One big bag of home grown oranges waited by our front door. I opened up the bag and squealed in delight. We are blessed to have a wonderful friend who showers us with fresh homegrown fruits and vegetables.
When we got back home, there was a message to look for “something” at the front door. These oranges did not sit in the crate or travel from miles away. The beautiful surprises of life are to be treasured and put to good use; so we ate them just like that, juiced them. Then the rest went in making this cake.
Oranges during the balmy winter days take me back home. The memories of those days are as crisp and fresh as the fragrance of citrus.
The mellowed winter sun streamed in patterns on the verandah, criss-crossed on the red floor. The cracks of our skin were smoothed out and were still silky moist from the mustard oil massaged in before our shower. The wind rustled through the leaves and in our ears and whispered the secrets of winter. Me and my cousin sister sat there in the late afternoons with a few oranges while the grandparents napped in the room by the verandah.
Sweet Darjeeling oranges. We peeled them slowly and patiently with our little fingers.
I do not remember what we talked of. We played with only a couple of dolls we had. We would squeeze juice from the peel in our eyes, making our eyes sting and tear up; someone had told us that they clean the eyes so we would try out cleansing the natural way I guess. Then I would save the extra peels and lay them out in the sun to dry for my grandma to use them in the fruit cake.
Little did I know then how I would be almost addicted to the flavor of oranges.
That was a typical winter afternoon for us. In midst of our winter holidays, the mood would be relaxed, the air had a slight nip to it and we had all the time to ourselves until it was time to go out and play at about four o’ clock. The hand knitted sweaters would keep us warm. Imagination kept us company. And juicy oranges – the very essence of winter months, would keep us satisfied.
The cake was morish; dense and moist with the good bite and texture to it.
For those of who are following this space, would know of my love for almond and also oranges – citrus to be precise. So when I came across Mandira’s Orange and Almond Cake, I knew right away that I had to bake it soon. In the mean time the oranges came.
The stars were perfectly aligned, all in harmony.
The cake sounded simply awesome. So simple but I could just taste and smell it even before I baked it. One cannot go wrong with fresh oranges and almonds together in a pan.
While I followed her recipe by word, I made my own orange sauce.
A sauce good enough to lick off a spoon; infused with rich flavors of orange liqueur and zest. It was more of a kind to be served with the slices rather than a glaze for the cake. And the sauce will really work with any dessert – ice cream, trifles, puddings, panna cottas or anything you want to use it with.
Almond, Orange Cake with Spiked Orange Sauce
(The recipe of the cake is from Mandira. I have not made any changes, except adding the extra zest and making my own Spiked Orange Sauce. The recipe has been used here with her permission).
Ingredients: (makes a 12 X 8 inch rectangular cake)
- 3 small oranges
- 3 eggs
- scant 3/4 cup sugar, or adjust amount to taste (if you glaze the cake or serve with sauce, remember the sauce will be sweet)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon orange zest (optional)
- 2 cups almond flour, (If you do have have almond flour, grind almonds at home with 2 tablespoon of sugar)
- 1/2 cup wholewheat flour (or All Purpose flour) – use almond flour to make it all gluten free
- slivered almonds or almond flakes to garnish (optional)
Spiked Orange Sauce:
- 2 medium orange, juiced (and strained if you want to; I used Blendtec and I did not strain the juice) , about 1 +1/4 cup
- zest of two oranges
- 1/4 cup good quality orange liqueur (such as Cointreau or Triple Sec)
- 1/2 cup sugar (adjust to taste)
- a pinch of salt
- 1.5 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon butter
- few drops of orange extract or orange blossom water
Baking the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Grease and then dust the cake pan with flour or almond flour.
Wash the oranges; place the oranges in a pan, cover with cold water, bring it to boil and cook for 20-25 minutes. Drain and repeat another time and cook until the oranges and rind is soft. It is very important to change water and boil for this long. The process removes the bitterness and also softens the pith. Slice oranges and then remove pips. Coarsely chop and blend into a smooth puree.
Rub zest into the flour with your finger tips.
Beat the eggs and sugar together until thick and creamy. Add the orange puree, almond flour, flour and baking powder and fold to combine.
Pour the mixture into the cake pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Another sign that it is close to getting done is when you see the cake shrinking from the side.
Peek in and see if the cake is turning too dark at 30 minutes. If it is, loosely cover the cake with a foil and bake until done.
Cool cake in the pan. Cool completely and then turn upside down or slice it as I have done.
The cake tastes even better the next day. It gets more moist and the flavors infuse as it sits.
(if you do not want to use the glaze/sauce, simply dust the cake with confectioners sugar and serve).
Making the Orange Sauce:
Combine sugar, salt and corn starch in a pan. Add the orange juice, orange zest, and the liqueur.
Cook over low to medium heat until the mix starts to bubble. Stir frequently to prevent the sauce from forming lumps. The sauce should be reduced and will have the concentration to coat a spoon and drip down. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and orange blossom water (or the extract if you are using).
If you want a glaze for the cake, you may use part of the sauce to glaze the cake while it is still warm. Or you may reserve the entire sauce to pour over the slices when ready to serve.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking/Baking Time: 1 hour + 20 minutes for the sauce
Difficulty Level: very easy
Serves: 6-8 (makes a 12 X 8 inch rectangular cake)
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