Orange and Almond Cake

I ran across this lovely recipe a few weeks ago and was very intrigued. I knew right away that I needed to try it soon, and I'm so glad I did. Today I'm sharing an interesting but simple recipe from Claudia Roden, a well loved food writer and cookbook author, especially known for her writings on Middle Easter food. What initially peaked my interest was the fact that this recipe calls for whole oranges, that you boil for several hours, and then puree directly into the rest of the batter, skin, pith, flesh and all! And besides this strange (at least to me) method, the rest of the recipe is simple, with few ingredients. Sugar, eggs, an almonds. That's basically it. 

The finished cake is dense but incredibly moist, full of texture and flavor. The whole orange imparts just a slight bitterness to the cake that is balanced nicely with just the right amount of sugar. The almonds add richness, as do the eggs which also help with the structure a little. The orange flavor is, not surprisingly, very pronounced (with whole oranges and all!). A small slice of this cake for breakfast, or after dinner for dessert, is refreshing and satisfying. Delicious on its own, or my favorite way with a nice spoonful of plain yogurt on the side for a creamy and smooth contrasting element (I decided to try this out on my own and thought it was amazing!). 

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I ended up halving the original recipe, and baking it into a small, 6 inch, cake. Perfect for me and a few friends. Feel free to double the quantities below and bake in a larger pan (I imagine 8 or 9 inches would be good). I highly recommend having some nice and thick plain Greek yogurt (make sure it's plain, the contrast with the sweet cake is ideal) on the side. I'm sure a little whipped cream would also be nice, but just a bit richer/heavier. 

 
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Orange and Almond Cake
Adapted from A New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Ingredients

  • 1 large orange
  • 3 eggs
  • 125 grams ground almonds
  • 125 grams sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Directions
Wash and boil the orange (unpeeled) in a little water for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, until very soft. Let cool. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 6 inch cake pan. 

Cut open the cooled orange and remove the seeds. Place orange in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the sugar and process again until well combined. Then add the eggs and process once more. Finally, add the almonds and baking powder and process until everything just comes together. 

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour. If it is still very wet, leave it in the oven for a little longer. Cool in the pan before turning out.

Oat Flour Banana Carrot Muffins

I recently stumbled over this recipe for a simple and nutritions blender muffin. I had a carrot in the fridge, and bananas turning brown on the counter so it was almost like it was meant to be! I went to work putting it all together and am glad I did. These muffins turned out delicious; light and moist, full of whole grains, healthy fats, fresh fruit and fresh veggies. How great is that? They are also made with no wheat flour, and no dairy, so if you are avoiding either of those this is another plus. They are not vegan due to the 2 eggs, but you could always try a vegan egg replacement if this is something you care about. 

I followed the original recipe other than decreasing the honey just a bit from 1/4 c to 2 tablespoons and didn't miss it at all. The bananas themselves are nice and sweet. I also had a little freezer jam hanging out that I decided to add to the center of the muffin for a little sweet surprise! You can't see it in the picture, but it's there, I promise! It's a fun addition if you have some extra jam lying around. If you use peanut butter as your nut butter it'll turn these muffins into a "PB&J muffin"! Yum!

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Oat Flour Banana Carrot Muffins
Adapted from Running with Spoons
Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (120 grams) oats
  • 2 tablespoon (14 grams) flaxseed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tbsp (96 grams) almond or peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons (40 grams) honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 medium bananas (200 grams or 1 cup)
  • 1 cup (115 grams) shredded carrot, about 1 medium carrot

Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare a muffin pan by lining the cavities with parchment paper liners or greasing them well with oil. Set aside.

Add all the dry ingredients (oats through salt) to a high-speed blender, and process on high until the oats have broken down into the consistency of a fine flour.

Add all of the remaining ingredients except for the carrots, and process on high until the batter becomes smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds. Periodically stop and scrape down the sides of your blender, if necessary. Transfer the batter to a medium-size mixing bowl and fold in the carrots by hand.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each one about 3/4 of the way full.
Bake for 16 - 18 minutes, until the tops of your muffins begin to turn golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Yields: 10 muffins
Approximate calorie count: 165 calories

S'mores Cupcakes

April 1 is a special day in my family. We get to celebrate not just one, but two birthdays! My cousin Bailey and my grandpa get to share their special day with each other. In honor of their birthday's, Bailey invited us all over for a "112th birthday party" this past Sunday. Since my favorite part about birthday celebrations is the cake, I offered to make some cupcakes to bring along. In my opinion you cannot have a birthday party without cake, it just isn't right. 

For this occasion I had a few more restraints than normal. Dairy products don't agree well with Bailey so the only cake options I had were dairy free ones. This can be a challenge for me; I am partial to good old butter cakes piled high with sweet and fluffy buttercream, neither of which were an option for this party. I toyed around with a couple of different ideas before having that aha moment. Early on I had decided that a chocolate cupcake made with cocoa powder would work really well for the base. Cocoa is dairy free, and although I know you can find dairy free chocolate out there, I just wasn't going to get around to buying any in time. 

What was really stumping me was the frosting. I am not a fan of using butter substitutes, I just don't think they taste good. Even the really nice brands without trans fats and all that other junk don't taste like butter. I like butter, and there really is no replacement in my book. I toyed with the idea of using coconut cream but I'm not a huge coconut fan and I'd never tried it before so didn't know how it would work. Then I came across a recipe for marshmallow frosting, basically just a meringue, and it all came together. Marshmallow frosting on a chocolate cake, only one thing is missing.... graham crackers! Who can resist a good old s'more, especially in cupcake form? The perfect dairy free cupcake to celebrate a couple of extra special people. 

This cupcake recipe is a cinch to make, all you need is one bowl and you are good to go. The recipe said it would make 1 dozen, but I always like to make a few mini cupcakes too as testers and it worked out great. I managed to get 1 dozen regular cupcakes and 6 minis.

As for the frosting; I'd never made marshmallow frosting before, but I have made marshmallows, and it was pretty much the same thing, just without the gelatin. Pretty easy to whip together, but incredibly sticky! I thought the combination of the dark chocolate cake with the sweet and light marshmallow frosting was a winner; the two complemented each other so well. I finished the whole thing off with some homemade graham crackers (dairy free of course) and some graham cracker crumbs. 

All I have left to say is: Happy Birthday Bailey and Grandpa! Have a wonderful day!

S'mores Cupcakes

Adapted from 

King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • 1 cups (4 1/2 ounces) All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3/8 cup (1 1/8 ounces) Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/8 cup (2 5/8 ounces) vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) coffee

Frosting

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (I actually didn't have any and it worked fine without, cream of tarter just helps stabilize the egg whites, but you can go without if you have to)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake or muffin pans with papers.

Prepare the cake batter. Whisk together the sugar, flour, cornstarch, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla, beating until smooth. Gradually add the coffee, beating until smooth. 

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake cups; you'll pour a scant 1/4 cup batter (about 58g) into each cup. Bake the cupcakes for about 20-22 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cakes in the middle of the pan comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven. In about 5 minutes, or as soon as you can handle them, remove them from the pan, and place them on a rack to cool.

When the cupcakes are cool, make the frosting. Place the 2 egg whites in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat until the egg whites are foamy and thick; they should mound in the bowl, without holding a peak. Set them aside while you prepare the sugar syrup.

Combine the sugar, cream of tartar, water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently; the sugar should be dissolved. If the sugar hasn't dissolved, cook and stir a bit more, until it has. Once the sugar has dissolved, boil the syrup, undisturbed, for 2 minutes, or until the syrup registers 240°F on a candy thermometer or instant-read thermometer.

Begin to beat the egg whites, and immediately pour the boiling sugar syrup into the egg whites in a slow stream, beating all the while. As you beat, the mixture will thicken. Once all the syrup is added, stir in the vanilla, and continue to beat until the frosting is thick and will hold a peak.

Spoon the hot frosting atop the cooled cupcakes, swirling it decoratively.

Decorate while the frosting is still warm with graham crackers crumbs. You can also toast the edges of the frosting with a kitchen blow torch, or how I did it, using the flame on your gas stove. Just watch your fingers!

Yield: 1 dozen cupcakes + 6 mini cupcakes