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Caramel orange cake, for Sweet New Zealand

August 15, 2011

Here’s my simplified riff on Ottolenghi’s stunningly beautiful orange polenta cake. Mine’s probably not vastly tastier, but it is easier – no polenta or almond flour here. You can use pretty much any cake batter you want though, the most exciting bit is the topping. You make the caramel, and this prevents the cake sticking to the bottom of the pan nicely too. Then you lay orange slices over, the batter goes on top, and while it cooks it soaks up the caramel and a bit of the orangey flavour and is wonderful.

Unfortunately I cut and snapped this the day after it was baked, so it looks rather stodgy, but it’s surprisingly moist and fluffy when warmed up a little. I really wish I’d gotten to eat some on the day of baking, because it was surreal-ly soft in comparison, but oh well. Lesson learnt. Make then eat, and preferably don’t leave in a freezing kitchen. It’s a problem with most butter cakes, so I suppose you could try using half oil half butter instead if you’re wanting to guarantee softness the next day.

This cake also represents sweet success after 3 attempts at getting the caramel & cake combos right. It’s not a very interesting story, but the lesson is that you shouldn’t use blond sugar in place of white sugar for making caramel. Also, I’ve given up on polenta cakes. Lastly, when making wet caramel, don’t use a pan that’s too large – you want things to boil rather than sautee if that makes sense.

I was too excited about eating this to bother, but I would strongly recommend something creamy to eat alongside. Ice cream, mascarpone, or a little mild thick yogurt would do wonders. A few other tips with regards to making this:

  • If you have a metal oven-friendly saucepan about 8″ wide, use that instead of a cake tin and only line the side with paper or foil. This will mean your cake is unwrinkled on the sides and doesn’t leak caramel.
  • If using a springform tin, bake in a roasting dish to catch any caramel that seeps out (which it likely will…not much though).
  • If you don’t like the bitterness in oranges at all, then segment your orange pieces to remove all the white bits (but please don’t waste as much of the orange as the lady does in the video!). You’ll be surprised at the amount of bitterness even just from the white bits in between the segments. Keep the segments thin though (you may even want to cut them in half). Use a very sharp knife or you will end up with pulp and juice all over your counter!

This is my contribution to this month’s Sweet event, organised by Alessandra, another fantastic NZ food blog. Can’t wait to see what other confections people have been cooking up!

Caramel orange cake

makes one 8″ cake

Caramel orange topping

  • 1 orange, segmented or peeled and sliced (zest it first for the cake, then proceed to remove the pith)
  • 90g white sugar (pref caster)
  • 2 Tbs water
  • 20g unsalted butter, cubed

Sour cream cake

  •  115g unsalted butter, softened*
  • 3/4c -1c caster sugar (3/4c results in a mildly sweet cake)
  • 2 large eggs, pref at room temp (about 20C)
  • 225g sour cream, pref at room temp (or thick greek-style yogurt, or Clearwater’s yogurt. I used half sour cream, half yogurt, but it does work well with all sour cream)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 1 1/4 c plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
*To do this easily in Winter I chuck the bowl in a cold oven, turn the oven to preheat it, and leave things in there for 5-10 mins. However, you do need an ovenproof bowl.
Grease only the sides of your casserole dish or cake tin.
Place water and sugar for the topping in a small white/metal (not with black interior) saucepan and heat on medium heat until the bubbling mixture turns golden brown. Add in the cubes of butter, holding the pan far away from you. The mixture will bubble up furiously, tilt to mix and once it stops bubbling madly, whisk the melted butter and sugar together. Pour into your greased cake tin (start pouring near the edge and pour around, as it will harden quickly). Place orange pieces on top in a pretty pattern.
Preheat oven to 170C (340F).
Beat butter until pale, then gradually beat in sugar until the mixture is almost white. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in sour cream and vanilla until just incorporated. Sift over dry ingredients and fold through until just incorporated. Spoon dollops of batter on top of orange pieces, trying not to move them. Smooth the top out and pop in the oven for about an hour, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. If the cake’s not cooked but the top is brown, cover with a piece of foil or baking paper.
Cool for about twenty minutes before removing the outside (or running a knife around if using a casserole pan) and flipping over onto a plate, very quickly or the cake will slide out instead.
Serve at room temperature** with something creamy!
**Heat a slice on med low in your microwave for about 1 minute to bring it back to life.
6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 16, 2011 1:32 am

    That’s from the day before? I think the crumb looks fantastic. Great recipe.

  2. August 16, 2011 8:47 am

    Thank you Zo, what a fantastic entry :-). Since I am Italian I could have this without something creamy alongside, these are the kind of cakes that we eat slice by slice with hands, sitting on the porch or dipping it in our caffellatte. My husband, the Kiwi, would probably have cream or yogurt with it, and a plate and a fork… so strange eh! (for me).


  3. August 16, 2011 1:07 pm

    R: Thanks! I definitely still prefer it warmed up a little though.

    A: Cheers for organising! Did not know this cake was for eating with hands…I hate getting greasy hands (it makes baking quite a mission sometimes) so I sympathise with your husband! Never thought to have it with coffee, but now that you mention it….

  4. mairi29 permalink
    August 22, 2011 5:23 pm

    Caramel, orange & cake all together sounds just about perfect. It would certainly make a wonderful dessert :)

  5. August 31, 2011 3:32 pm

    Lovely combination, I can tell :)

  6. June 10, 2012 10:20 am

    Just found this through Sweet NZ – can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before! Oranges travel and keep really well so they are good for ordering with the food mail up here! I LOVE that you don’t bother with fancy pants flour (as much as I love almond meal), and I always have yoghurt on hand, never sour cream so again, brilliance. Thanks Zo!

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