Holus bolus – whole orange cake

April 26, 2009

orangecakeThe dimpled things in life are often the best.

Why does the idea of making a cake using a whole orange – peel, pith, flesh & all – appeal to me so deeply? Apart from the taste and texture of the purely gorgeous orange and quince cake we’ve made twice in the last couple of weeks, from Jared Ingersoll’s Danks Street Depot Sharing Plates book, there’s just something I absolutely love about chucking a whole piece of otherwise fiddly fruit into a cake. 

There are lots of different variations on this cake, which seems to have originated with the classic Claudia Roden Middle Eastern Orange Cake. Some (like hers & Jared’s, which I will now refer to as ours) use almond meal instead of flour (and are thus perfect for gluten-intolerant folk)  but otherwise whole-orange-cake devotees appear to divide into two camps – old boilers and cold callers.

Old boilers are those whose recipes involve boiling the orange(s), often for up to two hours, before pureeing. Cold callers can’t be bothered with this and recommend simply chucking the orange in holus bolus, uncooked.

According to Jared – whose recipe, even apart from the quinces, is more complicated than some  in that he urges one to bring two oranges in cold water to the boil six times, chucking and refreshing the water each time – boiling draws out any bitterness from the skin and makes it soft enough to pulp easily. 

But according to the Empress, one of my solid-gold sources of foodie facts, that’s a load of old cobblers and there’s no bitterness at all in the unboiled variety – her fave is a Damien Pignolet version which she reckons is the simplest cake in the world.

I’m yet to check my own results without boiling, but will do so soon.

Anyway, here are a few recipes to compare. The only one I’ve made is Jared’s so I can’t vouch for any of the others, but they all sound rather good.



quinces2*A note on quinces. Ours, pictured here simply because I think they look beautiful (although not quite as beautiful as Jamie’s) came from a friend’s tree in Bathurst, and although we had to cut out a bit of yucky brown stuff from the middle of all of them (they were unsprayed) they were divine. We made two cakes from that batch of quinces, and as the second time around we were a bit thin on quincy goodness we added some poached pear segments to the quince quotient, and it was darn-licious.  Also boiled up the poaching liquid to a thick syrup and sloshed over the top of the second cake …. mmmmmm. Oh and another note, it may be just me but whenever a cake recipe says cook for an hour, I always seem to end up cooking it for two. Which we needed to do, both times, with this one. 



  1. Hi,
    My mother-in-law put me onto your site and I have really enjoyed reading your posts. As for the orange cake, I am a boiler (not yet old but getting there!).
    I have had my orange cake recipe for ever and it is with almond meal and is moist and delicious. The orange and quince cake sounds really good so now I will give that a try so thank you!
    I look forward to reading you more often.

  2. Hey Camilla, welcome welcome. (And thank your mother-in-law for me!) I reckon the almond meal is a big part of the appeal, isn’t it – so moist and dense but not brick-like. Anyhoo very chuffed to have another proper chef on board, please do pop in often and give the rest of us lots of tips …

  3. Charlotte! Hello!
    Who’d have thought! A food, books writing blog. Snap!

    How are you? Just linked you to me over at blogspot.

    Cheers me dear.

  4. Mouth. Watering. Want. Cake. Now.

  5. Oops – wrong url – this is the correct one


  6. Did anyone see the excellent looking orange cake in yesterday’s Good Living? It’s got a whole raw orange chucked in a la the Damien Pignolet one, but ices the cake rather than soaks it with orange syrup. I haven’t tried the new recipe yet but will report back when I do. Looks VERY easy

  7. Oh, and here at last is the DP recipe:
    Serious Orange Cake
    1 orange [weighing about 150g, washed, diced w pips removed]
    200g sugar
    3 eggs
    150g SR flour, sifted
    Pinch salt
    180g butter, melted and cooled a bit
    Orange syrup
    60ml orange juice
    1 tablesp lemon juice
    1 tablesp caster sugar
    1-2 tablesp Cointreau

    Preheat oven to 170 C. Grease a 24cm diam springform pan [line it if you like]
    Place diced orange in food processor w sugar and process till v smooth. Add eggs one at a time mixing well between each.
    Add flour and salt and combine for 30 secs. With machine running add butter all at once.
    Pour into cake tin and bake for 35-40 mins.
    While it’s cooking make syrup. In small saucepan, combine juices w sugar. Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar and simmer for 1-2 mins. Add Cointreau to taste and simmer for 1 min more.
    When cake’s ready, remove from oven but leave in tin to cool for 5-10mins. Use skewer to pierce cake all over then slowly spoon syrup over cake and leave till completely cool before turning out.

    • I made ANOTHER orange cake the other day but not one containing a whole orange, boiled or otherwise. Just the usual juice and rind combo but with the truly excellent addition of black pepper! No kidding. It’s the same sort of happy marriage as chocolate and chilli. One of my fave food writers Jennifer McLagan wrote it in her exquisitely titled book, ‘FAT’. Needless to say the cake’s chock full of butter.

  8. […] if you are looking for a chocolate cake recipe, as it’s the only kind of cake I seem to make (apart from my new love, the whole l’orange variety…), I can vouch for the following two chocolate triumphs. These  both involve little more than […]

  9. […] dessert, I can’t recommend this whole orange cake highly enough – and because it’s made with almond meal instead of flour, it gives your […]

  10. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/oct/14/how-to-make-perfect-crumble

    Everthing you wanted to wanted to know about crumble but were afraid to ask!

  11. I have been looking for this recipe for ages and cannot remember what it is called. It is an orange cake that uses 4 whole oranges and frankincense. Can you help?

  12. Samuel, I have never heard of such a recipe but it sure sounds fine. Can you come back and tell us about it if you ever track it down?

  13. […] This recipe comes from the book Sharing Plates, which is full of good stuff including our favourite orange and quince cake recipe and is accompanied by a recipe for zucchini fritters that we’ve not yet […]

  14. […] And followed with a traditional Middle Eastern orange cake with yummy sweetened […]

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