My family makes fun of me on Passover because I don’t like matzo balls. “How can you NOT like matzo balls?” someone will ask at which point my mother will say that I am not her biological child. My cousin doesn’t mind. She sits next to me and loots my bowl.
But I finally redeemed myself by making the best Passover dessert ever–Claudia Roden’s Orange and Almond Cake from her book A Book of Middle Eastern Food (Vintage Books, A Division of Random House) . According to Claudia, Sephardic Jews in Spain and Portugal (lands of citrus!) have been baking this cake since (at least) the 14th century. And when you taste it, you’ll know why! Made with ground almonds instead of flour and whole boiled oranges, the cake is flavorful, rich, butter-less, gluten-free and impossible to botch: Says Claudia “These moist rather flat cakes, half pudding half cake never fail. If they are undercooked, they make a fine desert with cream. They are far too moist ever to be over cooked or dry up.”
Why this is a great cake to make for a crowd: 1) It is SO easy to make 2) It requires only 5 (readily available!) ingredients 3) It can be made ahead 4) It can be plated and served quickly and 4) This is one of the most delicious cakes EVER.
Big batch cooking tips: The recipe for the cake can be doubled or even tripled but you may need to puree the oranges in batches depending on the size of your food processor. As noted above, the cakes are very moist and can be made up to 2 days ahead of time, wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature. You can also cook the oranges a day ahead of cooking the cake which will save you time as well.
Claudia Roden’s Orange and Almond Cake
This is the original recipe from the book with slight edits for style (changing the word “pips” to seeds though pips is a great word!). As noted above, you will need to set aside 2 hours to boil the oranges. When making the cake for Passover, she recommends dusting the pans with finely ground matzo meal instead of flour. Serve with a big dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream.
Wash and boil the whole (unpeeled) oranges in water to cover for nearly 2 hours. Let them cool, then cut them open and remove the seeds. Puree the oranges in a food processor. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, including the orange puree, and mix thoroughly and pour into a buttered and floured (or matzo meal dusted) cake tin, with a removable base if possible. Bake for one hour, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the tin before turning out.