A weekend is always a breath of fresh air a midst a stuffy itinerary of papers, events, and due dates; and I am not about to let it slip by without the addition of some sweet memories. Something wintry and bright, and maybe with a bit of spice would be surely very nice, but continuing with my love for simplicity, the flavours are kept to the bare minimum, and as whole as possible. The ingredient list has five bullets: whole almonds, whole clementines, and whole free-range eggs with naturally sweet honey and organic agave nectar.
I’ve been planning this cake for a long time now, the almonds had been ground a month ago, and the clementines boiled last week (they’ve been chillin’ in the fridge), and finally thanks to, and in celebration of a long weekend, the cake materialized.
This cake reminds me much of a Japanese honey castella cake because of its moist, saturated crumb that’s simultaneously airy and spongy. Yet, because of the ground almonds, the texture gains a rustic personality. The honey’s floral tones are subtle, but more importantly gives the cake a deceptive mouth feel of having been soaked in syrup. Whole clementines not only contribute to the citrus fragrance and a warm color, but also adds spiciness bearing resemblance to that of cardamom and cinnamon. The whipped egg whites give the cake structure and lightness, making it almost a chiffon.
To serve, I included a garnish of candied clementines, which can be baked with the cake.
It’s always nice to have oranges in the New Year (and in general), for good luck (and good health)!
Ingredients for the clementine cake:
5 to 6 clementines (454 g), boiled for 2 hrs, cooled
1/2 cup honey
2 tbsp organic agave nectar
2 1/3 cups ground almonds (from whole almonds, not blanched)*
6 eggs at room temperature, separated
1 tsp white vinegar (optional, this stabilizes the meringue)
To make the clementine cake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, with the rack positioned in the middle of the oven. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.
Remove the seeds from the boiled clementines, then place in the blender with honey, agave, ground almonds, and the egg yolks and puree until smooth and pour into a large bowl, set aside. Beat the egg whites (with the vinegar, if using) until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture a third at a time, working quickly but gently so as to not deflate the meringue, until even.
Pour into the prepared pan, then draw a big circle, using a skewer, in the batter. This will help rearrange the air pockets to ensure even rising. Bake for 65 to 70 minutes, or until the center is set when gently jiggled. Let cool for 2 minutes before running a knife along the side of the pan to loosen the cake; this prevents the cake from tearing. Cool completely.
Ingredients for the candied clementines:
2 clementines, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
pinch of ground cardamom
Begin making the candied clementines as soon as you put the cake in the oven. Position a second rack just below the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sprinkle the sugar into a shallow bowl. Dip the clementine slices in the sugar, three times per side, and place on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with a pinch of cardamom. Bake on the lower rack for 50~55 minutes (also at 325 degrees F), or until crisp and caramelized. Cool completely.
Serve the cake the day after you make it at room temperature; as with most cakes it tastes better once it’s rested. Garnish with a candied clementine slice and a drizzle of chocolate sauce (stir together dutch cocoa powder with agave nectar to desired consistency).
*to make your own ground almonds, roughly chop raw whole almonds roughly and pulse in a food processor until it reaches the texture of cornmeal. Store in an airtight container. You don’t need it for this recipe, but you can also make your own almond flour by sifting ground almonds – the extra fine grains that manage to pass the sieve would be the almond flour.