Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Orange blossom cake

Quite a while ago now - I can't remember when - I bought a bottle of orange blossom water. After using it for whatever it was I purchased it for, it languished in the back of my cupboard (like the pomegranate molasses that suffered a similar fate before I discovered this cake) until the revelation of this recipe. Scanning the list of ingredients, it seemed like a cross between a Middle Eastern orange cake (without the advance prep of boiling oranges) and a Sardinian ricotta cake (without the flour). I was intrigued, and not least by the name, which put orange blossom water front and centre rather than its usual place - one of the cast of thousands in the myriad tastes of a tagine, or overshadowed by the intense caramel of dates in dessert.

Though you only use a very small amount, all the other elements of the cake - the creamy ricotta, the chewy almond meal, the orange zest, all work to showcase the delicate floral perfume of this colourless liquid, resulting in a sweet that's both subtle and substantial. Dinner party dessert-worthy, as well as lunchbox-hardy. Prettily pale, yet bright with flavour. Oh, and it's gluten-free too, did I mention that? With everyday ingredients. Apart from the orange blossom water that is. But given how seriously good this cake is, it's on its way to everyday.

Orange blossom cake
Adapted from a recipe by Le Pirate

I made a half quantity of this cake in a slightly smaller tin with a reduced cooking time. The original recipe proposed even smaller cakes (in multiple) - by baking in paper-lined muffin tins or ramekins, which I imagine would also be lovely.

250g of thick ricotta 
4 eggs, separated
175g sugar
zest of one orange
one tablespoon orange blossom water
250g almond meal
one teaspoon vanilla extract
half a cup of slivered almonds
extra handful of sugar

Preheat the oven to 150 deg C. Grease and line a 9 inch springform pan with baking paper.

In an electric mixer (or by hand), beat the ricotta, egg yolks, vanilla, sugar, zest and orange blossom water til creamy and smooth. Stir in the almond meal. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites til marshmalowy soft peaks start to evolve. Slowly add the egg white mixture to the ricotta mixutre, folding gently as you go. Pour batter into pan.

Bake for about half an hour, then sprinkle top with the almonds and extra sugar and return to the oven and bake til pale gold and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 30-45 minutes more. Allow it to cool a little in its tin before turning out on a wire rack.


  1. This looks fabulous Alice. Must try it.

  2. Ohhh a gluten free adventure is at hand AND I too have orange blossom water languishing! Looks delicious ... Going to try it.