Clementines make darling of an almond-flour cake

Leah Eskin
Chicago Tribune

Poor Clementine. The darling may be lost and gone forever but her banjo-plucking eulogist doesn’t sound dreadful sorry. Listen, this bit of Americana twangs, you can stub your toe, fall into the foamy brine and live on in a perky tune. Dreadful sorry!

The young don’t seem disturbed by their diet of dreadful ditties. Those poor blind mice. Jack and Jill with their head injuries. That baby stranded in a tree. They grasp hands and turn in giddy circles, shouting with black plague nostalgia: “Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down!”

Now Clementine’s back as a darling mandarin. The thin skin is easy to peel and perfect in a recipe that calls for dropping the whole fruit — juicy segments, sweet peel and sharp pith — into the foamy batter.

Clementine cake bakes up moist and fragrant with just a whiff of bitter. Downright upbeat, given Clementine’s fateful fate.

Clementine Cake

Note: A Passover tradition in many families, this cake calls for neither butter nor flour.

Prep: 30 minutes

Bake: 1 hour

Makes: One low 9-inch cake, serves 12

11/2 cups ground blanched almonds (sold as almond flour or meal), plus 1 to 2 tablespoons for pan

2 oranges (or sub 11/4 pounds clementines)

6 eggs

11/4 cups sugar

2 tablespoons orange-blossom water, optional

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Prep: Lightly oil a 9-inch springform pan. Dust with 1 to 2 tablespoons ground almonds.

Soften: Wash oranges. Settle whole oranges in a bowl and fill with cold water until the oranges float. Zap in the microwave until very soft, 23 to 25 minutes. Alternatively, settle oranges in a saucepan, fill with cold water until they float, cover and boil until very soft, about 11/2 hours.

Swirl: Pull oranges out of their bath. Pull off little green nubs on top. Slice each in half along its equator and pluck out any seeds (Clementines lack seeds). Drop fruit — skin and all — into the food processor. Swirl into completely smooth puree.

Mix: Whisk together eggs, sugar, orange-blossom water, baking powder, salt and 11/2 cups ground almonds. Whisk in orange puree.

Bake: Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake at 375 degrees until springy in the center and a toothpick stabbed in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen cake. Unsnap pan rim. This moist cake is lovely unadorned. Or glaze with 1 tablespoon lemon juice whisked into 1/4 cup powdered sugar.

Provenance: Adapted from “The Book of Jewish Food” by Claudia Roden.