Food & dining

The confident cook

Recipe: Not every Valentine swoons over chocolate, which is where this citrus-almond cake comes in

Citrus-almond cake
Sheryl Julian for The Boston Globe
Citrus-almond cake

Not every Valentine swoons over chocolate, which is where this citrus-almond cake comes in. The fat is olive oil; aromatics come from both orange and lemon rind. There is no wheat flour, but instead breadcrumbs mixed with finely ground almonds (labeled “almond flour” in markets and available in the specialty flour section). This cake is an example of the Moorish influences on modern Spanish cooking. Although the North African Moors occupied the Iberian Peninsula in ancient times, some of their methods are still used today. After baking, brush the cake with a citrus syrup infused with cinnamon stick, star anise, and cardamom. It produces a thin round with lots of flavor. The recipe comes from Claire Murray-Walker, co-owner with her husband, Tim, of Casa Olea in Andalusia, in southern Spain. She makes it often and served it to me when I stayed at their inn. And I swooned.

Citrus-almond cake

Makes one 9-inch round

CAKE

Butter (for the pan)
Flour (for the pan)
1cup plain white breadcrumbs (made from stale white bread; do not using coating crumbs such as panko)
¾cup granulated sugar
cups almond flour (or very finely ground almonds)
1teaspoon baking powder
½teaspoon salt
Grated rind of 1 Navel orange
Grated rind of 1 lemon
3eggs
cup olive oil
2tablespoons sliced almonds

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1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch layer cake pan. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper cut to fit it and butter the paper. Dust the pan with flour and tap out the excess.

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2. In a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients, use a wooden spoon to stir the breadcrumbs, sugar, almond flour, baking powder, salt, and orange and lemon rind to blend them.

3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and olive oil.

4. With the spoon, stir the egg mixture into the breadcrumb mixture until well blended. Transfer the batter to the pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

5. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until it is set and browned.

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6. Set the cake on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Use a blunt knife to loosen the cake from the edges of the pan. Turn the cake upside down onto a sheet of waxed paper. Then turn it right side up onto a cake plate.

SYRUP

2tablespoons lemon juice
¼cup orange juice
¼cup sugar
1stick cinnamon
8pods cardamom
2star anise
2tablespoons sliced almonds

1. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the lemon and orange juice, sugar, cinnamon stick, cardamom, and anise. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

2. Remove the cinnamon, cardamom, and anise from the syrup.

3. Spoon the syrup all over the cake until it is all used. Leave the cake to cool completely.

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4. In a dry skillet, toast the almonds, shaking the pan constantly and turning the almonds often, for 3 minutes, or until they are brown.

5. Sprinkle the browned almonds on the cake. Serve with whipped cream, if you like.
Sheryl Julian. Adapted from Casa Olea,
Andalusia, Spain

Sheryl Julian can be reached at sheryl.julian@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.