I have been on a cake bender lately. My cakes of choice have been those that have copious amounts of citrus and/or nuts. There is something about this time of year that begs for tea and a simple, elegant cake. I started with this one and was totally hooked on the simplicity but depth of flavor provided by toasted walnuts. Then, I made this one and thought I might pass out from the sheer deliciousness of the bright-tart-sweet-slightly-bitter flavor of whole oranges and lemons.
My recent cake obsession culminated in this Flourless Citrus-Almond cake. This cake cuts to the chase and dispenses with flour in favor of blanched almonds finely ground in the food processor. There is no butter or oil. Instead, egg yolks provide richness and some fat while whipped egg whites are folded in to create a lovely light texture. The flavoring is equally as simple, lemon and orange zest and a hint of cinnamon. The result is a flavorful cake that makes a delicious breakfast treat in place of the usual coffee cake, pairs beautifully with afternoon tea, or can be served to guests as a sophisticated dessert.
If you source your ingredients carefully, this cake is gluten-free. You can serve the cake unadorned with a small scoop of almond ice cream, with some whipped cream, or make a simple citrus glaze to spread over the top. I served mine with a glaze made from the juice of an orange and a teaspoon of lemon juice. I mixed the juices with about 8 tbls of powdered sugar, until it reached a spreadable consistency. I spread it on top of the cooled cake before serving.
The only other modification I might make the next time I make this cake is to cut back on the sugar. There are only 8 tbls of sugar but the finished cake was pretty sweet. I think it would be nice to reduce the sugar by a couple of tbls to let the flavor of the citrus and almonds shine through even more.
Flourless Almond-Citrus Cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit “Tastes of the World” Cookbook*
1 1/3 cups blanched slivered almonds
8 tbls sugar, divided
4 large eggs, divided
3 tsp packed grated lemon peel
2 tsp packed grated orange peel
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-inch diameter cake pan with 1 1/2-inch high sides. Use almond meal to “flour” the cake pan. If you don’t have almond meal, you can use all-purpose flour (however, the cake will not be gluten-free any more). Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment or waxed paper.
Place the almonds and 2 tbls of sugar in a food processor and process until the almonds are finely ground (you want the mixture to be the approximate texture of sand). Set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer, combine egg yolks, 2 tbls of sugar, orange and lemon peel, cinnamon, and salt. Beat until thick and smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in almond mixture. Using clean beaters (and a spotlessly clean large bowl) beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 4 tbls sugar, beating until stiff but not dry.
Fold a large spoonful of the whites into the almond mixture until combined. Gently fold in remaining whites.
Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake until a tested inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Turn out onto platter and remove parchment paper.
Glaze, top with whipped cream or jam, or serve plain. Makes about 8 servings.
* This is not the actual Tastes of the World cookbook, this is the small, free version Bon Appetit sends when you get a new subscription