I was introduced to blood orange quite late in life – I was 24 (I know!).
It was on my first day in Rome, Italy! My finance` (now hubby), Ben and I were on an adventure of a life time. We had left our jobs and home for an unspecified period of time to explore the world. We were both feeling a mixed bag of emotions – excited, nervous, happy, scared, apprehensive! Add to that, a 23hr flight from Australia and we were exhausted! My cousin, Italio, collected us from the airport and drove us straight to a café` where he bought us all a blood orange juice! He must have gathered that we were flat, because that blood orange juice brought me back to life! The taste I will never forget – slightly tart but less acidic than regular oranges, with a touch of sweetness. It was perfect, and that is where I started my love affair with blood oranges (and Roma).
Italians from southern Italy and especially Sicily are the ones credited for developing blood oranges from a humble piece of fruit to an icon of the Mediterranean lifestyle. Its appearance is magnificent – blemishes of red on the exterior and striking crimson flesh. Its noted as having a unique berry flavour and is high in nutritional value. The Australian blood orange season is short and sweet running from late August till October.
Consequently, I have experimented with the versatility of blood oranges – in salads (with feta cheese, red onion & fennel), gelato, granite, juiced and most recently in cakes! I came across a gorgeous cake recipe employing blood oranges – Blood Orange & Hazelnut Cake – in a past edition of the Gourmet Traveller. It was described as ‘a beautiful cake both in flavour and appearance that puts seasonal blood oranges on full display.’ And just so!! I baked this cake not long ago, on a weekend for some lovely ladies who attended one of my cooking class. Ben (hubby) and our little Freya were very disappointed that they wouldn’t be first to try and they expressed concern that there might not be any cake left! Their concerns were warranted, but I was kind enough to cut a few slices aside for them. The feedback was tremendous from all who sampled it! It’s one of those crowd pleasing cakes – visually beautiful and scrumptious in flavour.
The cake batter has a good deal of butter and sugar in it (probably a good thing that blood oranges are in season for a short period of time!), but it’s evened out with the additional ingredients of hazelnut meal, fine polenta, eggs, Greek style yoghurt and the rind & juice of blood oranges & lemons.
The topping of the cake is a cooked sugar syrup comprising of thinly cut slices of blood oranges & juice with sugar. The blood orange slices are then arranged, layered at the bottom of a lined cake tin with a portion of the syrup poured over the top. The cake batter is then poured smooth on top and placed in the oven to bake – in other words, the final result of an upside-down cake. Just a small note regarding layering of the blood orange slices at the base of the cake tin – the recipe I followed neglected to mention overlapping the slices a little to prevent the baked cake bursting through to the top. This is not a major issue, merely a preference of mine and the result of a beautiful looking cake
A beautiful cake both in flavour and appearance that puts seasonal blood oranges on full display.
30 minPrep Time
1 hr, 10 Cook Time
1 hr, 40 Total Time
300g Butter, unsalted, softened
400g Caster Sugar
2 Lemons, finely grated rind and juice
2 Blood Oranges, finely grated rind and juice
255g Hazelnut meal
165g Polenta (fine variety)
125g Greek-style yoghurt (plus extra to serve
150g Plain flour
220g Caster Sugar
125ml Blood orange juice
2 Blood oranges, unpeeled, thinly sliced, seeds discarded
- For blood orange topping, stir sugar and blood orange juice in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, add blood oranges slices and simmer until tender (10-12mins).
- Set aside to cool, then drain, reserving the syrup, and arrange orange slices (overlap the slices a little) in the base of a buttered 26cm diameter cake tin lined with baking paper.
- Pour 100ml of the syrup over and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 180c. Beat butter, sugar and rinds in an electric mixer until pale (2-3 mins). Set aside.
- In another bowl, combine hazelnut meal and polenta. Add half to the butter mixture and mix on low speed to combine.
- Add eggs one at a time to the butter mixture, mixing to combine and scraping down the sides of bowl between each addition.
- Add remaining hazelnut meal mixture, juices, yoghurt and flour, and stir gently to combine.
- Carefully spoon mixture into cake tin over oranges and syrup and spread gently to cover evenly. Smooth the top and place cake tin on a baking tray lined with aluminum foil (this is to preheat any syrup that may sip out of cake tin and onto your oven floor). Then bake until golden and a skewer inserted withdraws clean (50mins to 1 hour). NOTE cover with foil if cake colours too quickly.
- Set aside to cook briefly (10mins), then turn out carefully onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
- Serve with remaining syrup, warmed, and extra yogurt.
- It will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days.