My friend who is coming to dinner gets sick if she eats chocolate, which is obviously pretty rotten for her. I wanted to make a simple, summery non-chocolate dessert; I did not want to just hand her a nice piece of fruit. I do that sometimes, and it's more than okay, what with the beautiful stone fruits and berries that are everywhere this summer. But I just felt like doing something a little more, that I could make ahead, rather than after work.
I have been messing around with chocolate quite a bit lately, and I was really taken with the flavors (and longevity) of the Mario Batali chocolate/coffee/almond cake I made. Not only was it delicious and soft like a cloud; the leftovers were wonderful with tea when I had the last piece several days later. I thought it would be great to find something very similar, only not chocolate. I found this cake in Elizabeth David's Mediterranean Cooking, and it looked like it might be just that thing.
E.D. didn't use the heating-the-egg-yolks-and-sugar technique that worked so nicely in the chocolate recipe,and there is no butter, but the cake is very similar in some other respects. It is flourless, has an almond meal and yolk combo, and egg whites are folded in at the last. Plain, but rich-which is my favorite sort of thing. Plus, I liked the idea of the fresh orange juice, orangeflower water and peel- all of the possible orange flavor elements. So I gave it a try.
This is what you need to make it:
4 eggs, separated
4 oz. almonds, ground
4 oz sugar
juice of two large or 3 smaller oranges
peel of orange
1 tbsp orange flower water
grated peel of the orange
1 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a nine inch cake pan. Beat egg yolks, sugar and salt until pale.
Add peel, almonds, juice and orange flower water and mix until thoroughly combined. Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into batter gently, but thoroughly. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake about 40 minutes, or until cake begins to pull away from pan sides. Cool about 40 minutes, then turn out onto serving plate.
This cake makes your house smell wonderful while it bakes, in quite an exotic hot sugar/perfumey/casbah way. It is a bit plain looking, and E.D. suggests serving it with whipped cream. Which I would have done, had I not remembered my first preserves of the season, way back in the spring, ready to open now. These were Blood Oranges in Clementine Ratafia, which I made from a June Taylor Recipe in the NYTimes. Actually, I would not have thought of this but for Heath, who inquired, after them, and put them in my brain. This recipe may well be available through the NYTimes archives, but I'm sure there is a copy of the article on the June Taylor website, for which you will find the link here under (as you might expect) "Links."
So, I arranged some of these guys on the top of my cake, and poured a little ratafia syrup over all. Then I chilled it a bit to gloss up the syrup. Thus I have stumbled into Oranges 5 Ways: fresh juiced, preserved, peel, orange flower water and clementine ratafia. I like this cake and all its flavors very much; in addition to the various orange tastes, the almond really comes through. It is more dense than the mocha torte, but rich, rather than heavy. The syrup is a nice touch. We are going to have it with a blob of cream on top, too.
I do think it would be good quite plain with tea, and/or some fresh juicy fruit, sliced on top.