There are four oranges in this cake. I repeat, the cake that you see above these words? There are four whole oranges in it. FOUR WHOLE ORANGES. I know, I collapsed when I heard about it too. But putting whole oranges into a dessert is a thing, a thing I first heard about on Ruth Reichl’s blog when she wrote about Nancy Silverton’s olive oil cake with whole oranges in it. This isn’t that cake. That recipe has you dice three oranges and throw them into the batter with rosemary, pine nuts, and raisins. In other words: an orange cake for wimps. This orange cake–which comes from a British cookbook that I bought at Omnivore Books in San Francisco–has you boil four whole oranges for two hours, remove the seeds, then pulverize them in a food processor before mixing them with sugar, eggs, almond flour and baking powder. That’s it. It’s the most orangey cake you’re likely to eat in your lifetime.
The book is called The Trifle Bowl and Other Tales by Lindsey Bareham and it’s absolutely lovely, very British, and, unfortunately, unavailable outside the United States. Call Celia at Omnivore and I bet she can get it for you. It’s got charming illustrations and it’s organized by cooking equipment, which I find very clever and unique. This recipe is featured in the “Cake Tin” section, which makes good sense. (To give you an idea of the other sections: Earthenware Pots, Nutmeg Grater, Piping Bag, Sieve, Terrines, etc).
What’s nice about this recipe is that it’s very versatile. It’s meant to feature citrus of all shapes and sizes and if you want to turn this into another citrus-inspired cake, you can call it Seven Mandarin Cake (because that’s how many Mandarins you should use instead of oranges), Six Lemon Cake, or Six Lime Cake (though that may be too expensive these days). But I recommend oranges. To start, place oranges in a pot, cover them with cold water, take the oranges out, bring the water to a simmer, and add the oranges back in.
Cover them with a plate so they stay submerged.
Then cover the pot, make sure the water’s still at a simmer, and walk away for two hours. Your apartment will smell like my favorite ride of all time, Horizons at EPCOT (which no longer exists and, also, is Neil Patrick Harris’s favorite ride); for a modern ride reference, it’ll smell like Soaring Over California from California Adventure at Disneyland. It’s a great orangey smell. Two hours later, your oranges will look like this.
Now the fun part: let them cool. OK, that part’s not fun. But once they’re coolish, cut them open to remove any seeds (these oranges didn’t have any)…
Then put them into a food processor: skin, pith and all…
And away we go!
Cool, right? The rest is stuff you’ve done before: butter your cake pan, beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
Then you take your three cake components–the egg sugar mixture, the blended oranges, and your dry ingredients (almond flour, baking powder, and salt)–and fold them all together.
Pour that into your prepared pan…
…and bake at 350 for about an hour, until the center is stiff and a knife comes out mostly clean.
Let’s be honest, this is a pretty loosey-goosey cake-making experience. I mean: who knows how big the oranges are in England? I just figured if the batter was too wet, it could stay in longer and it’ll all work out OK. And it did. The hardest part was detaching the sides, but with a knife I did an all right job.
Dusted with sugar, you’d never know it wasn’t perfect (well, maybe you’d know just a teensy, weensy bit).
Who cares what it looks like, though, when this cake tastes like an orgy of oranges in your mouth! So much orange flavor. It’s like you took four oranges, boiled them, blended them and made a cake out of them…which is EXACTLY what you did. It’s a moister cake than we Americans are used to…the Brits would call it a “pudding” because they call all desserts pudding, but the moisture level makes that label fitting.
I hope I inspired you to buy four oranges to make this Four Orange Cake. Don’t be mad, but the recipe’s in grams (that’s how it’s written) and I used my scale and was very happy; so get a little kitchen scale and you can use it for all kinds of baking projects–pizza, bread, you name it. Or you can just go on to Google and write “250 grams = cups” and it’ll tell you and you’ll be fine.
Just don’t skimp on the oranges. Three oranges won’t do. This is a four orange cake and you need four oranges to make it.
Recipe: Four Orange Cake
Summary: Adapted from Lindsey Bareham’s The Trifle Bowl and Other Tales
- 4 medium oranges
- 6 eggs
- 250 grams caster sugar (I just used regular sugar) (Use an extra 100 grams if making lemon or lime cake)
- 250 grams ground almonds (I used almond flour)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- A pinch of salt
- A knob of butter
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- Wash the oranges well. Place them in a pot, cover with cold water, remove the oranges, bring the water to a boil, add the oranges back in, lower to a simmer, cover with a plate (to keep the oranges submerged) and cover the pot. Simmer for two hours.
- Meanwhile, lightly butter a 9 or 10-inch springform pan. Cut a parchment circle to line the bottom and butter that too.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Remove the oranges from the water and when they’re cool enough to handle, cut them open to remove the seeds (or “pips”). Tear the orange into the bowl of a food processor and blitz to a puree with no more than 6 tablespoons of the cooking water (I didn’t need to use any of it).
- In your electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar with the whisk attachment until pale, fluffy, and thick. Stir in the almonds, baking powder, salt, and citrus puree to make a stiff batter.
- Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 45 to 60 minutes until the cake is firm in the middle and a cake tester comes out mostly clean. Allow the cake to cool completely in the tin; then run a knife around the edge and carefully remove the sides. Flip the cake on to a plate, remove the bottom, and flip back out on to a stand. Dust with powdered sugar and tell everyone who eats it, “THIS CAKE HAS FOUR ORANGES IN IT!”
Preparation time: 30 minute(s)
Cooking time: 1 hour(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12