The Simplest Orange & Almond Cake

6 July 2011

Now this recipe is a real gem. Never before has a handful of ingredients and a bit know-how received such appreciative swoons and gushes. I came across this recipe a couple of years ago in the Observer's Food Monthly. It belongs to Rosie Lovell who the Observer introduced as 'the queen of the new cafe society; a comfort cook who hangs out with musicians in her Brixton deli'.

I read the article and made the cake. It was sublime. At the time I was writing food related features for the UK design blog The Beat That My Heart Skipped, and I contacted Rosie and she supplied us with a few of her amazing recipes from her beautiful cookbook Spooning with Rosie. I'm now a bit of a Rosie fan, it has to be said.

As I made this cake for an occasion, I tampered with it a little. I added a topping of glazed flaked almonds and some orange rose petals to enhance the overall beauty and to ensure those appreciative swoons and gushes. But when making this at home I stick to the original plain version dusted with a little icing sugar and serve it with a dollop of plain yoghurt and maybe some fresh raspberries on the side. Mmmm.

Orange & Almond Cake.

Makes 12 slices

6 medium free-range eggs
300g golden caster sugar
200g ground almonds
1 large juicy orange
2 tbs water

For the topping (optional)
1 small juicy orange or satsuma (or just use a splash or two of orange juice from a carton)
15g butter
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
50g flaked almonds

1. Grease and line a 25cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas2.

2. Separate 3 of the eggs, putting the whites aside in a mixing bowl. Beat the egg yolks with the remaining whole eggs in a large bowl.

3. Add 200g of the caster sugar and all of the ground almonds and mix thoroughly. Grate the orange zest and add this too, keeping the rest of the orange for later.

4. Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Using a slotted metal spoon, fold the egg whites into the thick cake mix, a spoonful at a time. Be careful not to knock the air out of the whites.

5. Now pour this foamy cake mix into the lined tin and place in the oven for 40 - 60 minutes. The cake is ready when an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

6. Leave the cake to cool in the tin and make the syrup. Put the remaining caster sugar in small saucepan and add the juice from the orange and a few tablespoons of water. Place this on a really low heat in order to dissolve the sugar and slightly reduce the syrup. Using a toothpick, plant holes all over the cake and pour over the syrup. Allow the cake to cool and absorb the syrup before removing it from the tin.

7. If you want to go down the flaked almond topping route, here's what you do. Put the juice from an orange or a splash of orange juice from a carton into a small non-stick frying pan with the butter and sugar and melt it all together. After it has sizzled for a minute or so and begun to caramelize, add your almonds. Give it a stir and occasionally tip the pan to keep it all moving. Once all of the liquid has disappeared and the nuts are glossy and coated in the orange-scented glaze, remove to a plate to cool. Then sprinkle with merry abandonment on top of the cake. 

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