Blood orange ‘marmalade’ cake

A winter cake, maleable for all occasions: dinner with friends to ward off the bleak midwinter; an icy afternoon post-park playdate ‘coffee and cake’ — Kaffee und Kuchen; for brunch, when the cold bites and snowflakes flutter promisingly. This cake is so easy and it is so good. It was a friend who, at first bite, dubbed it ‘marmalade cake’ — an enthusiastic endorsement, an exclamation (!), with a Paddington-esque gleam of recognition in his eye.

I wrote about this cake six years ago when a(nother) friend wrote the recipe as a comment on these pages. I have since learned that it is by Claudia Roden, featured in her New Book of Middle Eastern Food. The cake doesn’t call for actual marmalade, rather whole oranges simmered until soft then blitzed and added to the batter, which lends the characteristic, bitter, ‘marmalade’ touch.

Marmalade cake aka Claudia Roden’s genius orange and almond cake
The cake can be made with blood oranges (use 3), or regular oranges (2 large ones), and most probably also with clementines (use 4 or 5)

3 untreated blood oranges (or 2 large untreated oranges)
6 large eggs
250 g (1 1/4 cups) sugar
250 g (2 generous cups) ground almonds
2 tsps baking powder

Candied orange slices for decoration (optional):
1 untreated blood orange
200 g (1 cup) sugar

*

Place the whole oranges in a small saucepan, cover with water, and simmer slowly for 1 1/2 hours, adding water if necessary.

Remove the oranges from the water and let cool. Cut the oranges in half, then each half again in two. Remove the pips if necessary. Purée the oranges in a food processor. (The orange purée can be made a day in advance and kept in the refrigerator.)

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and line a 24 cm (9 inch) baking tin with parchment paper that should be buttered generously.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the orange purée, the ground almonds, and the baking powder. Mix well until thoroughly combined.

Pour the batter into the tin, slide into to oven, and bake for 1 hour, until a knife or skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

For the candied orange slices (optional):
Note: The candied oranges are not in the original recipe, but they add a little something. However, since the cake is very soft it is difficult to slice through them. The best thing is to cut them on a side board as the cake is being served.

In a small saucepan, make a sugar syrup with 200g (1 cup) sugar and 250 ml (1 cup) water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the orange as thinly as possible. Add the slices to the syrup, and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the slices carefully one by one, and place them on a rack or parchment paper to dry for about half an hour. Return the orange slices to the syrup, and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. Let the slices dry for at least 1/2 hour. Reduce the syrup on a low simmer until it thickens (about 5 to 10 minutes). Place a few candied orange slices on top of the cake and drizzle with the syrup.

**The cake gets even better after a day or two, so it should ideally be made in advance.**

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