After the rich and heavy food and desserts consumed during Christmastime, the New Year and the holiday season in general, I am generally left craving something simple — to bake and to eat. The almond-orange cake recipe I want to share today is the perfect idea for days like this.
I discovered this recipe relatively recently, when a friend, who does not like the usual cake flavours, had her birthday. I asked her what cake she wanted for her small, socially distanced celebration and she said ‘almond.’ Now I have made almond sponges as part of more elaborate cakes, but never simply an almond cake. There is, of course, the French financier, a small usually rectangular shaped cake made with browned butter and almonds, but that seemed to me to be a little too simple for a birthday celebration.
And then I chanced on this recipe, an almond cake that uses no butter at all and is topped with an orange glaze! An almond cake with orange glaze in the winter? I think I had a hallelujah moment, because it is a match made in heaven. The most time-consuming part of this recipe is blanching, toasting and flaking the almonds that go on the top. If you can find pre-flaked almonds, use them. I had to be content with making them myself. However, the cake batter itself is very simple to make and uses the ‘one-bowl’ method. It is the perfect no-fuss, no-stress easy dessert that you need after making more complicated cakes and bakes.
French Orange-Almond Cake
For the decoration
½ cup almonds
Soak the almonds in boiling water and leave them there for about 10-15 minutes. Then gently peel off the skins and use a very sharp knife to cut each almond into thin flakes. Spread the flaked almonds on a baking tray and toast in an oven preheated to 180 degrees C for about 10-15 minutes. Check the almonds periodically to make sure they don’t burn. There is a very fine line between perfectly toasted and burnt almonds! Set these aside when done. They will be used as decoration on top of the cake.
After the rich foods of the holiday festivities, try this simple, easy, and moreish orange-almond cake for the perfect winter treat
For the orange glaze
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
¾ cup icing sugar (plus more for sprinkling on top of the cake)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or essence
½ teaspoon almond extract or essence
Combine all the ingredients together in a small bowl and mix well with a spoon until a smooth, thin glaze forms. Set aside until needed.
For the almond cake sponge
150g plain yoghurt
300g caster sugar
190g plain flour
85g almond flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon almond extract or essence
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or essence
165ml vegetable oil
Turn the oven down to 175 degrees C and line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan (or springform pan) with baking paper and grease the bottom and sides well. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the yoghurt, sugar and eggs with a whisk until well blended.
Using a spatula, add the all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking powder, salt, almond and vanilla extracts and stir to combine. Add the oil and stir well. At first, the oil will seem to separate, but keep stirring and it is incorporated, and a smooth batter forms. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 35-40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. If the cake starts browning too quickly while it is baking, cover the top with a piece of greased aluminum foil to prevent burning until the cake is done.
Cool the baked cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning it out of the pan and on to the rack. While the cake is still warm, use a pastry brush to pat the orange glaze on top. Make sure you use the entire glaze, even if it seems like a lot. Place the flaked almonds all over the top of the cake (they will stick to the glaze). Allow the cake to cool completely and then sieve over a fine layer of icing sugar before serving.
The writer is a professional pastry chef and holds a diploma in pastry from Le Cordon Bleu
Published in Dawn, EOS, January 3rd, 2021