My earliest memories of eating oranges involve my grandparents. On brisk and sunny winter afternoons, my grandparents and I would often sit on our balcony, spread a sheet of newspaper on the floor and sit and eat oranges together. The combination of the cool weather, the sunshine and the zesty, tangy oranges was absolutely delightful.

Orange desserts were not the norm when I was growing up and it wasn’t until I made a chocolate orange layer cake for my mother’s birthday, following a wonderful recipe from Peggy Porshen’s book Boutique Baking, that I truly discovered not just the joy of eating an orange-based dessert but also that chocolate and oranges are a match made in culinary heaven. That particular cake was quite labour-intensive (as layer cakes tend to be) and, to be completely honest, I don’t always want to go through so much trouble to get a dessert prepared. In fact, ever since I started baking professionally, I find myself using simpler recipes with strong flavours at home.

This recipe is as simple as they come and perhaps the most complicated element (if you want to call it complicated) is separating the whites from the yolks and making a meringue. I imagine this is something that most home bakers can manage rather easily. Additionally, this cake is gluten free, using almond flour in place of all-purpose flour. If you have trouble procuring almond flour, make your own by blanching whole almonds, roasting them lightly in a pan or in the oven, and then grinding them in a food processor.

Oranges will soon go out of season, but before they do, try your hand at making this simple, deliciously moist and gluten-free chocolate orange cake

Chocolate Orange Layer Cake

185g almond flour
198g sugar, divided
150g dark chocolate
50g cocoa powder
50g orange juice
2 teaspoons orange zest
6 large eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1/4 teaspoon salt

Method Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Prepare a nine-inch springform pan by generously coating the bottom and sides with butter. In a large bowl, mix the sugar with the almond flour. Coarsely chop the chocolate and then run it through a blender or food processor until finely ground. Thoroughly mix this into the almond flour and break up any clumps. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cocoa, orange juice and zest. The mixture will get very thick. In an electric mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, the vanilla essence and most of the sugar (reserve two tablespoons for later) and beat this mixture with a whisk attachment until it is very thick. The colour should change from the yolk colour to a very pale white. Add the cocoa mixture into the egg yolk mixture and beat until just combined and then gently fold it into the dry almond mixture with a spatula. Set it aside. Using a clean bowl and whisk attachment of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed. Once it becomes a little foamy, gradually add the remaining two tablespoons of sugar and beat until you have stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate batter in three additions. Be sure to that it is completely incorporated but do not over mix. Transfer the batter to the pan and bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when tested in the centre. It is normal for a flourless cake to fall a little when taken out of the oven. Let it cool completely in the pan before removing it.

Decorate with powdered sugar and oranges if desired.

The writer holds a diploma in pastry from Le Cordon Bleu. She tweets @marylouandrew

Published in Dawn, EOS, February 9th, 2020


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