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Flour Girl: Whole-Orange Baking

Whole Orange-Poppy Seed Cake. (James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post)

Inspired by a recent Free Range chatter who asked about kicking a cooking rut, I thumbed through some old cookbooks of mine. My suggestion had been to take stock of recipes already on hand instead of surfing the Web or buying food magazines. Most of us have plenty of material to choose from in the cookbooks on our shelves at home; I'll admit I have some recipe collections I have NEVER cooked from (for shame!).

Recipe Included

One baking book that falls into this category is "The Sweet Melissa Baking Book," by Melissa Murphy (Viking Studio, 2008). I had brought it home with the best of intentions. When I did at last crack it open, her Whole Orange-Poppy Seed Cake caught my attention immediately. There's something appealing about throwing a piece of fruit, peel and all, into the food processor to become part of the batter.

I had a hunch the recipe would be good. The fresh cranberry sauce my family makes for Thanksgiving calls for 1 orange, 1 bag of cranberries and 1 cup of sugar. It's so good; I have yet to taste anything that even comes close.

In Murphy's recipe, the orange peel lends an intense flavor and the use of the whole fruit yields a super-moist cake. (She includes a lemon variation in the recipe as well.) It is also a fantastically easy cake to put together. Because the butter it calls for is melted, that helps to create more of a chiffon-like texture than a creamed-butter cake will produce.

One caveat, and this won't be a problem for the less-cocky bakers among you: Heed the cooling directions. This cake must sit for 20 minutes in the pan before it is removed. I went on automatic pilot and didn't read through the recipe completely. Most cakes require a bit of time to settle in the pan after baking. This one in particular needs that time because of that namesake whole orange (and its resulting high moisture content).

-- Leigh Lambert

Whole Orange-Poppy Seed Cake
Makes one 9-inch loaf (12 servings)

For the cake
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the loaf pan
1 1/2 cups flour, plus more for the loaf pan
1 medium Valencia or navel orange, washed well (do not use a juice orange)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

For the glaze
Juice of 1/2 orange (2 tablespoons)
Juice from 1 lemon (2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup sugar

For the cake: Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Use butter to lightly grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, then dust with flour, shaking out any excess (or spray with bakers' spray).
Use a sharp knife to de-stem the orange, then cut the fruit (skin-on) into 8 equal sections. Place them in the bowl of a food processor, along with 1/2 cup of the sugar. Puree until fairly smooth; stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Whisk together the eggs and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl until smooth, then add the orange pulp mixture and melted butter; whisk to combine.

Whisk together the 1 1/2 cups of flour, the baking powder, salt and poppy seeds in a separate bowl; sprinkle over the orange mixture and use a flexible spatula to fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan; bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Transfer to a wire rack (in the pan) and cool for 20 minutes before removing from the pan. Place the cake on the rack for glazing; set a rimmed baking sheet or large plate directly under cake on the rack.

While the cake is baking, make the glaze: Combine the citrus juices and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. After the mixture starts to bubble at the edges, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced by half. Remove from the heat.

Use a pastry brush to spread the glaze all over the warm cake. Cool the cake completely before slicing or storing.

VARIATION: Use 1 1/2 lemons instead of the whole orange and an additional 2 tablespoons sugar in the batter. For a lemon glaze: Combine 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice with 1/4 cup sugar; cook as directed above.

Per serving: 270 calories, 4 g protein, 36 g carbohydrates, 13 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 83 mg cholesterol, 242 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 21 g sugar

By Leigh Lambert  |  September 24, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Flour Girl , Recipes  | Tags: Flour Girl, Leigh Lambert, cake, recipes  
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What about the orange seeds? Do they just get pulverized in the food processor?

Posted by: emunsey | September 24, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I used a navel orange, which did not have seeds. If it does, you can either pick them out before putting the segments in the food processor or whirl them into the mix. There shouldn't be enough to effect taste.

Posted by: Leigh Lambert | September 25, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

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