At long last, Christmas is over...it's the 12th Day, the 12th Night, the Day of Epiphany. I'm taking a break from putting Christmas away just long enough to write this post and tell you about an amazing cake - one you really should bake soon! Usually all we've ever done on this day is take down Christmas with an air of sadness that it's all over. But this year things are different and taking down Christmas is not a cause for sadness at all! Why's that you ask? Well, thank you, let me tell you...The 12th Day of Christmas is the beginning of Carnival Season!!! (I'm talking Mardi Gras not cruise ship!) It's also the beginning of King Cake Season...yes, it's true, I'm not making that up! People, I'm not sure which people but people nonetheless, bake cakes and into each cake they put a bean. When the cake is served the person who gets the bean is crowned King of the Bean and then they must provide the next King Cake and on and on it goes until Mardi Gras begins in February. King of the Bean, a title worth having, no? And a slice of cake every day...my kind of livin'! So listen up, there is always something to celebrate! Feel free to quote me.
Also on this day, the people of Manitou Springs, Colorado have their annual Fruitcake Toss - wouldn't that be hysterical? We Yanks like fruit and cake, but we just don't like them together...One year I'm going to go to that, it's on my Bucket List! In some parts of the world the 12th Night is reserved for balls and dancing and weddings! Who knew?!? Plus many churches offer blessings to their congregants on the 12th Night so they'll have prosperity and health in the new year...I kind of like that idea - I could use a blessing of prosperity and health! In lieu of all that, let's just go with King Cake Season and bake up a great cake, shall we?
This is the perfect cake to celebrate the end of Christmas and the beginning of King Cake Season - it's full of almonds and oranges and was loved by almost everyone who it was served to...it was disliked by one person who didn't like nuts (sad for them) and another thought it was too grainy (um, that would be the ground almonds that were nutty, not grainy) and another thought it was just weird but had no problem licking their plate. I happened to love it - it's different - it's unique - it's a surprisingly rich cake - a small slice will do ya!
The cake itself is good enough to stand on it's own, a nice slice in the afternoon with a cuppa would be the perfect pick-me-up. I decided to top the cake with orange curd which sent it into another realm of cakedom...nutty and creamy...need I say more? Well I will, because on top of the curd is sweetened whipped cream so you've got the chewy, nutty cake, then the thick creamy curd topped with fluffy whipped cream...it's a tasty-textural-palooza-of-a dessert!
The cake came out of the oven looking so great...this recipe makes one 10-inch cake. I let the cake sit in the pan a bit too long so when I turned it out the edges failed to obey my command...no worries...I ate the edges and when the cake was cool I put it on my prettiest antique cake plate. I don't know how it happened but right after the cake hit the plate I dropped the whole thing on the counter...breaking the cake plate and the cake in two...I salvaged half of the cake and said a quick prayer that it would be free from glass!
I'm so sad about my cake plate...I really, really liked it! But back to what's left of the cake...while the cake was in the oven (for an hour) I made the orange curd and whipped the cream. It all gets assembled once the cake is cooled. This cake is very rich so big slices aren't necessary - you'll get at least 12 or more servings.
Pitiful presentation. I should be embarrassed. Oh well...that was the least embarrassing thing that happened to me that day!
I hope you can look past that picture and that you'll give this cake a try. I've made this twice in the span of a week because it's worth the calories, besides, I happen to subscribe to the theory that a little slice of cake in the middle of the day will make anything better, even taking down Christmas...which at our house means filling and stacking 12 huge bins full of Christmas crap. Ho-ho-ho.
Almond-Orange Cake - Pots and Pins - Inspired by Nigella Lawson's Clementine Cake
For the Cake:
2 large oranges, quartered (or 3 medium oranges)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/3 cups almonds, ground until fine but not into a paste (measure almonds after grinding)
2 heaping teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Curd:
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
zest from 1 large orange
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons good vanilla extract
Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter and line a 10-inch baking pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl beat the eggs. Add the sugar, ground almonds, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Add the chopped oranges and stir well. Pour cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour or until a wooden toothpick stuck into the center of the cake comes out clean. (I baked my cake for about an hour and 15 minutes but my oven is on the fritz again.) After 30 minutes place a piece of foil over the top of the cake, loosely, to keep it from getting too brown. Remove cake from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and then invert onto a rack to cool completely.
To assemble cake: Spread about 3/4 cup of the orange curd over the top of the cake. Top the curd with whipped cream. Optional: zest another orange on top of whipped cream. Serves 12 or more. I like this cake better after it's been refrigerated - the flavors seem to stand out more, but it's good cold or at room temp.