Tuesday, January 27, 2009

recipe: clementine cake

Over my blissfully long MLK weekend, my roommate and I had a few friends over for analog games, and Darrell made chili, and I decided to try out the clementine cake recipe that smitten kitchen posted a couple weeks ago. It's the sort of recipe that's irresistible to me… whole citrus! Ground almonds! Addition to my gluten-free repertoire! Whole citrus! (I think zest belongs in pretty much everything. I sometimes eat raw lemons. If I weren't hypoglycemic, I'd drink orange juice every day. I lived in Florida for 14 years, and I miss having such easy access to all that awesome.)

It didn't come out edible in time for said friends to try it -- the suggested cooking time was pretty wide open, and I was using silicone bakeware for the first time ever, so it needed a bunch longer in the oven than I thought it would -- but it came out pretty well eventually!

It's dairy-free and gluten-free, and tastes really sharply of citrus, and is extra rad with chocolate ganache (which I've never tried to make dairy-free, but I'm certain is possible with nondairy cream and butter substitutes, as most high-cocoa chocolate contains no milk solids). Bitter is one of my favorite flavors (and emotions!), and when you do this cake +ganache, it has my new favorite trifecta O' bitter: citrus, almonds, and chocolate. The texture is really fluffy-light and creamy with a bit of grit from the almonds -- something more like a flourless torte or a cheesecake than a cakey cake texture.

Clementine Cake
Adapted from smitten kitchen, who adapted it from Nigella Lawson


5 whole clementines (rinsed and stems removed, but that's it)
5 eggs
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
2 1/3 cups ground blanched almonds/almond meal (250 grams, or 0.55 lb)*
1 c. plus 2 tbsp white sugar (225 grams, or 0.5 lb)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp rum or brandy (optional)

Optional ganache:
1/3 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 tbsp cream
1/4 tbsp butter

Optional glaze:
1/4 c. powdered (aka confectioner's) sugar
1 tsp cream
1 tsp rum or brandy


Place your clementines in a pot, cover with water (enough so that they're floating an inch or so off the bottom), and heat to a boil. Turn the heat down to a steady, strong simmer and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. (This will remove most of the bitterness from the fruit.) I used a lid with a steam escape, and liked the result… I never had to replenish the liquid, and the fruit unbitterified fairly well. If you don't have a steam escape lid, just crack the lid a bit? After the 2 hours, drain the clementines and allow to cool.

Now is a good time to measure out the rest of your ingredients.

Halve the clementines and remove any seeds, then blend (or chop) very fine. I opted for pretty much complete liquification in my blender, as I've learned that many people do not enjoy chunks of rind in their desserts.

Now is a good time to preheat your oven to 375, and butter a 9" round cake pan. If you're using a springform, line the buttered bottom with parchment paper and butter the paper. (For the strictly non-dairy cake, other methods of greasing would work fine.)

Beat your eggs (I got a good froth going, but didn't beat them stiff… about 2 minutes with a hand beater. They probably could've used an extra minute). Add the sugar, ground almonds, clementine gunk, and baking powder, and mix well. (Unlike most cakes, this doesn't have flour content that'll turn to glue if mixed too hard, so you can use a hand blender for this step, too. Just don't go nuts -- the batter should be smooth, not cowering before your fist of might.)

[If you measured your almond meal by weight, you MIGHT want to add an extra egg. I measured by measuring cup, and used six eggs, and the batter was way runny -- which is why I've put 5 eggs in my directions. If the batter is too thick/stiff to pour -- more like cookie dough than cake batter -- you'll definitely want to beat and then stir in an additional egg.]

Pour into your prepared pan, and bake for 35+ minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. If you notice a lot of browning on top but the insides are still sticky around 30 minutes, cover with tinfoil and continue baking. (I've heard varying reports about the cooking time needed. I used a silicone pan, set on a baking sheet for stability, and probably could've gone all the way to 45 or 50 minutes before it was done.) Allow to cool as completely as possible before removing from pan.


To make ganache the real way, set your chocolate and butter in a double-boiler over low heat. Separately, heat cream to nearly boiling (ie, steaming, and bubbling just a bit), and then pour hot cream over chocolate & butter, and stir until melted and smooth.

To make ganache the easy way, dump everything in a small bowl and microwave for maybe 15 seconds, and then stir until melted and smooth. (It won't temper correctly with the easy way, so it won't have quite the same texture or shine, but it'll still be yummy.)

For the glaze, just stir everything together in a small dish, microwave for maybe 10 seconds to help get the lumps out, and stir until smooth.

Pollock the chocolate over the cake with a spatula or spoon, and when it's got as much on there as you think it should have, Pollock on less of the glaze. Cover and refrigerate to set the chocolate.

* I found ground almond meal in the bulk section of my local Whole Foods for $7.50/lb., which sounds terrible until you consider that I used <0.5 lbs in this recipe, and that I hate grinding almonds (I don't have a good food processor, and it's a pain to do in my blender, and I can't imagine wanting this cake enough to do that much grinding in a handheld coffee grinder). Check around -- it's out there! "Blanched" just means "skins removed".

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