At this time of year, we have our pick of the citrus, they are the sunshine in a season otherwise filled with vegetables grown underground, citrus is also worthy of our appreciation because it’s incredibly versatile.
Last summer my partner and I travelled to one of our favourite places, Italy, the region of choice, Sicily. We love to explore (my kids will be rolling their eyes at this comment), walk miles, eat at all sorts of restaurants and stay in unusual places. One of our stops was Syracuse at the loveliest Bed and Breakfast with Pino and Francesca. Now Francesca can cook, her breakfast buffet was to die for, freshly baked bread, local mangoes, peaches, nectarines, homemade preserves and marmalades (the best Sicilian lemon marmalade I’ve ever tasted) and cake! Yes, cake for breakfast. Nut-based, Francesca made the lightest pistachio cake and she then followed it with an orange and almond the day after. I relish the passion and love the Italians have for food and produce. I just had to ask for a few recipes, which fortunately she was only too happy to share with me. I’ve adapted the orange and almond cake slightly, I’m using blood oranges, whichever variety you use, try to find organic, or be prepared to spend a little time scrubbing the wax off because the bitterness of the zest is an essential part of this cake’s distinctive flavour profile. I’ve also dowsed this cake with a syrup of the fruit just to finish and make it dazzle.
This variety of blood orange is called Ippolito and originates in Italy. With a ruby red interior, sweet-tart flavour and distinctive blushing skin, blood oranges have a short season, February seems to be the best time to get hold of them in the UK.
Blood Orange & Almond Cake
- 3 Large Eggs
- 165 g Caster Sugar
- 200 g Plain Flour
- 100 g Ground Almond
- 150 g Sunflower Oil
- Zest of a Lemon
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 2-3 Blood Oranges
- 50 g Caster Sugar for the syrup
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Grease the sides of a 23 cm springform cake tin then cut a disc of baking parchment for the bottom.
- Combine all of the dry ingredients and sprinkle the lemon zest on top, set to one side. Take one of the blood oranges and slice finely and arrange prettily on the bottom of the cake tin. (you may need more than one).
- Beat the eggs with the sugar in a bowl with an electric whisk or in a standmixer until really thick, light and fluffy then gradually stream in the sunflower oil beating until incorporated and the mixture is even thicker. Switch the machine off and now fold in one-third of the dry ingredients, once this is incorporated fold in the remaining.
- Pour the batter on top of the oranges in the cake tin and place in the oven immediately. Bake for 40- 45 minutes or until the cake is firm in the centre and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Transfer the cake to a plate. You may need to scrape off some of the sponge from the top of the oranges now juice the remaining orange and add the 50g of sugar to a saucepan. Heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes or until it has thickened slightly. Drizzle over the cake.