Citrus recipes and I go way back. The first thing I ever attempted to make solo was fresh lemonade for my Grandma and Papa. I was so proud of myself as I presented each of them with a full glass, and I watched eagerly with anticipation as they took their first sips. My grandmother smiled ear to ear and declared it the best she’d ever had, while my grandfather winced intensely, unable to hide his tastebud’s acute reaction. Apparently, I had forgotten a rather important ingredient (it’s hard to remember all TWO components of lemonade, you know)… the sugar! I didn’t have much more success a few years later when I tried making fresh squeezed orange juice on Mother’s Day, after presenting my mom with a beautiful antique-style juicer. After cutting, pressing, and praying over an entire bag of oranges, I emerged from the kitchen with a pathetic, measly 1/3 of a cup of juice to accompany her breakfast in bed. I later realized I had purchased the wrong kind of oranges, unsuitable for juicing- who knew such citrus fruit existed?
Despite my early citrus centered failures, I’ve had much better luck utilizing these fruits in my baking. A few months back my Mom returned from California with a bag full of the most vibrant, juicy lemons picked from a tree at my great aunt and uncle’s home in Encino. I did some recipe searching, and settled on Ina Garten’s lemon cake, a moist, bright, lightly glazed loaf that my family raved about and quickly devoured. And thanks to Melissa of the delightful blog, Lulu the Baker, I’ve now found it’s orange counterpart, Whole Orange Poppyseed Cake.
This exceptional cake employs a unique method of infusing citrus flavor. As the name implies, it’s not only the zest and juice of the fruit incorporated into the recipe, but literally the entire orange! It’s cut into segments and simply thrown into the food processor with some sugar, pulsed thoroughly, and broken down into the most aromatic orange-flecked mixture imaginable. With all the essential oils residing in the peel, every ounce of orange essence is incorporated into the batter, not just the flavor from a few teaspoons of zest. You would think that the white pith might add bitterness, but fortunately, this is far from the case. A lovely finishing touch of a citrus glaze adds a gorgeous sheen and sticky sweet-tart bite. I utilized the same technique I used with my lemon cake when applying the glaze- first, I poked the top all over with a toothpick, and then brushed on the glaze, allowing it to seep down into the cake, and enhancing the delicate crumb with tremendous moisture. The poppyseeds are an unexpected and fun mix-in, which pair just as well with orange as the more commonly matched lemon.
And bonus! Oranges just so happen to be packed with health benefits, especially in the often discarded peel. A great source of Vitamin C, oranges also contain phytonutrients with healing properties- the most powerful of which, Herperidin, is found in the peel and inner white pulp, has strong anti-inflammatory properties, and can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Because it’s found in the peel and pulp, rather than the liquid orange center, you usually miss out on these powerful health benefits. Not so with Whole Orange Poppyseed Cake! Each bite packs a punch of flavor and nutrition.
Incredibly fragrant, quick to pull together, and simple yet sophisticated, this cake is a lovely choice to serve guests and pairs well with coffee or tea. My dad’s review noted that it tastes as good as it looks and smells, a compliment I’ll take any day! A big thank you goes out to Melissa for selecting this fantastic SMS pick- definitely check out her adorable site, and give the recipe a try. Also, take a look at what the other SMS bakers cooked up this week by exploring the Sweet Melissa Sunday’s blogroll.