A zingy orange syrup cake that will stay succulent and delicious for days

This moist cake has slices of whole orange baked into the top

 

Desserts and sweetmeats soaked in syrup seem to be globally popular. The attraction of a sweet, sticky syrup extends from Indian gulab jamun to Chinese sugar ears, via baklava and the semolina cakes of the Middle East. Thai syrups might be steeped with pandan leaves and Turkish syrups could be perfumed with rose water, but the principal has universal appeal.

Syrup-soaked desserts are usually moist and sweet right through to the centre and so stay succulent and delicious for days, if not weeks. Lots of cakes are at their best within a day or two of being baked and then start to dry out. If you are baking for one or two and you don’t want to have to finish a whole cake in a day, a syrup-soaked version is a good choice.

This cake has a strong orange flavour, with slices of whole orange in the base of the tin. After it is baked, it is drizzled with a delicious syrup. The moist and zingy cake is then turned out and served upside down to show off the orange slices which were on the bottom. The orange slices caramelise a little in the oven, and add a slight bittersweet edge to the cake.

I like to serve this in thin slices with fresh orange segments and a dollop of crème fraîche, or Greek yoghurt mixed with orange zest. The slight acidity of crème fraîche is the perfect accompaniment to the sweet cake.

It is important to use a loose base cake tin as you will need to turn the cake out of the tin. If you don’t have a loose base cake tin, line the entire tin with parchment, so it will be easier to upturn and release the cake, revealing the decorative orange top.

A gluten-free version is possible albeit with a more sunken-centred cake result (but no less delicious, I might add). For the gluten-free version, simply omit the flour and increase the ground almonds by the same weight of flour.

Variation: Sieve two tablespoons of good quality cocoa powder into the flour for a chocolate version.

ZINGY ORANGE SYRUP CAKE

Serves eight

Ingredients
2 juicy oranges (also used in syrup)
4 eggs
170g caster sugar (plus extra for dusting)
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g self-raising flour, sieved
150g ground almonds
 

For the orange syrup:
100ml orange juice
Juice of half a lemon
75g sugar

To serve:
Crème fraîche, Greek yoghurt or whipped cream

Method
1
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius fan setting. Grease a 20cm loose-base cake tin (or springform tin) and line the base with parchment paper. Dust the inside walls of the tin with caster sugar.

2 First zest one orange, then zest half of the second orange, set aside to add to the cake batter. Thinly slice the unzested half of the second orange into 3mm slices. Pat the slices with kitchen paper, to remove excess juices, before arranging the thin slices around the base of the lined tin.

3 Using an electric whisk, beat the eggs and caster sugar until the mixture is pale and thick, leaving a ribbon-like trail when falling from the whisk. Add the vanilla and reserved orange zest.

4 Gradually fold the sieved flour and ground almonds into the batter until fully combined. Pour the batter over the orange slices in the cake tin. Level the top of the cake.

5 Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

6 Make the syrup while the cake is in the oven (so the syrup has time to cool down before being added to the warm cake). For the syrup, bring the orange juice, lemon juice and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, then simmer over a medium heat until the mixture has turned syrupy. Set the syrup aside to cool. 

7  Once baked, upturn the cake onto a serving plate and peel away the lining paper, so the orange slices are visible on the surface.

8 Use a skewer to pierce lots of tiny holes over the top of the cake for the syrup to seep into. Pour the syrup over the centre of the warm cake. Use the back of a spoon to spread it evenly over the surface, out to the edges.

9 Serve at room temperature, with Greek yoghurt, whipped cream or ice cream.

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