Juicy Blood Orange Cake
I’ve mentioned before that I go through phases of being intrigued by different cuisines. There was that time in late summer when I desperately wished I had been born Spanish and grew up having my days revolve around meals, tapas and drinks, and that period earlier this year when I wanted to associate myself with all things French (but who am I kidding here? I’m always in a French phase). Obviously, a romanticized stereotypical vision of this cuisine’s culture are required to accompany these culinary interests of mine.
Well everyone, I am happy to say that I am currently knee-deep in obsessing about another cuisine at the moment. It’s basically any food from the Middle East, but especially that of Lebanon, Turkey and Morocco. Waylon and I found a Middle Eastern grocery store downtown that has a little restaurant on its second floor, and it has now become our favorite place to eat when we go out not just because of how cheap it is, but because, guys it is just good. Think hummus, tangy tabbouleh and fried potatoes with paprika wrapped up in a warm pita good. Or sticky, warm and nutty baklava good. Since my first time visiting this restaurant I now have a Lebanese cookbook, medium-grind bulger and two types of zahtar in my pantry, and plans (albeit, a little abstract at the moment) to live in Beirut one day. Yeah, I told you my phases come on pretty strong.
Anyway, I had a little dinner party last week and guess what theme I went for? Yep, Middle Eastern. I pan-fried fresh, bubbly pita bread to be served with hummus, tabbouleh, zahtar, and yogurt and paprika marinated roast chicken. We piled different combinations of the flavors onto our pitas, each finding our favorite. For dessert I served this cake here, a sticky and juicy blood orange cake. It all seemed to work together, and the cake must have been alright—all that was left by the next morning was a thin, picked-at slice.
I think this cake is special because the tangy sweet orange syrup that’s poured on the cake after it comes out of the oven makes for a moist and juicy cake, just like the name insinuates. The candied orange slices on the top make for great textural and taste contrast, with the soft but slightly crunchy (from the semolina flour) cake crumb against the sticky bite of the blood orange. Oh yeah, and that’s besides the obvious fact that they make this cake look beautiful, in that rustic, humble kind of way.
The original of this recipe calls for satsuma oranges, but I’m I think the color and flavor of the blood oranges really stands out. Really any type of citrus works here though, so use whatever you’d like. Just make sure you cut the orange slices thin enough so they candy easily, and make sure you candy them all the way–you want the entirety of white pith part to look almost translucent, as if it were filled in. Oh, and there will be more candied slices than will be needed to top the cake. Take a hint from me and dip them in chocolate. And then eat them. This may or may not fit in with my current Middle Eastern thing, but that’s alright, I’ve still got this cake.
Juicy Blood Orange Cake
Adapted from Andrea Ruesing’s Cooking in the Moment, found via Bon Appetempt
4 to 5 thin-skinned satsumas, clementines, tangerines, blood oranges, or small navel oranges
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup semolina flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
To make the glazed oranges, finely zest one of the oranges to get around 1 to 2 teaspoons of zest in total. Set this aside and reserve it for the cake batter. Cut the orange in half and juice it, making sure not to get any seeds in the juice. You should have around the upwards of 1/3 of a cup; if not, you may need to juice a second orange to get enough juice.
Slice the remaining oranges into very thin rounds, no more than 1/4 inch thick. Remove and discard any seeds. If using a thicker-skinned citrus such as tangerines, blood oranges, or navel oranges place the thin slices on a plate. If using tangerines or blood oranges, microwave the slices on high for 2 minutes. If using navel oranges, microwave the slices on high for 3 minutes.
Combine the 1/3 cup orange juice, the lemon juice, sugar, salt and sliced orange slices in a medium saucepan over low heat and bring to a slow simmer. You may have more slices than liquid in the saucepan–this is okay, they’ll all get candied. Cook the slices in the simmering mixture for 7-10 minutes, mixing the slices around every once in awhile to distribute them among the syrup, until the peels are tender and the centers of the orange slices are starting to be translucent but not falling apart. If the peels are aren’t tender enough to cut with a fork (or still have any white of the pith), keep simmering until they are. Once candied, use a slotted spoon to transfer the slices to a plate. Continue to simmer the syrup until it has reduced to 1/2 cup, anywhere from 5 minutes to 15 minutes, depending on how long you simmered the orange slices and the size of your pan. Set aside.
To make the cake, begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees F and buttering a 9-inch springform pan. If you don’t have one, butter a 9-inch cake pan and fit with a round of parchment paper on the bottom. In a medium bowl, whisk together the semolina flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
Combine the butter and 3/4 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat together on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. While the mixer is running, add an egg, waiting for it to incorporate completely and scraping down the bowl before adding the second egg. Add the reserved orange zest and combine.
With the mixer running on low, add the flour mixture to the egg and butter mixture a little at a time until all of it is incorporated, but do not over mix. It should be thick, almost like a brownie batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Arrange the glazed orange slices in one layer on top of the batter—you will probably not use all of them, so just use the prettiest ones for your cake and eat the rest.
Bake the cake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake the cake for 30 minutes more, for a total of 45 minutes, or until the cake is evenly golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack until warm, not hot. Remove the cake from the pan and place on a serving dish, if desired. Then, using a wooden skewer, poke holes all over the surface of the cake. Drizzle the reserved and reduced glaze over the top and brush to evenly distribute. This can be served warm or at room temperature.