Orange and Almond Cake – 5 Gluten Free Recipes

Orange and almond flourless cake was the first gluten free cake I had after coeliac diagnosis and it was the first cake I started to make myself.

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I tried the classic recipe from a famous cookbook. The recipe included 6 eggs and comparatively small amount of almond meal, and it did not work. I took the idea of a simple mix of 4 main ingredients – pureed cooked oranges, eggs, sugar, and almond meal,  and created several cake varieties over the years. I baked them often, tried different approaches and ingredients, and finally came up with 5 main recipes, which I still use. They are:

  1. Flourless orange and almond cake
  2. Orange and almond cake with a touch of rice flour (my favourite)
  3. Orange, almond and polenta cake
  4. Orange, almond and poppy seed cake (another favourite)
  5. Orange, almond and cottage cheese cake (the latest recipe)

I use all these recipes to bake cakes with different shapes. I also make slices,  muffins, or even mini-muffins, plain or with added berries.

 

1. Flourless Orange and Almond Cake

I rarely use this recipe to bake a cake. I use it mainly for plain muffins, or blueberry muffins.

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main ingredients for 19cm round cake, 12 muffins or 24+ mini muffins

  • 200g cooked orange puree
  • 150-170g almond meal, sifted, (quantity depends on the consistency of orange puree)
  • 150g sugar
  • 2 eggs

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This recipe can produce cakes with variety of density and texture. It mainly depends on the moisture content in orange puree, as well as on the size of oranges used. It can also happen when quantities of ingredients are measured in cups, and orange puree is not measured at all.

 

2. Orange and Almond Cake

This recipe is my favourite. It gives a reliable consistent texture of the cake.  It has the flexibility to take up to 230-250g of orange puree, without the cake becoming too wet and dense. This flexibility is the result of the tiny amount of rice flour added to the cake batter.

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main ingredients for 19cm round cake, 3 mini Bundt cakes, 6 mini loaf cakes

  • 200g cooked orange puree (1 medium orange)
  • 25g fine rice flour (2 table spoons)
  • 150g almond meal, sifted
  • 150g sugar
  • 2 eggs

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I use this recipe to bake 16cm, 25cm cakes, ring cakes, different shape mini cakes and muffins. Addition of rice flour provides reliability of the outcome. With this recipe I never weigh orange puree, just use 1 orange for 2 eggs recipe, and 2 oranges for 4 eggs recipe.

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The cake is moist and soft and does not dry out even on a third day without refrigeration. It is also not heavy, dense and too wet, as they often are in the cake shops and patisseries.

 

3. Orange, Almond and Polenta Cake

This is the easiest recipe for orange and almond cake. The reduction of almond meal portion and partial substitution with polenta, make the cake lighter, drier and structurally more resistant. Even if your orange puree is too wet, you will never end up with the wet cake with sinking center of the cake. Polenta absorbs any extra moisture, but still allows the cake to stay moist enough. Another advantage of this cake that it is lighter in calories.

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main ingredients for 20cm square cake (slice)

  • 200g cooked orange puree
  • 70g quick or instant polenta
  • 100g almond meal, sifted
  • 150g sugar
  • 2 eggs

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The texture of orange and almond cake with polenta is more fluffy and airy, but also strong to tolerate take-away wrapping for later consumption. It served me well when I had to take some food with me for the long day out of the house, when I was reluctant to risk eating out.

 

4. Orange, Almond and Poppy Seed Cake

In this recipe, including poppy seeds not only gives a slightly different taste to the cake, but also plays the role of additional dry ingredient, absorbing extra moisture and leaving the cake moist, but with a lighter texture at the same time.

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main ingredients for 19cm round cake

  • 200g cooked orange puree
  • 3 table spoons of poppy seeds
  • 150g almond meal, sifted
  • 150g sugar
  • 2 eggs

I use this recipe to make individual muffins with either orange glaze or white chocolate icing.

 

5. Orange, Almond and Cottage Cheese Cake

This recipe of orange and almond cake is my latest version of the cake. I created this recipe when I started to review my approach to all deserts, including cakes. My goal was to make them more nutritionally balanced with inclusion of extra protein ingredients, reducing fat and sugar contents, and generally trying to make lighter deserts without compromising their taste.

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main ingredients for 25cm round cake

  • 250g cooked orange puree
  • 200g cottage/ricotta cheese
  • 50g fine rice flour
  • 250g almond meal, sifted
  • 250g sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated

This is the only orange and almond cake recipe which uses separated eggs. The flavour of this cake is not as intensely orange as in previous cakes, but the texture is nearly identical to the cake No 2. It is achieved by whipping eggs whites with sugar separately and carefully folding them into cake batter. This is the most delicate recipe to make and demands extra care watching the batter not to be too wet or overworked.

extra or optional (personal preference) ingredients for all recipes

  • almond/orange essence
  • vanilla extract or vanilla sugar, best to use in polenta cake (orange flavour  dominates in other cakes and vanilla flavour is usually lost)
  • gluten free baking powder (I usually do not use it)
  • unsalted butter/oil spray for baking pan
  • sliced almonds for decoration, applied before baking
  • icing sugar for dusting the cake
  • orange marmalade/orange glaze/orange syrup
  • candied orange peel
  • chocolate ganache
  • chocolate icing

 

General remarks about cake preparation

Cooking oranges

I wash oranges, put them in cold water and cook them in simmering water for 1 hour. I do not change water, but if you have concerns about chemical residues, please do, or alternatively use organic oranges. After 1 hour I cut oranges in quarters and let them completely cool down, before processing them into puree in food processor. I like a coarse puree with small chunks, to provide extra texture. The consistency of orange puree differs, it can be quite wet and runny, as well as more dense and thick. It depends on the type of oranges and the thickness of their skin.

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Orange puree usually gets a touch thicker when stored refrigerated overnight. It can be prepared in advance, stored refrigerated for 1-3 days and can be frozen. I did not notice any differences in a cake when orange puree was used after defrosting.

Eggs 

I separate eggs only for my latest version of orange and almond cake with cottage cheese as another semi dry filler. It substantially increases protein content in the cake and makes the cake healthier from the nutritional point of view. With cottage or ricotta cheese in the cake batter, I incorporate eggs whites, whipped separately with sugar until stiff peaks, at the very end.

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On average, I do not use baking powder. I have found, that the cake rises well without it. But feel free to use 1 level tea spoon of gluten free baking powder for a 25cm cake with 4 eggs. Beating whole eggs with sugar, either with hand-held mixer, or bench mixer, is enough to create rising power of the batter.

Cake shape

Orange and almond cake is baked from reasonably wet batter.  Ring shape baking pans, similar to Bundt cake pans are the best to achieve the moist, but not dense and heavy texture, and make the cake airy and fluffy.

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It is also very easy to bake muffins from this batter. However, without adding gluten free flours (rice, corn or commercial mixes) as an extra ingredient, you will get flat muffins without typical muffin tops.

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Special precautions have to be taken for the big 25cm round cake with 4 eggs, even more so, if 6 eggs are used to make the bigger and higher cake. I have discovered, that the best results are achieved when baking is started in a cold oven set up for 170 degrees.  The cake rises to make level surface, cake sides are not burned and become bitter, while the middle of the cake does not sink in, when the cake is cooling down.

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Orange and almond cake with polenta has the most resilient texture and never develops any problems during baking. It comes very handy to bake it in square cake pan, cut it in slices and use as easy desert for picnics.

Baking

I bake muffins, ring shape or mini loaf shape cakes in preheated to 165 degrees fan forced oven in the middle level of the oven. The time depends on the size of the cake or muffins, and is usually 30-40min. However, when I bake flat round cake 19cm, 25cm or any square cake/slices, I place springform baking pan in the cold fan forced oven set to 170 degrees. The temperature  reaches 170 degrees in 15 min and the whole baking process takes 55 min for 25cm cake, or 50 min for a smaller cake. Cold start baking provides even level cake without cracks or splits in the middle, does not burn sides of the cake and allows the cake to rise slowly and evenly. It also gives wonderful crunch to the cake crust. I use unsalted butter for the bottom and sides of springform baking pans. I dust the bottom of the pan with rice flour, and sides of the pan with regular granulated sugar.

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I use granulated sugar to dust the bottom of the square tin when I bake the cake to use in slices, when the bottom becomes the top. I do the same when using mini baking moulds. I butter and dust with granulated sugar the whole surface of the pan. Granulated sugar dusting of the buttered cake tin and cold baking start make the side crust hard and crunchy, it looks even, minimizing imperfections. This crust, however, needs longer time to develop and is at it’s best with the cold start of baking.

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When I suspect that the middle of the 25cm cake might need extra several minutes in the oven, but the sides are already done, I remove the side portion of the springform baking pan and leave the cake on the bottom of the springform in the oven at a lower temperature (140 degrees) to dry out.

Cake and muffin toppings

The cake has several topping options:

  • dusting with icing sugar

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  • dusting with icing sugar over sliced almonds applied before baking

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  • using orange marmalade or special orange glaze on a hot cake directly from the oven

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  • orange glaze can be plain or include orange peel

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  • using chocolate ganache or another type of chocolate icing on a hot cake or muffins directly from the oven

Serving

The flavour of orange and almond cake is quite vibrant and intense. Because it is a moist cake, which does not dry out for 2-3 days, it can be served on its own. But a scoop of vanilla ice-cream or a dollop of clotted cream will definitely enhance the taste sensation in your mouth.

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