I love this Orange Cake for the nutty flavour, damp and sticky texture, the beautiful orange flavour, and the unique method by which it’s made: blitzing whole oranges, rind and all, with almond meal, sugar, eggs and baking powder. No oil, no butter, no whisking!
Terrific easy cake for gatherings. And because it’s gluten-free and lactose free, everyone can enjoy it!
Whole Orange Cake
If you’ve spent a lifetime peeling oranges, it might sound strange that this cake is made using a whole orange.
But here’s the thing – as with lemons and limes, most of the orange flavour is in the rind. You will get way better orange flavour by mixing 1 tablespoon of finely grated orange zest into, say, Vanilla Frosting, rather than 1/4 cup of orange juice. Not to mention that zest doesn’t make frostings and cake batters watery.
So – we like rind for flavour. But we don’t like the pith – the white part underneath the skin – because it’s bitter.
Solution: boil the oranges. This removes the bitterness as well as softening the oranges to make them “jammy”, which makes the cake damp and sticky inside.
What goes in Orange Cake
Just 5 ingredients:
Whole fresh oranges
Almond meal (aka ground almonds) – see note below
Baking powder (make sure it’s gluten free if you’re making this as a gluten free cake)
Just a note on a couple of the ingredients:
Almond meal / ground almonds
This is literally raw almonds that are blitzed into a fine powder. It’s easily found nowadays, sold in the dried fruit & nut section and health food section of grocery stores.
You can also make your own by blitzing 250g/ 9oz raw, unpeeled, unsalted almonds in a powerful blender (I use a Vitamix) until it becomes a fine powder.
Almond flour is different but can also be used. This is made with blanched, peeled almonds, blitzed until it becomes powder form. It is lighter in colour (because the brown skin is removed) and it has a finer texture so it will give it slightly fluffier consistency. It also has a slightly less pronounced almond flavour. Almond flour is not as common in Australia. I’ve purchased it from those health food places where you serve yourself from tubs, like Scoop Wholefoods.
The fresh oranges cannot be substituted with orange juice – the batter in this recipe relies on the thickness of the pureed oranges. Also, using whole oranges delivers massive orange flavour that OJ can never replicate!!
You will need 2 medium oranges about 8cm / 3″ in diameter (think baseball size) totalling around 600g/1.2 lb. You don’t need to be exact here – if they weigh more, your cake will be a little bit more moist. If they weigh less, that’s totally fine – almond meal cakes are super moist already, you won’t feel deprived.
But obviously if you have tiny ones, use multiple!
Can lemons be used as well?
Unfortunately not! Tried, and it was too bitter because the ratio of pith to flesh is higher. But it had a gorgeous lemon flavour. Still working on it!
How to make Orange Cake
The method used for this orange cake recipe is quite unique with the bonus being that it’s easy and low-effort. As mentioned above, oranges are boiled to soften and remove the bitterness from the pith (white part of rind). After this, they are blitzed – rind and all – with the remaining ingredients to make the batter.
You normally can’t use a food processor or blender for cake recipes made with flour because they’re simply too powerful so they will overwork the gluten in the batter, resulting in horridly hard, rubbery cakes!
First – boil and chop
Boil oranges in water for 10 minutes;
Drain, then repeat twice more. (ie 3 x 10 minutes) The purpose of this step is to remove the bitterness from the white part of the rind – if you skip this (and there are some recipes that do) then the cake will be bitter. Shortcut: Boil 40 minutes without draining, but keep an eye on water level. The flavour is marginally “cleaner” if you change the water as directed, but this shortcut is perfectly acceptable;
Slice oranges and remove seeds; then
Roughly chop – no need to be meticulous here, it’s just to help it blitz faster.
Then – blitz and bake!
Place in a food processor. Blender also works, but I find it more tedious to scrape all the batter out. A NutriBullet works brilliantly for the blitzing but is too small for the whole batch of batter . So just do the oranges first, pour into bowl, blitz remaining ingredients, then mix everything together in the bowl;
Blitz for 3 x 10 second bursts on high, scraping down the sides well, until you no longer see the large lumps and it’s looks like jam. It may take longer depending on the strength of your food processor. Basically, the less orange rind bits, the better – but some rind bits are ok, great jammy texture!
Add the remaining ingredients – almond meal, baking powder, sugar and eggs, then blitz until well combined. If at this stage you realise there’s still too many rind chunks, you can blitz for longer;
Pour into a lined cake pan – 1 x 23cm/9″ (cake will be 4 cm / 1.7″ tall) or 2 x 20cm / 8″ (cake will be 3 cm / 2.2″ tall);
Bake for 60 minutes until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean; and
Cool in the pan – it’s too fragile to remove while warm. The cake will shrink some, as you can see in the photo above.
Unlike some cakes, I think an unadorned Orange Cake is lovely because it has a gorgeous golden orange colour. Also, this cake is so moist and full of flavour, you do not need nor want a frosting. I’ve seen some recipes that soak similar cakes in orange syrup – too sweet for me!
However, if you want to give it some pretty finishing touches to impress your work colleagues or friends, here are a few suggestions:
Dusting of icing sugar / powdered sugar – simple and pretty!
Fresh oranges (pictured above) – cut thin slices of oranges with rind on, then cut a slit to the middle. Then twist and place on the cake, as shown – it will hold itself in place;
Orange rind (pictured above) – use a knife or zester to cut thin strips of orange rind. Orange part only, not the white pith. Twist them around a wooden spoon handle or similar, leave for 10 minutes or so then it will hold it’s shape in loose curls, as pictured. For tight ringlets, leave overnight!
Fresh flowers – just a few little sprigs from a tree out of the front of my house are pictured here. Not edible, just for decorations! They’re not orange blossoms either unfortunately….
Candied orange peel or dried orange slices – scatter! With or without icing sugar;
Toasted almonds – flakes or slivers. To make them stick, you could brush the surface with warmed marmalade loosened with a touch of water;
Pomegranate seeds – for a wow-factor pop of red colour!
Drippy lemon or orange glaze – use the one in this Lemon Yogurt Cake recipe.
How to serve it
I can 100% promise you, this cake is moist and flavourful enough to eat plain. But if you really want something to dollop on the side, yogurt is excellent – the fresh tartness plays extremely well against the nuttiness of the almonds, and I think it’s a better option than cream. Plain or Greek yogurt is best, or a very mildly sweet flavoured one.
For a richer alternative, creme fraiche would be lovely.
It’s also very, very good served ever-so-slightly warmed with a scoop of ice cream on top. Perhaps not conventional – but it works, and that’s what matters! – Nagi x
PS. Also – for gluten-free purposes and just because it’s darn tasty – a suggested alternative to this cake is Flourless Chocolate Cake. New video for this one is coming soon!
Watch how to make it
Whole Orange Cake - flourless
- 2 medium oranges, fresh whole with rind on - any type (600g/1.4 lb total weight, ~300g / 10 oz each orange, ~ 8cm/3" diametre, Note 1)
- 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 6 large eggs , at room temp (Note 2)
- 1 1/4 cups white sugar
- 2 3/4 cups almond meal / ground almonds (Note 3)
- Boil 10 minutes: Place oranges in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over medium high heat. Boil for 10 minutes and drain.
- Repeat x 2: Put oranges back in the pot, cover with cold water and boil again for 10 minutes. Drain, then repeat once more (ie. boil oranges 3 x 10 minutes). Shortcut: Boil 40 minutes without draining, keeping an eye on water level. (Note 4)
- Chop: Rinse oranges, then cool slightly so you can handle them. Slice into 1cm / 1/4" slices then dice, removing any seeds. Cool completely.
- Preheat oven: Preheat oven to 160°C/320°F (140°C fan). Grease and line a 23cm/9" cake pan with baking/parchment paper. (Note 5)
- Blitz oranges: Place chopped oranges in a food processor (Note 6). Blitz on high for 4 x 10 second bursts, scraping down the sides in between, until it's pureed into a marmalade consistency with only a few visible bits of rind remaining. It does not need to be completely smooth.
- Blitz in remaining ingredients: Add almond meal, eggs, baking powder and sugar. Blitz for 5 - 10 seconds on high until combined.
- Bake 60 minutes: Pour into prepared cake pans. Bake 60 minutes until the surface is golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Cool: Cool fully in cake pan. Unless using loose base pan, cover surface with baking paper to help you turn it out (cake is sticky so may stick to your hand and tear surface otherwise.)
- Serve: Decorate as desired - I used slices of fresh oranges, rind strips and sprigs of flowers. A dusting of icing sugar / powdered sugar is also lovely. Cut, then serve! See Note 7 for suggestions.
- Be sure to use gluten-free baking powder if making this for GF purposes!
- Sweetness - average sweetness, definitely not overly sweet. Sugar can be cut to as little as 1/2 cup but personally, I don't think that's sweet enough.
1. Oranges - the cake is fine with smaller or larger oranges, but aim for around 600g/1.2lb in total. If they are much larger, then the cake will just be more moist. Obviously if yours are tiny, then use more than 2 so they total 600g/1.2lb! Does it work with lemons? Unfortunately not! Tried, and it was too bitter because the ratio of pith to flesh is higher. But it had a gorgeous lemon flavour. Working on it! Will update when I figure it out. 2. Large eggs - industry standard, labelled as such on egg cartons. 55 - 60g / 2 oz each. 3. Almond meal / ground almonds (same thing) - this is finely blitzed raw, whole almonds in powder form, used in place of flour to add a beautifully nutty flavour to cakes, makes them ultra moist and also gluten-free. Find it in the dried fruit and nut section or health food section of grocery stores. Making your own: 250g/9 oz whole, raw unsalted almonds, blitzed until powdered. Almond flour is slightly different but can be used. Cake texture will be slightly lighter (almond flour is made with blanched peeled almonds). 4. Changing water makes the cake flavour a bit cleaner because you're discarding the bitter flavour in the water. But it's only marginal - I've often done a 40 minute straight boil. 5. Cake pans - also great in 2 x 20cm/8" pans, 50 minutes in oven. I like using 1 x 23cm / 9" pan because it's slightly taller. 6. Food processor is best for ease of use. You can also use a blender (it's just more annoying to scrape out all batter) or a NutriBullet (too small for full batter, so blitz oranges first, transfer to bowl, blitz everything else and then mix). I've also made this by hand when camping: I finely chopped boiled oranges by knife, then used a fork to mash as best I could (mortar and pestle would also work.) To cook, I used a large pot, with a cake pan elevated over simmering water using a few rocks, lid on, about 1 hour. Worked 100% perfectly - and came out even more moist from the steam! 7. Serving: Delicious plain because it's so moist and flavourful, but a dollop of Greek or plain yogurt, or creme fraiche is also wonderful. Otherwise, slightly warmed with vanilla ice cream! Decorations - see in post for suggestions. 8. Source - This recipe was given to me by a Sydney based professional pastry chef, a recipe she's used at establishments she's previously worked at. 9. Storage - keeps 5 days in an airtight container in the pantry, though if it's hot where you are, then it's recommended to keep in the fridge. Stays 100% perfectly moist! It can also be frozen up to 3 months. Make ahead: Oranges can be boiled and chopped the day before, and refrigerated. Bring to room temp then use per recipe. 10. Nutrition per serving assuming 12 servings.
More delicious cakes with fruit
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