I made this last weekend for a special visitor and as always, it turned out perfectly, a rare record in my erratic baking career. I split the mixture into two so I could take a small one to a pot-luck lunch later, so the main cake was only about 2 cm high. But that worked out very well, giving lovely slices of exactly the right size for our dessert.
It comes from my beloved Claudia Roden’s Middle Eastern Food. It’s a Sephardic cake, a traditional recipe from the Jewish communities in Spain and Portugal. They had lived there for a thousand years, but in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the Spanish Inquisition drove them to flee to the Middle East. In fact it’s a Passover cake, using ground almonds instead of flour (of course you wouldn’t use flour for the tin if you were making it for that purpose). There;s no extra fat in it – the almonds provide enough oil. It’s extremely easy to make, and Roden says it never fails. In my experience, she’s right – but it’s so moist that if you want to keep it for more than a day or two, it needs to go in the fridge.
Orange and almond cake
(Adapted from A Book of Middle Eastern Food, by Claudia Roden)
2 large oranges
250g ground almonds
250g white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
butter and flour for tin
Wash the oranges and boil them gently in a little water in a lidded saucepan for nearly 2 hours, until they are soft. Check them every so often to see if they need a little more water.
[You need to remember that this long lead time is required – but you can do it the day or the morning before you make the cake.]
Let them cool, then cut them open and remove the pips. [I forgot to do this, but no one noticed!]
Turn them into a pulp, either by rubbing them through a sieve or putting them in an electric blender or food processor.
Butter and flour a loose-bottomed cake tin. Heat oven to 190C. [Don’t use fan bake, just bake.]
Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients in the order given, and mix thoroughly.
[I pour the beaten eggs into the orange pulp in the food processor bowl and add the other ingredients one at a time, whizzing enough to mix well after each one and scraping down the bowl carefully between each addition. The baking powder should be added last, using a small sieve, to make sure it’s evenly distributed.]
Pour carefully into the cake tin and bake for about an hour. If it is still very wet, leave in the oven for a little longer. [I cooked one shallow cake and one smaller one side by side – because they were both so shallow, they took only about 40 minutes to cook through.] A thin skewer poked into the middle should come out almost clean when the cake is done.
This is absolutely heavenly. If you like, you can put a little orange liqueur or orange blossom water into the accompanying cream when you whip it. But creamy Greek-style plain yoghurt is very good with it too. Or nothing at all, just the cake…