There's something extra alluring about fruit with short seasons. I've been waiting for blood oranges since summer, when this recipe did the rounds of several of the American food blogs I read. It was winter on their side of the world at the time, so I had a long six months before I got my turn. I've tried baking many things with blood oranges before, but have always been disappointed. Despite my best efforts, the brilliant colour that so dazzles when you slice into them always amounted to plain old orange. Til now. Whole slices of beautiful blood orange sit atop a cake infused with both zest and juice, allowing you to experience the fruit in all its glory. In texture, it puts to mind a sort of citrus cheesecake, all the easier to make as you don't have to mess around with a crust. And with ricotta, cornmeal, and almond meal it's entirely gluten-free, should that be your thing. Of course you could make this with regular oranges too, should you wish. Six months is a long time to wait. But it was worth it.
Blood orange, ricotta and almond cake
Adapted from a recipe by Smitten Kitchen, based on Elizabeth Prueitt's adaptation of a River Café recipe.
This cake is quite dense, even damp, so be sure not to take it out of the oven too soon. Deb from Smitten Kitchen recommends cooking it an extra five minutes after you think it's ready. She knows her stuff so trust her on this. It worked for me.
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
3 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup (135g) sugar
2 blood oranges 1/2 cup (4 oz or 115g) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (165g) ricotta
1/3 cup (45g) cornmeal
1 cup (135g) firm-packed almond meal
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with baking paper.
Stir brown sugar and water together. Pour into prepared cake pan and spread thin. Set aside.
Whip egg whites in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until they hold thick peaks. Set aside.
Place sugar in a large mixing bowl. Finely zest both oranges over it.
Cut both oranges in half. Cut one of the halves into thin slices and arrange them over brown sugar base in cake tin. Juice other three halves and set aside.
Add butter to zest and sugar in large mixing bowl and beat til light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, and beat to combine. Add juice and ricotta and mix until smooth. Sprinkle salt over batter, then add almond meal and cornmeal and mix until just combined. Gently fold in egg whites.
Dollop batter over base of lined cake tin. Gently spread flat, trying not to disturb orange slices underneath. Bake in heated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean and then for 5 more minutes.
Cool cake in tin on rack for 5 minutes, and then run a knife around the side and invert onto a plate. If any orange slices don’t come out easily, just gently arrange them on the top of the cake. Let cool and cut into slices.