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Versatile cake uses two whole oranges, peel and all

Recipe: No gluten or dairy in almond-based treat

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Cooked oranges and ground almonds are the key ingredients in this lovely cake.
(Photos: Kathy Morrison)

My Washington navel orange tree still has plenty of fruit, so I'm thrilled to find more recipes that show off citrus. The lovely cake here has several bonus traits: It's gluten-free and uses no dairy products, and it easily can be dressed up for special occasions.

I chose to serve it plain, with some orange slices and strawberries on the side, for Sunday breakfast. But with some sweetened whipped cream or a fruit compote or even a Grand Marnier glaze, it would fill the role of company dessert with no problem. The texture is more like pudding cake than a standard layer cake, so it will stay moist even without adornments.

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The boiled, cooled oranges are checked for seeds before pureeing.

The trick here is the treatment of the oranges: They're scrubbed and then boiled whole for two hours. This treatment turns the pith and skin tender, removing the bitterness. The cooled oranges are whirred in a food processor or blender, then combined with the remaining ingredients and baked in a deep cake pan, preferably one with a removable base.

I'd be intrigued to try this recipe again with Meyer lemons, Cara Cara or blood oranges, or even pink grapefruit.

This recipe has its origins in Middle Eastern cooking and was published by Claudia Moren in
"Everything Tastes Better Outdoors" (Knopf, 1984). It was picked up by the New York Times and later published in Kristen Miglore's " Genius Recipes ," the first cookbook from the Food52.com website (Tenspeed Press, 2015).

The NYT Cooking site is especially useful, I find, because so many home cooks try the recipes and note their adjustments and variations. In this case, a warning from several people to bake the cake at a slighter lower temperature (375 degrees F. instead of 400) and for 15 minutes less time was crucial: My cake came out perfectly golden brown at the revised time of 45 minutes.

Note: If you haven't baked with almond meal (also called almond flour), it's just finely ground almonds. You can grind your own from blanched whole almonds if you like, but I prefer the convenience. Look for almond meal in stores' natural foods bins if you don't want to spring for a whole package, such as from Bob's Red Mill.

Almond & Orange Cake
Adapted from the version in "Genius Recipes"
Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

2 large whole oranges, scrubbed
6 large eggs
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons almond meal
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Oil or butter for the pan
More ground almonds or flour, for the pan

Instructions:

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A metal sieve kept the oranges under
the water.

Place the clean oranges in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil, turn the heat down to medium, and cook the oranges for 2 hours. (You might have to add some hot water during cooking if the level drops too low in the pan.) Oranges float, so I placed a metal sieve on top of the pan to keep the fruit submerged.

Drain off the water and let the oranges cool. (This can be done the day before baking; oranges can be kept at room temperature or in the refrigerator.)

When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease the pan with oil or butter, then coat with almond meal or flour. (Optional if you aren't using a pan with a removable base: Grease the pan, add a parchment paper round to the bottom of the pan, then grease the paper and proceed with coating the pan with meal or flour.)

Cut open the oranges to check for and remove any seeds. Grind the orange pieces in a blender or food processor, or push them through a metal sieve, until they form a mostly smooth butter.

Beat together the orange puree and the eggs in a bowl. Stir in the almond meal, sugar, baking powder and salt, mixing thoroughly. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.

Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and cake starts to pull away from the pan's sides. (The toothpick check does not work with this cake since it's quite moist.) Let cake cool in pan -- for at least 10 minutes if pan has a removable base, or until mostly cool if it does not. Turn out cake and let it finish cooling.

Serve plain, or with fruit, whipped cream or a thin glaze, as desired.








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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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