Monday, January 25, 2016

Fresh Blood Orange Cake

Hope everyone survived the Snowpocalypse! I spent my entire Saturday in the comfort of my tiny apartment kitchen, cooking up my first lasagna bolognese. As soon as the blizzard was announced, I decided that I had to spend the whole day cooking up something delicious, hearty, and comforting. I settled on making a lasagna bolognese, and after braving the storm to make a 10 AM spin class, I came home and spent the rest of the day in the kitchen. I simmered a pot of bolognese for four hours and then cooked up a rich, creamy bechamel. After baking the lasagna, we settled down at the table and enjoyed an amazing meal. The lasagna was hot and cheesy, rich and hearty, and I loved every bite. Sure, there was room for improvement, but for my first lasagna, I was really pleased with the outcome. It was the perfect way to spend this blizzardy weekend; there's just nothing like decadent comfort foods to enjoy in the dead of winter. 

Unless, of course, we're talking about citrus. There are few things better than seeing bright yellows and oranges in the middle of a sometimes depressing season, and there's nothing like enjoying fresh, zesty flavors after eating bowl after bowl of hearty stew, soup, or pasta. I always make a point to seek out as many citrus fruits as I can one January hits, especially Meyer lemons and blood oranges. These two fruits are only available for a short window of time in the winter, so it's important to use them while they're available! They may be a little tricky to find, but they're out there, I promise. This year, I actually had no trouble finding blood oranges for once. I just walked right into the fruit and vegetable market around the corner from me, and there they were!  I was there to buy something completely different, but when I saw a tiny mountain of blood oranges in front of me, I just had to buy a few. Hopefully this scenario repeats itself when it's rhubarb and sour cherry season! 

I love working with blood oranges. If you're not familiar with them, they're a cross between tangerines and pomelos (a pomelo is a huge greenish citrus fruit with a very thick pitch). The Moro is the most common variety of blood orange, and is probably the one you'll see in most supermarkets. These blood oranges have the darkest flesh, and the rind can even have deep red coloration. These oranges are a bit more bitter than other blood orange varieties, but they also happen to have a sweet raspberry flavor at the same time. They're absolutely beautiful on their own, but are even more striking when paired with traditional navel or Valencia oranges. 

This fresh blood orange cake celebrates the best of winter's bounty. It's another one of Dorie Greenspan's deliciously simple, one bowl cakes and can be made with ingredients you already have in your kitchen. The only ingredient you may not have on hand are the the oranges, but since it's winter, you should probably head on out and get a bunch to keep on hand. Here, orange zest and sugar get mixed together until fragrant, butter is creamed in, and then eggs and freshly squeezed orange juice are added.  A little cake flour and leaveners are stirred in, and the cake batter is ready for the oven. While the cake bakes, a simple syrup is cooked on the stove along with a few orange slices. Cooking the oranges in the syrup makes them tender and slightly sweetened, and beautifully glossy. The syrup is brushed onto the hot cake (this helps keep it moist), and then the orange slices are arranged on top. The longer you wait to slice the cake, the more time it'll have to really soak in the orange syrup. If you can stand the wait, I suggest you do!

This easy-to-make cake can be made even simpler if you omit the orange slices on top. Just prepare an orange-infused simple syrup and brush it onto the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. The syrup will keep the cake moist and add an extra hint of citrus flavor. No matter how you decide to finish off this cake, it'll be a wonderful treat. There's no better way to showcase the best that winter has to offer! 

Fresh Blood Orange Cake
recipe from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan


For the Cake 

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
zest of one blood orange
1/3 cup fresh blood orange juice (from 1-2 oranges)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature

For the Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
3-4 blood and navel oranges, peel removed and cut into 3/8” thick slices


Center a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8-inch round cake pan with nonstick spray, line with parchment paper, spray the paper, and then flour, tapping out the excess. 

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 

Add the sugar and orange zest to the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Rub the sugar and zest together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter the bowl, and cream on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for about a minute after each addition. Pour in the orange juice and mix to blend. The batter may look slightly curdled, but it will come together. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated—a few lumps left in the batter are ok. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 23-25 minutes. The cake will not be golden brown, so be sure to test it with a toothpick to prevent over baking it. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, remove the parchment paper, and flip the cake (the domed side should be on top).

As soon as you put the cake in the oven, prepare the syrup.  Combine the sugar and cinnamon stick with 1 cup water in a saucepan set over medium heat. Being that mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for two minutes. Gently drop the orange slices into the saucepan and cook over low heat for 3 minutes. Carefully remove the slices with a slotted spoon; strain and set aside. Reserve the syrup. 

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, brush the hot cake with the orange syrup. Don’t be afraid to use a lot of the syrup! Arrange the poached orange slices decoratively on top, and then brush with more syrup. You won’t need all of the syrup; I had about 1 cup left at the end. Let the cake cool completely before serving. 

Makes 1 8-inch cake


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