Bitter fruit.

From M., 23 July 2011, Seville oranges and cake?

Q: Well it’s almost August – which means Seville Orange marmalade making time for me. Fortunately for me, I have a Seville Orange tree in my garden, along with a lime, and lemon – and even though it is winter here in Adelaide, they are covered in fruit.

I will of course be making marmalade – as I find it a useful bribe tool. I was also thinking of creating an orange cake using a Seville orange – but am concerned that the extreme bitteness of this variety of orange may work against me.

can you help?

A: Hi and thanks for your question. How nice that you have your own Seville orange tree, and winter is the season for citrus. You are correct that, as an extremely bitter and sour fruit, Seville orange must be approached with caution. It is not eaten out of hand (as you know, of course), but contributes its peel to marmalade, its essential oils to various extracts, its flowers to some orange flower waters, and its juice to sour marinades widely enjoyed throughout Central America and Cuba. The peel of the Seville orange, being especially rich in pectin, is the archetypical marmalade component. I have mixed feelings about marmalade – I like the idea of marmalade, and I’ll eat it if it’s the only preserve someone sets before me, but it always strikes me as both too sweet and too bitter. But, you know, I love soft boiled eggs and many people hate those, so whatever.

On to your question about Seville orange cake. We don’t have Seville oranges here in the States, at least not without resorting to special order, but I am quite certain that you can make a delicious cake with Seville orange, as long as you are careful to use only the zest and juice, and not the bitter pith (the white part of the peel).

The recipe below is an adaptation of a lemon olive oil cake I make from time to time (and usually serve with whipped cream and blackberries). I assume you have no specific intention to use up a lot of Seville oranges through cakemaking since you will need one, and maybe at most two, oranges for this cake.

Seville orange and olive oil cake

The ground almond mixture complements the olive oil and oranges, making this cake reminiscent of Andalucía. If you want a lighter cake, though, feel free to use cake flour only.

1 1/2 c olive oil – if you like, an olive oil infused with orange will make this cake super orangey
1 2/3 c granulated sugar
10 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/2 c cake flour, sifted
1/2 c almond flour (ground almond), sifted
three Seville oranges

Oven 350F/176C.

Grease and flour 2 9″ cake pans.

Zest the oranges and set aside. Juice the oranges and set aside 2 tbsp.

Sift together the cake flour, almond flour, and salt, and stir in the zest with a fork.

In a stand mixer, or by hand if you don’t have a mixer, beat the egg yolks and half of the sugar together until thick and light. Add the olive oil and juice, and beat in briefly until just combined. The mixture will appear curdled. Fold in the flour mixture.

Transfer contents to another bowl. Clean the beaters and the mixing bowl well, making sure they are free of egg yolk and oil, and are dry. Beat the egg whites, adding remaining sugar slowly once the whites have foamed. Once you have soft peaks (which droop over when you remove the beaters), bordering on stiff peaks, turn off the mixer. In a stand mixer this may happen very quickly. Fold the egg whites into the batter 1/3 at a time.

Divide the batter evenly between both pans and tap lightly on the counter to release excess bubbles. Bake on the center rack, rotating once halfway through baking. Bake about 25-30 minutes until a cake tester in the center comes out clean.

Cool on a rack about 15 minutes and then release from the pan to complete cooling.

I would serve this with a lightly sweetened whipped cream and a few thyme leaves (honey instead of the sugar in the cream is delicious).

One thought on “Bitter fruit.

  1. Pingback: Seville. « The Upstart Kitchen

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