Long hot summers (and the longest lockdown in the world) have made me think a lot about oranges lately. There are a dozen oranges in the fridge to remind me of summers in Seville and Los Angeles. When I was seven years old, my father took me to California to visit kin; in the City of Angels, we went to see his cousin who had a backyard with an orange tree. Uncle R. told us to hunt for treasure within the tree, not telling us what it was, only that we would know if we found it. As my hands brushed through the thick leaves and citrus mounds, I caught a gleam of gold. There it was, a heavy gold coin with Spanish engraving.
Pleased with my find, I showed it to my dad and cousin, who said it was a vintage coin from California's colonial era. Of course, Dad said he was going to keep it for safety until we returned home to Cebu, and we proceeded to drink several glasses of fresh orange juice from the harvest. The golden liquid was so fragrant, refreshing and revitalising, something I would always go back to imbibing every time I wanted my day to be brighter.
On another occasion, when I was much older, yet none the wiser, I went on a soul-searching trip to Seville in Spain, and stayed at a villa whose pathway connected to the Real Alcázar. The orange tree inside that villa was heaving with fruit, the collective weight naturally forming a bow-shaped shade above the circular pool. It was a perfect setting to ponder and enjoy peaceful solitude.
It wasn't long before I found out almost all the streets in Sevilla were in fact filled with lush orange trees. Most of the fruit would just fall off the trees to the ground, too abundant for residents to bother plucking them, their sweet citrus scent lingering for hours and days. I was enchanted, of course, and staved off the urge to shake the branches and pluck oranges at random streets to keep in my bag for snacks.
In this recipe, I've added in orange, almonds, honey and spices ... a few of my favourite ingredients to add buoyancy and piquancy to a traditional loaf-shaped cake, also to remind me of days of innocence and longing. To this day, I can't even remember where my Dad kept the gold coin. Was it real gold? Was it truly an antique treasure? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Maybe it was just to keep kids entertained and occupied. However, it doesn't change one thing about that pleasant memory of a languid Los Angeles afternoon, smelling and tasting oranges, in the company of my father.
Baking time: 30 minutes
Yields: 1 regular loaf or 2 small loaves (depending on your baking pan); about 12 slices
175 grams or 3/4 cup salted butter
120 grams or 1/2 cup brown or coco sugar
120 grams or 1/2 cup honey
1 large egg
1 orange, zest and pulp
100 ml milk (whole, low-fat or skimmed is okay)
1 teaspoon allspice powder
1/2 teaspoon finely grated ginger (optional)
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour or 1 cup all-purpose plus 1/2 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup crushed almonds
Honey, for glaze
1. Heat oven to 165 degrees Celsius. Grease the bottom of a loaf tin or nonstick pan, or, cut a piece of parchment or baking paper to fit the longer sides of the loaf pan, so that you can easily lift the cakes as soon as they have cooled after baking. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and allspice. In another bowl, whisk melted butter and sugar together. Crack egg and continue beating until creamy. Pour in milk, honey, orange pulp and juice, one at a time, while continuing to whisk. Fold in the flour mix. Keep stirring and sprinkle crushed almonds until it becomes a thick fragrant batter.
Start whisking the melted butter and sugar together, followed by egg, then milk, honey, orange pulp and juice, one at a time, until the batter becomes thick and creamy.
To make it easier to lift the loaves after baking, cut parchment paper to the size of the baking pan width, and leave about 2 inches on the edges. :-)
2. Pour batter into the loaf tin and bake for 1 hour. Leave the cake(s) to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Pour fresh honey on top and cut into slices.
That deep gradient brown and cracked ridges always make my heart skip.
Glaze is optional. You can use fresh honey to drizzle on top of the cake.