When we lived in Rome, I’d buy blood oranges from Bruno, a fruttivendolo (greengrocer) in the Piazza San Cosimato, and my husband would squeeze fresh orange juice for me each morning. It was a ritual I missed when we moved back to the states. Sure you can find blood oranges here for a few weeks - oranges grown in California -- but they’re not nearly as good as those flavorful tarocchi oranges from Sicily.
Bruno and tarocchi oranges in the Piazza San Cosimato
What a surprise it was then on a recent trip to Costco, when I saw real tarocchi oranges from Sicily. I came home armed with a big bag of not only the tarocchi, but a bag of grapefruits, a pineapple and a huge papaya too.
Sadly, though, the oranges fell short of the flavorful citrus fruit I had in Italy, but then again, between the time it took to get them across the ocean to New Jersey, and the limited amount of fruit that two people can consume in a given time, the oranges may have reached their peak before I got to them.
So how to use up those oranges remaining in the fridge aside from a daily glass of juice? A quick perusal through my cookbooks and I turned up this cake in the Silver Palate Cookbook, which is listed twice, once as Orange Pecan Bread and again as Orange Cake (same recipe without the pecans).
I don’t know why these recipes are called “breads” at all since they’re clearly cake-like, not bread-like. But for some reason, whenever you put the batter into a loaf pan, they become “breads” in most recipe books. Well I’m resisting, sticking with the cake moniker here. This is not something you’d serve with dinner – it’s a dessert, or to be eaten with tea or coffee as a mid-day break.
The important thing though, is for you to try it. It is quite flavorful, great for storing in the freezer and easy to make. Well, you do have to beat the egg whites separately but even that is optional I discovered. The first time I made this, I dropped a bit of yolk into the white so I said, “oh forget it, I’ll just make it with whole eggs.” The cake came out fine. But I was curious to see what happened if you followed the recipe exactly and beat the whites and yolks separately. The result was a cake with a lovely “domed” center. I’ve provided photos of both versions so you can see for yourself if you want to go to the trouble of beating the white separately.
The recipe also calls for a sweet glaze to be poured over the top while the cake is hot. This glaze really enhances the orange flavor. I poked some holes into the surface of the cake before pouring the glaze on top. Since the tarocchi are blood oranges, the cake has a darker hue than normal, and the syrup streaming down the center in this photo is much more vivid in color than ordinary orange juice. This is a photo of the cake with the more “domed” top, made by beating the egg whites separately.
And this cake (as well as the first photo with the single slice on a plate) is the one made by beating the egg white and egg yolk together. Just as delicious, but a flatter top.
Either way, it’s worth making. You won’t be sorry.
Orange Pecan Cake
From The Silver Palate Cookbook
8 T. (1 stick) sweet butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, separated
grated rind of 2 oranges (I used blood oranges, or tarocchi from Sicily)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (about two oranges after straining out the pulp)
1 cup shelled pecans, chopped
1/4 cup sugar (I used a bit more sugar and a bit more orange juice too to get a little more glaze)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan.
- Cream the butter. Add 3/4 cup sugar gradually, beating with an electric mixer until light. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, and the grated orange rind.
- Sift the flour with baking powder, baking soda and salt, and add dry mixture to the batter alternately with 1/2 cup orange juice, beginning and ending with flour. Gently mix inthe pecans.
- Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them carefully into the batter.
- Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan, set on the middle rack of the oven, and bake for 50 to 60 minutes.
- Meanwhile make the glaze by heating the sugar and orange juice together in a sauepan and simmering gently for a few minutes until a light syrup forms. Spoon the hot syrup over the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.