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Versatile cake uses two whole oranges, peel and all

Cooked oranges and ground almonds are the key ingredients in this lovely cake. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)
Recipe: No gluten or dairy in almond-based treat

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.

The boiled, cooled oranges are checked for seeds before pureeing. Their
texture is almost jelly-like at this point.
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 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

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.

The cake about halfway through baking: It does not rise much.
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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A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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