Regular readers will have noticed that I’m not really a dessert person. First of all, I don’t have an enormously sweet tooth but mostly I am just not a baker. I completely subscribe to the idea that the world is split into cooks and bakers and I’m massively impressed by anyone who can do both. My grandmother was a baker: family lore has it that she was frustrated by my grandfather’s culinary conservatism and channeled all of her creative energies into the medium of cake. As a child, I loved going to her house because there was always a freshly made coconut cake or an Albert cake on hand. My mother, by contrast, is a cook: her lasagne is legendary and she makes a pretty good chicken korma too. I’ve inherited my mother’s love of cooking but whereas she can actually make a lovely dessert, I am terrified of the entire world of baking. I never know what things are supposed to look like at each stage and it all seems so unforgiving. That’s why I love this beautiful Seville orange cake recipe, which seems entirely idiot-proof…

This is a variant of a recipe that’s done the rounds of many food blogs. It starts from Claudia Roden’s orange cake in her wonderful Book of Jewish Food. The recipe was popularised by Nigella Lawson, who I think more or less copied it for her clementine cake. It first came to me from multi-talented baking goddess E, who had a healthier version with agave nectar and dark chocolate which I made and enjoyed. The cake is amazingly moist – I dislike any hint of dryness in cake and this one is both deeply moist and surprisingly light. I’d forgotten all about it until last week, when I had a pile of lovely January Seville oranges and was trawling for ideas of what to do with them. It struck me that perhaps the orange/clementine cake might be adaptable, and the idea of a slightly less sweet orange cake appealed. I love the sweet/bitter flavour of Seville orange marmalade and it seemed eminently suitable to this unusual cake. The magic of this recipe is that you boil the oranges till they’re soft and then blend them whole, peel and all. Since the whole entire point of Seville marmalade is the peel, this wonderful moist cake seemed like the perfect vehicle for the flavours of the oranges.

Seville orange cake

  • 400g Seville oranges – I used 4 (however – start with extra in case of bursting!)
  • 6 eggs
  • 250 g caster sugar
  • 250 g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  •  125 g icing sugar
  • butter for cake tin

First, put the oranges in a big pot, cover well with water, and bring to the boil. Simmer for two hours, refilling the water as necessary.

When you take them out, check for any that have burst and discard, as they’ll be waterlogged. Cut four good ones in half, and remove pips. (There are loads of pips in Sevilles but they come out fairly easily.)

Dump the oranges into a food processor and blend till smoothish. You don’t want any overly big lumps of peel in your cake. In a bowl, beat the eggs and add almonds, sugar and baking powder. Give a good stir and then pour into the processor with the oranges. Blend till you have a smooth batter.

Butter a 9″ springform cake pan and line with parchment on the bottom. Pour in the batter and heat the oven to gas mark 5 / 190 C / 375 F. Now, Nigella says to cook for 50-60 minutes, but various bloggers including Smitten Kitchen say that it cooks much faster than that. I didn’t find that it did – mine took the whole 50 minutes, but I think my oven runs a bit cool. It’s probably worth checking after a half hour.

I decided to top the cake with an icing sugar glaze to add some extra sweetness. Slowly mix warm water into the icing sugar until the glaze is smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Spread it over the cake once it’s cool. (You’ll notice from the pictures that my glaze was a bit too runny. Seriously, I told you I can’t bake! It tastes good regardless though…)

Adapted from Claudia Roden’s Orange Cake and Nigella Lawson’s Clementine Cake recipes.

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