Monday, 12 April 2010

middle eastern orange cake

I ate my first slice of this cake in 1996 and I couldn't believe my whole life had gone by without it.

The sticky-sweet-bitter orange flavour combined with the richness of almond meal is just too good to be true. I have fond memories of my mother and I devouring slice after slice at an ice cream parlour near her work.

It’s a commonly served cake in Sydney cafés and usually comes with a dollop of whipped cream, but I prefer it alongside thick, creamy, sour yoghurt to cut through the stickiness of the cake.

When I made this for my dad and stepmum (and Jonas!) for Easter Sunday lunch, I served it with King Island Dairy’s cinnamon and honey yoghurt, but sheep's milk yoghurt would also be excellent. You could also use frozen yoghurt or natural Greek-style yoghurt sweetened (only slightly) with honey.

This recipe, by Middle Eastern expert Claudia Roden (via Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion), is the pretty much the original version.

What has always put me off making it was that you had to boil the oranges for hours to prepare them. But, when the lovely Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella posted it on her blog, one very clever cookie (Julie from Cookbook Addict) pointed out that these days all you need is a microwave and 8 minutes!

How wonderful!

Now preparing this cake consists of zapping some oranges, cracking some eggs and whizzing everything in a blender. It’s absolutely delicious and so easy to make I’d bet $100 that a chimp could do it. (Any zoologists willing to test this theory out?)

Middle Eastern Orange Cake
Recipe by Claudia Roden (via Stephanie, with help from Julie). Serves 8-10.
2 large oranges, washed
6 eggs, beaten
250g ground almonds
250g sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
Yoghurt or cream, to serve


1. Preheat oven to 190ºC/170ºc fan forced. Grease and line the base and sides of a springform tin with baking paper.

2. Pierce the orange skins with a fork, microwave in a closed container on high for about 8 minutes, turning them around after a few minutes.

3. Cut oranges open, remove pips and chop roughly or pull apart into smaller pieces with fingers.

4. Blend oranges and remaining ingredients thoroughly in a food processor.

5. Pour batter into prepared tin. Bake for 1 hour. If cake is still very wet, cook a little longer.

6. Cool in tin before gently removing. Dust with icing sugar and serve with yoghurt.

This cake is unusual, because it uses whole oranges, my theme ingredients for Weekend Herb Blogging.

Wikipedia has a fascinating paragraph on the origin of the English word orange, a long journey through land and time:
“The word orange is derived from Sanskrit नारङ्ग nāraṅgaḥ "orange tree." The Sanskrit word is in turn lent itself as the Dravidian root for 'fragrant'. In Tamil, a bitter orange is known as ணரன்டம் 'Narandam', a sweet orange is called நகருகம் 'nagarugam' and நாரி 'naari' means fragrance. In Telugu the orange is called నరిఙ 'naringa'. The Sanskrit word was borrowed into European languages through Persian نارنگ nārang, Armenian նարինջ nārinj, Arabic نارنج nāranj, Late Latin arangia, Spanish naranja, Portuguese laranja, Italian arancia and Old French orenge, in chronological order. The first appearance in English dates from the 14th century. The name of the colour is derived from the fruit, first appearing in this sense in 1542.”

This week's WHB host is Katie from Eat This! Check out her round-up.

And check out what else can be made with this same cake recipe: Orange Cakes w Figs, Quince & Rose


  1. Haha! That's very clever (I thought for a minute the whole cake was baked in a microwave to which I was very surprised). And yes can we PLEASE get some monkeys to do this? How cute would that be? :D

  2. This cake looks delicious! Thanks for submitting to WHB!

  3. I didn't know this was Middle Eastern! Neat!

    It reminds me so much of Nigella's clementine cake which I adore.

  4. Looks delicious. Love orange cakes. Seems so simple to make too.

  5. This cake looks amazing! Unfortunately I don't have an oven so can't try it out, but thanks for sharing! :)

  6. Oh that looks tasty.. I think I could make it for $100.
    Miss u!

  7. I can't believe I've gone MY whole life without this! The crumb on that cake looks fantastic. I love Claudia Roden's recipes.

  8. This looks (and sounds) absolutely incredible! It looks so dense and moist.

  9. microwave oranges?? i am sooo making this tonight !!! :O) thanks for sharing!

    now, will need to dig out my moms blender .. hehe

  10. This recipe is gorgeous and your photography is fantastic too (you bring it to life so well). Thank you.

  11. Thank you, Anna, for a very impressive and entertaining website. I have been following all your recipies silently and from the sidelines. I am writing because I am not much of a baker but I wanted to try this fabulous sounding cake. What confuses me is there is nothing in the indredients, such as flour to make it look like a cake as in the picture. Do ground almonds and baking powder make it look so fluffy? How fine do you normally grind the almonds? If it is very fine, can I use almond flour? So many questions, eh?

    Thank you

  12. thanks everyone for your comments!

    anon - the ground almonds (almond meal) acts as a flour and while the cake is soft and moist, it's more dense than fluffy. instead of grinding the almonds myself (and worrying about getting a fine enough texture) i just buy almond meal from the supermarket.


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