As a child there were a couple of foods I hated that I quite enjoy nowadays. Olives, mustard, mushrooms, to name a few.
Another thing I despised was a fruity cake. However, I've come to quite like the flavor of citrus punctuating my dessert. Similar to its brightening effect on a salad or a piece of fish, lemon juice in dessert adds a "happiness factor" that I can't quite explain. Plus, I love the smell of lemon on my hands while zesting them.
To continue my obsession with all things Ottolenghi, I recently made a slightly modified version of his Clementine & Almond syrup cake. With a shortage of clementines on hand, I used the next best thing: meyer lemons. Sweeter and more fragrant than their less trendy cousins, meyer lemons have been really easy to find in my local grocery stores lately, and I always try to keep a big bowl of them around for this very reason.
Citrus & Almond Syrup Cake (Adopted from Ottolenghi's recipe in Jerusalem)
- 200g (14 tbsp) unsalted butter, plus a little extra for greasing the pan
- 300g (1 1/2 cup) sugar*
- zest of 4 meyer lemons
- zest of 1 orange
- 280g (2.5 cups) ground almonds, divided in two
- 5 large eggs, beaten
- 100g (1 cu) all-purpose flour
- pinch of table salt
For the syrup:
- juice of 4 meyer lemons and 1 orange
- 80g sugar
*Regarding the sugar, I found the cake to still be too sweet for my liking, despite using lemons instead of oranges. Next time, I'll reduce it down by another 1/4 of a cup.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan, and then line the pan with a circle of parchment paper cut to fit exactly.
Grate the zest of the orange and lemons, reserving the fruit for later. In a large mixing bowl, beat the citrus zest, sugar, and softened butter together using an electric mixer. Beat till the mixture is smooth and well combined, but don’t overwork it or else you’ll beat too much air into the cake. Mix in half of the almond flour. Add the eggs one at a time, beating till combined and scraping down the sides after each addition. Add the remaining almond flour, the all-purpose flour and salt, beating till mixture is well combined and smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth down the top with a spatula so it will bake evenly. (The batter will be extremely thick.) Bake until the cake is nicely golden brown and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes. (I found that my cake took the full 50 minutes)
While the cake is baking, make the syrup. Squeeze the juice from the zested orange and lemons to measure about ¾ cup of juice. Combine the citrus juices and 6 tablespoons sugar in a small heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and bring to a boil. Let the syrup boil for a minute and then remove from heat.
When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately brush the hot clementine syrup over the cake, letting it all absorb. Allow the cake to cool completely in the springform pan on a cooling rack. When cool, peel off the parchment paper and transfer to a serving platter.