I can’t believe that it’s March already and that winter has gone by (and I mean that in a positive way, although there wasn’t much to complain about this winter to be honest), that spring is in the air (even summer if you look at the temperatures), and that we haven’t talked about oranges yet!!! You may ask yourselves what’s so special about oranges. Well, here’s an interesting fact – did you know that all oranges are actually berries?! If you knew, good for you! I didn’t have a clue, so I have to say that I’m happy to have learnt something new.
Let me tell you more interesting facts about oranges. Clementines, which are the smallest mandarin oranges, are seedless. And it’s a miraculous thing if you happen to find a clementine with seeds because it means that hardworking bees were trying to cross-pollinate clementines with other orange varieties. How cool is that? In addition, the maroon-tinged flesh of blood oranges comes from the presence of anthocyanins-pigments that develop only when nights are cool and long, such as in the fall. There are three varietals of blood oranges – the deeply colored Moro, the partially pigmented Tarocco, and the ruby-streaked Sanguinello – all of which are practically mutations of the sweet orange (Better Homes and Gardens Fall Baking, Fall 2011).
Although, in the United States oranges are basically available year-round, in Romania, oranges are prevalent in the winter time. Of course, the widely popular European supermarkets and hypermarkets are changing that and oranges are starting to become available year-round. Still, the flavor and quality of oranges are strikingly different during the off season from their juiciness and sweetness during the peak season.
Years ago we didn’t benefit from the superstores’ presence and we, Romanians, were looking forward to an exotic and citrus diet during the cold winter days. For us, oranges and bananas are considered winter fruits. I remember how as a child my parents would take me to kindergarten to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him a poem in order to receive a well-deserved and impatiently awaited small bag with an orange and banana inside. And there was always the traditional red and blue bag with a picture of a smiling Santa on it filled with oranges and bananas carefully placed under the Christmas tree. That was a Christmas gift on its own, always appreciated and loved.
Back in the days you would rarely waste oranges by turning them into cakes. Today, things have changed and, at least in Romania, making an orange cake is thought as different and exotic. This particular orange cake is all about oranges. The orange is the ultimate star of this harmoniously-balanced, delicious cake. The cake is moist, dense, surprisingly light and bursting with orange flavor. Not to mention that the colorful specks of orange zest dispersed throughout give it a kick and make every bite bright and citrusy. Let’s not forget about the sweet lemony orange syrup spread all over the top. At first, I thought that the sauce would be too much – that is, too much orange. But it’s not. It actually makes the cake even better because it acts almost as an orange jam. Yummy… And it gives it a shiny top. What you’ll end up doing is drag each slice of cake through the sauce before every bite. And this lovely union of orange cake and orange sauce will be positively improved by paring it with a nice cup of coffee or tea. Try it!
Adapted from Today’s Woman Magazine
Serves: 12+ servings
· Butter and flour for the pan
· 150 ml (2/3 cup) orange juice
· 4 eggs
· 300 grams granulated sugar
· 400 grams all-purpose flour
· 2 teaspoons baking powder
· Orange zest from 1 large orange
· Zest from 1 lemon
· 250 ml (1 cup) orange juice
· 2 Tablespoons honey
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter and flour a 10-inch bundt pan. Set aside.
Using an electric hand mixer, whip the egg whites and 100 grams of sugar on medium-high speed in a large bowl until medium-firm peaks form.
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and the rest of the granulated sugar. Gradually add the orange juice and the flour. At the end, add the baking powder and the orange zest. Carefully fold the egg whites into the mixture.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Don’t open the oven for the first 20 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Invert it on a platter and cool completely.
For the sauce:
In a small saucepan, combine the orange juice, lemon zest and honey. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture is of syrup consistency, about 10-12 minutes. Pour the sauce over the orange cake.
Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)