Whole Orange Cake

Sometimes you spy a recipe somewhere, decide you have to make it, and it becomes a favorite. Other times, you have an idea for a bake, and go searching until you find a recipe that meets your idea. This is one of those times.

While pondering what desserts to bring to my friend’s new years party, I somehow got the idea of making a whole clementine cake. I suppose it may have been influenced by Mary Berry’s recipe for a Whole Orange Cake (I’m on a major Great British Bake Off obsession right now), although I definitely wasn’t thinking directly about it. The first recipe I found was Nigella’s Clementine Cake recipe, which looked wonderful, except it used ground almonds and my friend has a nut allergy.

As one does, I expanded my search to whole oranges and various other search terms. At some point, I stumbled upon a reference to a less-rich loaf, and decided to make it with a few tweaks.

I wanted some of the texture that nuts give, and decided to take a cue from Middle Eastern semolina cakes, and replace some of the flour with semolina. I decided to use a cara cara orange (one of my favorite varieties) instead of a plain navel, and to split the difference between various recipes by boiling it for a short time – some recipes used it raw, and others called for a two hour boil, which I definitely didn’t have patience for!

And finally, I decided to use the all-in-one food processor method rather than a standard creaming method – recipes were split on which to use, and some even said to use either.

What resulted was a wonderfully moist, flavorful cake with an intriguing and addicting texture that is dead easy to make. It was a hit at the party, with some friends telling me they couldn’t stop eating it. Which seems like the perfect excuse for me to make it again, since I can’t stop eating it either!

I should note that this is a very forgiving recipe, and I’ll confess exactly how I know this. The first time I made this, I mixed up the batter, and when I went to put it into the tin, it was so stiff and I thought, well, maybe it’s like a pound cake texture. And then a couple of minutes after I put it in the oven, I saw the bowl of eggs on the counter and realized I’d forgotten the eggs! So I pulled the tin out of the oven, scrambled the eggs with a fork, then poured it on top of the cake. I used the fork to scramble the eggs into the batter, until it had a uniform texture (making sure to pull the batter from the sides into the mix) and then put it back in the oven. It came out perfectly!

Whole Orange Cake

Whole Orange Cake

Recipe adapted from What I cooked last night

  • 1 whole orange (see note)
  • 13 tablespoons very soft butter (if it's too hard, microwave for 20 seconds to half-melt it)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour (see note)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Wash the orange (especially if not organic) and place in a pot. Cover with enough water so that the orange is completely covered and isn't resting on the bottom of the pot. Put the pot on medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Maintain the boil for 30 minutes, and then remove the pot from heat.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper, and spray with nonstick spray. (I did get a clean release from mini nonstick loaf pans just with spray, so you may not need to fully line with parchment, depending on how good your pan is. For anything over a mini, I recommend lining at least the bottom of the tin to prevent sticking.)
  • Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the orange from the pot and place into a heat-proof bowl. Cut the orange in half, and look to see if there are any seeds. Remove any seeds you find. Cut each orange half into 4 pieces - if you don't do this, you often have large pieces of rind when the rest of the orange mixture is the right consistency, leading to over-pureeing.
  • Place the contents of the bowl (all the orange and juice, minus the seeds), into a food processor fitted with the steel chopping blade. Pulse the food processor until the orange is in smallish bits, but is definitely not a smooth puree. You may need to scrape down the sides, as some of the pieces may get "stuck" up there.
  • When the orange is in smallish bits, remove the top of the processor. Add the remaining ingredients into the processor, and pulse just until all the ingredients have combined into a uniform dough. Make sure the butter is very soft before you add it, or you'll have large chunks of butter in your batter.
  • Remove the steel blade, and scrape all the mixture into the prepared loaf pan.
  • Place into the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.
  • Cool halfway in the tin, then remove and finish cooling. It will slice better when cool, but can be cut when still warm (not hot).
  • Note: I used a cara cara orange, although a navel or blood orange could also be used. You could also use a different citrus, although I recommend weighing a regular orange and then using the same weight of the other citrus to maintain the same consistency. If you don't have semolina, you can also use cream of wheat (farina), which is considered similar to semolina although doesn't have quite the same texture, or ground almonds (if nut allergies aren't a concern), or even just use regular flour.
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