Almond, Orange and Smoked Chilli Cake
Serves 10 generous
This is without doubt my favourite cake. I got the idea for it almost immediately upon getting my first whiff of Hedermans Smoked Chilli Flakes. They are just the most fantastic ingredient. The smoke is just perfect; deep and aromatic, perfectly complementing the sweet and spicy chilli flakes. I knew the combination of orange, almond and these beautiful flakes would be a winner.
Nigella Lawson has a fantastic chocolate orange cake recipe where she first boils whole oranges and then pulps them before using that as the base for her cake batter. I have used that same technique here, and this cake, like hers, is also flourless. To make it light and fluffy I make a light meringue mixture which I fold into the other ingredients to finish off my batter. This means that, despite the moistness of the orange pulp, the sponge does retain a lot of air and is surprisingly soft and light.
This cake is best eaten two or even three days after the sponges are baked. The flavours really develop by then and combine to give a beautiful complex taste where no one flavour dominates. I usually make the sponges one day and then finish the cake later the following day. It is ready to eat once finished, though I find the flavours are usually at their best on the third day. I hope you love this as much as I do.
Prep Time: 30-40 mins
Cooking Time: 1 hour to boil oranges, baking cake 45 mins
Total Time: 2 hours, 15 mins
5 medium eggs
250g caster sugar
250g ground almonds
1tp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1tsp vanilla bean paste
1 ½ tsp Hedermans Smoked Chilli Flakes.
For the frosting:
150g cream cheese
150g white chocolate
Zest of a medium orange
Put the whole oranges in a pan of water and bring to the boil. Simmer for about an hour or until the oranges are cooked through and soft. You will know they are done if you can easily slide a sharp knife into them and they just fall off as you lift the knife out. Cut them into segments, discarding the seeds. Let them cool a little before whizzing them in a food processor and reducing them down to a smooth paste. You use the peel, pith, and the flesh for this recipe, discard only the seeds.
Warm your oven to 170c for a fan oven, 180c for a conventional oven.
Separate the eggs. In a large bowl, combine the almonds, egg yolks, baking powder, baking soda, 150g of the sugar, the orange, and the chilli flakes.
In a mixer or using a handheld electric whisk, whisk the egg whites until they are stiff with nice peaks. Add the vanilla essence. With the mixer still running, gradually add the remaining 100g of caster sugar a little at a time until you have a glossy, stiff mixture. Fold this meringue mixture into your almond and orange batter in batches. Use a metal spoon, add one third of the meringue mixture at a time and fold it in using slow, smooth circular stirs to make sure you get all the air from the meringue into the batter. Keep slowly stirring until all the meringue is incorporated and you have a lovely smooth, airy batter.
Butter two 22cm cake tins. I use push up, non–stick tins for these sponges and they work well. Add half of the batter to each tin and pop them in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes. You will see that the sponges rise a lot at first, but then fall back a little before the end of the bake. Do not worry, that is inevitable given the mix here, and it is perfectly fine. Your sponges will have dips in the centre when they are finished but we will be inverting the top sponge when we finish the cake.
After 45 minutes check the sponges by gently sticking a skewer into the middle. If it comes out clean, they are cooked. If not, given them another 5 minutes and they should be perfectly baked. Once baked, let them cool in the tins before removing them and resting them until you are ready to finish off the cake. As I mentioned, I prepare these sponges at least a day in advance and only finish the cake the cake on the day I want to serve it.
To make your frosting, melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiled water on a low simmer. Whisk the cream cheese to get it soft and smooth, then add the orange zest and the melted chocolate. Whisk well to combine fully.
Place one sponge on a plate and slather on the frosting. You will fill the little dip in the sponge fully with frosting, but make sure you cover the entire sponge, using up all the frosting. Now place the second sponge on top, but upside down. You want to have the nice even base of that sponge for the top of the cake. Finish with some candied orange peel, or a little icing sugar and some orange zest.
And that is it. This cake will keep well for a few days. That is if it lasts that long!