This cake was conceived in honor of Catherine of Aragon, the Spanish-born princess who became Queen consort of England during the Tudor Period. Though predominantly remembered for her refusal to divorce Henry VIII (thus allowing him to marry Anne Boleyn), she is also remembered as a female role model who gained much popular support. From raising an army to fight the Scots to promoting the education of women during a time when this was not encouraged, she made such an impression on England that Thomas More said of her that ‘If not for her sex, then she could have defied all the heroes of history.’
This cake pays homage to her Spanish upbringing through the use of oranges and almonds, both of which would have been plentiful in the palace of the Alhambra, where she spent her early childhood. The decoration features a pomegranate, her chosen emblem, which she is said to have adopted to boast of her fertility (sadly a boast that was to ring hollow in later years), whilst the addition of golden lustre and dragees represents the Spanish sun (which I think we could all do with at the moment!)
Orange and Almond Cake
- 2 oranges (total weight 280g/10z)
- 5 eggs, separated
- 200g (7oz) caster sugar
- 225g (8oz) ground almonds
- 2 tbsp flaked almonds
- White marzipan
- Pomegranate seeds
- Gold lustre powder
- Gold dragees
Roughly chop the oranges, leaving the peel on, but removing any pips. Place them in a small saucepan with 1 tbsp water and cover. Cook gently for 30 minutes until the oranges are soft and any liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F, Gas Mark 4). Grease and line a 9in round baking tin and set aside. Using a food processor, finely chop the oranges.
Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, and then add in half the sugar. Once combined, whisk for another minute.
In a different bowl whisk the remaining sugar and the egg yolks until thick and creamy (about 2-3 minutes). Stir in the finely chopped oranges and then fold the ground almonds into the mixture
Using a metal spoon, stir in three tablespoons of the egg white mixture to loosen the mixture, before gently folding in the rest of the egg white mixture. Spoon into the prepared tin, and sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top.
Bake for 50–55 minutes or until the cake is golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Check the cake after 20 minutes and again at 30 minutes, and cover lightly with foil if it is browning too quickly.
Once removed from the oven, leave the cake to cool before removing from the tin. Place on a serving plate ready to decorate.
Dust your clean worktop with icing sugar and roll out a circle of marzipan large enough to cover the cake. Using the rolling in to help, life the marzipan over the cake, allowing it to drape down the sides. Using your fingers (or a fondant smoother if you have such a thing!), start to smooth the marzipan down the sides of the cake, trimming off the excess as you go. You will likely have a small crease at the back of your cake – to solve this problem use a sharp knife to cut away the excess and then smooth the edges to eradicate the cut. (Don’t wory if you can still see a little bit – this can be the back of the cake!)
To decorate, use a tea cup to make an impression in the centre of the top of the cake, and fill this impression with a light coating of gold lustre powder. Outline this shape with pomegranate seeds, ensuring a small crown shape is made at the top of the fruit to represent the stem (use a template to get the correct shape if wished). Use more pomegranate seeds to embellish the bottom of the cake. Finish the decoration with gold dragees before eating and like Catherine of Aragon, dreaming of Spain.
You may have noticed that recently there have been quite a few very simple cakes – this is because I have been working on an idea for a very complex cake (at least as far as decorations go!) This will hopefully be appearing in a few days time, assuming all goes well… I’m very excited to start it and am hoping for a good result!