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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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For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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