 1 hour. Check by inserting a skewer – it should come out clean. If it is still very wet, leave it in the oven for a little longer. Cool in the tin before turning out. (I once was in a hurry and turned it out when it was still hot, burnt my fingers and dropped the entire creation on the floor…so please people! “do as I say not as I do.”)
Improvs and Ideas
It does make great small cakes and cup cakes. I am sure a lemon version needs to be created and I am toying with a pink grapefruit idea.
To confit some lemons just slice them relatively finely and cover with half sugar and half water. Bring to the boil and then simmer on the minimum heat very very slowly until they are cooked, soft and have a translucent quality about them indicated that they have absorbed the syrup.