It can't always be pretty in my kitchen, and this week was pretty ugly. My goal for Belly Laughs is to share fun, unique recipes that are easy to follow, and sure to wow the crowd. The recipe development process involves experimenting with flavors…How Fun!… experimenting with techniques… That's Fun!… and digging deep into my creative brain…Also Fun!… BUT the process is most fun when all of these pieces fall into place and I succeed on the first or second try! By the time I get to the third, fourth, or [watch out!] the fifth try, I am usually on a rampage. I don’t like to admit that I am wrong, and I don't like to give up. I like to be great. Remember my post a few weeks back about my sports endeavors? Particularly the part about my stubborn nature? Well, this competitiveness rules most of life. There is nothing wrong with being a little competitive. It has helped me throughout my life and career, but it can be crippling at times and my frustration with not succeeding on first go gets the best of me every once and awhile.
"Ok, so, get to the point, Katie!" The point is, get your butt back in there and finish what you started! If you are anything like me the sense of relief which is coupled with the feeling of accomplishment is worth every embarrassing tear and painful foot stomp.
I really wanted to capitalize on the very short blood orange season, and give you something sensuously appealing! I didn’t want to go with a basic chiffon cake dressed up with boring slices of the fruit or a predictable flavor combination like chocolate or cream and oranges. However, every time I baked up the beautiful red and pink speckled oranges, they came out an unappealing brown, and my cake just did not want to set up, leaving me with a pile of mush (see photo evidence below). I am telling you, the baking gods had it out for me this week.
But, alas, all is still right in the world. A mental break away from the kitchen led me to the conclusion that I can control my baking fate, to a degree anyway (Oh, look! A baking pun!). I was finally successful and baked up a cake which is pretty darn tasty. The best part is, after a tweak or two, the recipe actually ended up being incredibly easy. You will not even need to lug out your big mixer; a spatula and a bowl will work just fine! It’s the perfect cake for a snowy spring day! A bright citrus pop atop a moist, slightly sweet cake.
I enjoyed a slice of this cake with a nice glass of whiskey before I cleaned the mounds of dishes I racked up during test kitchen. Great combo, I must say! Anyway, to all you home bakers, don’t let one bad cake (or three) scare you out of the oven. The moral of the story here is, “Even the mush is tasty!”
Recipe: Blood Orange Almond Cake
The Bits and Bobs:
2-3 blood oranges, sliced thin + zest half of one orange and reserve for the cake batter
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
1/4 cup greek yogurt, whole fat
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 orange, zest
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Prep the oranges:
Zest half of one of the oranges and set aside, then slice all into thin rounds (I ended up using about 2 ½ oranges, but this will vary depending on size of oranges and slice thickness). In large sauce pan, stir together water and cup of sugar. Set over low-medium heat and allow sugar to melt (the syrup will become clear when the sugar has dissolved). Add the slices of orange to the pan, aiming for a single layer if possible. Turn heat up to medium-high and bring to boil. Turn down heat slightly and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes. The rinds will have started to become slightly translucent. Remove the orange slices from the syrup and place on parchment paper to allow to cool. Keep syrup on heat for another 2 minutes to allow it to thicken just a bit more.
For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch cake pan. Pour a little of the reduced syrup in the bottom of the pan and arrange the cooled orange slices to cover the bottom completely. A little overlap is OK.
Stir together the melted butter, the greek yogurt, and the 1 ½ cups of sugar until well combined and a nice creamy white. Add the almond extract and reserved orange zest. Mix in the eggs one at time, stirring well after each addition. Finally, mix in the flour and salt mixing until just combined.
Dollop the cake batter over the oranges in the pan, then smooth into a nice even layer (this will prevent the oranges from potentially pulling up from the bottom of the pan). Bake for 35-40 minutes. The top will brown and a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean.
Allow cake to cool in pan for about 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges to help release, then using pot holders or a kitchen towel to protect your hands from the residual heat, invert the cake onto a plate. You can gently tap the plate with the inverted pan on top on the counter to help with the release, but this shouldn’t be necessary if you greased the pan well (I recommend using butter for this recipe instead of nonstick cooking spray). If you have leftover syrup, you can brush this on to the top to add some extra shine and color. Allow cake to cool completely before serving. Enjoy!