Orange Almond Cake (gluten-free!)

orange almond cakeWhat exactly is gluten? In simple terms, it is a protein present in wheat, which provides stability to breads, cakes, cookies, and other baked goods. Gluten-free baking relies on other ingredients that can bind together and provide structure, ranging from eggs and nut flours to thickeners like xantham gum.

As a savvy baker, I understand that gluten-free recipes can bring about a number of challenges, and I’ve been sorely disappointed by nut-based, high-egg-volume cake recipes in the past. I baked this as a trial run for our seder, which will take place on the first night of Passover in just a couple of weeks. The recipe came from a food blogger in Australia, hence the use of grams below. The preparation is fascinating, as I think you may agree once you read the directions. I’m happy to say that it turned out very well; my plan for the seder is to add some slices almonds to the top, which will brown nicely during baking.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium oranges
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 250 grams sugar, processed to super-fine consistency*
  • 250 grams almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

*To make regular sugar super-fine, place it in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse several times until you get a consistency like sand.

Preparation

Wash the oranges well. Place them in a large cooking pot with plenty of water and bring them to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, and simmer for 2 hours, checking frequently. Remove oranges from the water and allow to cool completely.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment, extending the paper over the sides.

Remove the ends of the oranges, which can be bitter, and place the oranges, skin and all, into a food processor. Pulse to a smooth consistency.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and sugar together very well. Add orange puree and whisk together.

Add almond meal and baking powder, stirring with a wooden spoon to blend completely.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Be careful not to over-bake; the sides and bottom of the cake will darken considerably and you do not want them to burn.

Remove from oven and cool in pan for about 10 minutes; remove the cake from the pan, leaving it in the parchment, and place it on a wire rack to cool completely. Remove parchment; store at room temperature.

Note: this cake is very moist, and according to the original recipe it becomes even more so after a few days. Be sure to store in an airtight container.

 

Almond Paste

almond pasteNow that I’ve made almond paste, I may never purchase it again. Seriously, this was so easy, I don’t know why I’ve never made my own almond paste before.

This all started with the Heath bit bars I made earlier this afternoon. Searching the pantry cabinet for some pecans, which I thought would add some extra crunch to the bars, I found none…but I did find a few cups of blanched almonds. I didn’t want to add blanched almonds to my Heath bit bars, but I did realize that they, along with a few other ingredients, could be ground into almond paste. Out came the food processor, and a few minutes later – also utilizing the leftover egg white from my Heath bit bars – I had my first-ever homemade batch of almond paste.

So, the question is: what will I bake with it? Almond clouds are a good idea…which only use egg whites and will leave me with some leftover yolks. Which is fine, because the yolks can go into lemon curd. And then, what will I do with the lemon curd? Oh, so many possibilities.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole blanched almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract

Preparation

Place almonds in the bowl of a 7-cup food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until almonds are finely ground.

Add 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, egg white, salt, and almond extract. Process until the mixture forms a ball; you’ll need to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times.

Break up mixture and add remaining tablespoon of powdered sugar, which will help make the paste less sticky. Process again; the mixture will return to a ball very quickly.

Carefully remove from the processor and pat with your hands, shaping paste into a log. Wrap in plastic and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Note: this recipe yields 15 ounces of almond paste.