There’s a scene near the beginning of Pear-Shaped where Sophie makes a cake to take to her interview at Fletchers. She chooses this Orange and Almond cake by the marvellous Claudia Roden. I have no idea why I chose this particular cake when I was writing the book – I’d never eaten it, let alone made it. I guess I just liked the idea of it.
But it’s been on my mind for a year now, and I’ve recently become obsessed with blood oranges and bitterness – so I finally got my arse in gear and I’m so glad I did. It is the easiest cake in the world, and if you’re not averse to bitterness, I’d say it is show-stopping, particularly in terms of texture.
Other plus points: it only has five ingredients; and it’s flour free, so very good if you’re cooking for someone who can’t or won’t do wheat / gluten. And actually, it’s almost entirely fruit, egg and almonds – so, fruit and protein (kind of) – therefore an optimum lean-muscle-building health snack….er…
Anyway, first boil two oranges for a very long time. I used blood oranges, rather than regular.
Boil them whole, then chop them up and remove the pips.
Blitz them in a magimix:
Beat six eggs:
Add the three remaining ingredients – sugar, loads of ground almonds, a tiny bit of baking powder.
Apart from the oranges boiling for two hours, the actual prep part, once they’re boiled, takes less than four minutes. Bake the cake for 50 minutes. Sprinkle with icing sugar (ok, that’s ingredient six if you’re being pedantic) – and voila…
You’re using the entire orange, including the peel, so while the boiling does remove most of the bitterness, this is not a super-sweet cake experience. Nonetheless it is beautiful and delicate and squidgy and luscious and light. (And I am a person who does not normally consider dessert to qualify as dessert unless it contains chocolate or custard or both.)
No wonder Sophie got the job…
Next time I make it, and there will be a next time, I’m going to experiment with a dark chocolate ganache on the side – I think something velvety (and chocolaty) would work brilliantly with it.