My mother had a birthday a week ago and I wanted to make her a different kind of birthday cake. Neither of us are big on frosting and prefer seasonal, hearty cakes. I like to call them snack cakes. Not pretentious, often not pretty, often leading with one or two charismatic ingredients. In a quick review on the recipes page on this site, I actually found six similar cakes. One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six. Clearly I have a type. This cake also happens to be dairy free and oil free, so bonus.
I was on a quest for a cake that would still be sweet enough to feel like a celebration, but still simple and not over the top … like my mom. I adapted this recipe from the New York Times Cooking section, which is a great source of classic and creative recipes. Topped with a simple blueberry sauce and served with vanilla ice cream, it was a treat. Eaten with my hands plain the next day was a pleasure. Hope you enjoy it.
*Note from the pictures that I doubled this recipe, because if you’re taking 3+ hours to make a cake, make extra. Also, the spices in the water are optional. They aren’t in the original recipe. Don’t worry about using the whole orange! Citrus peel has an incredible amount of pectin and it helps set the cake. After simmering, it becomes soft and holds so much of the demanding orange essence. Just trust me.
Whole Orange and Almond Cake
Adapted from Claudie Roden
1 Tbs cardamom pods
1 Tbs whole cloves
2 star anise
2 large oranges
2 cups almond flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
Bring a large pot of water to a boil on the stove. Add in the cardamom, star anise, and cloves to the water.
Scrub the oranges well and put them in (whole, unpeeled) to the pot of boiling water. Simmer in water to cover for 2 hours. The oranges float, so it’s not “to cover” per se, but just keep enough water in the pot that you can bob them around.
After 2 hours, your house will smell amazing. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Take the oranges out and cool until they’re easy enough to handle. Cut the oranges into quarters and puree, including the peel, in a food processor. I know. Just do it.
In a stand mixer, beat the eggs. Add the remaining ingredients, including the orange puree, and mix thoroughly. Pour into a buttered and floured cake pan, with a removable base if possible.
Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the tin before turning out.