Monday, March 15, 2010

candied orange and almond cake

We had friends over for dinner recently, and though I don't normally like to try out new dishes on company, I'd been wanting to make an orange cake for so long I couldn't resist. Fortunately, the candied orange and almond cake I fiddled with turned out to be very tasty, and with plenty of leftovers to have with a cup of tea.

I decided to do a yellow cake recipe with orange zest, and to make candied orange slices to put on top. I'd never candied oranges before, and was surprised at how easy this was to do. I would definitely do this again, just with regular old peels. And perhaps dipped in chocolate.

The recipe below is exactly what I used for the cake, although since I used candied oranges I might cut down a wee bit on the sugar inside the cake next time. The texture will turn out on the lighter, fluffier side, though you could certainly make this with butter instead of oil for a denser cake. The zest makes the batter very orangey, and the cake all by itself with buttercream or a layer of jam in the middle would be perfectly lovely, too.

To Make Candied Oranges:

3 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 navel oranges, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick

In a medium skillet, combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Add the orange slices and cook over (reduced) moderate heat, turning them occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a thin syrup and the orange slices are translucent, about 20 minutes. Be careful when you turn them, since you want to retain the shape of the slices. Also throw in any bits of orange peels from ends, removing as much of the white pith as possible.

Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer until the syrup is thick and the slices are tender but still intact, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes. Transfer the orange slices to a cooling rack. Reserve the syrup and any leftover candied orange bits.

Cake Ingredients:

2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
zest of 2 oranges
sliced almonds
powdered sugar

Cake Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line two 9” round cake pans with parchment paper. Grease the paper and the sides of the pan with butter.

In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs together until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Add flour, milk, oil, baking powder, and vanilla and beat for another minute, just until the batter is smooth and creamy. Don't overbeat. Stir in the zest and pour batter into the prepared baking pans.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until the tops are golden and a toothpick poked into the center of the layer comes out clean. Loosen the sides of the cake from the pan with a thin knife, then turn out onto a rack and peel off the paper. Let cool before evening out the layers.

Place one layer on the bottom of the serving plate. Pour the reserved orange syrup (and candied orange bits) onto the top of the first layer, making sure to cover the entire surface. (Any leftover syrup can be kept for 2 weeks, as toppings for pancakes, yogurt, etc.) Place the second layer on top of the first layer. Arrange the orange slices in a pleasing pattern on top of the cake, and scatter sliced almonds generously all over and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Enjoy...perhaps with champagne!

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