I am the first to admit that while I claim my Chinese ethnicity, I am far removed from the language and culture of my ancestors. My main connection to cultural celebrations is food. As we approach Chinese New Year (February 1st this year), I started thinking about the foods I associate with this celebration.
Oranges for Chinese New Year
Growing up, as Chinese New Year approached, I remember plates stacked with orange citrus fruit – usually tangerines or navel oranges – at my popo’s (grandmother’s) house. Nowadays, the more traditional mandarin orange is readily available. In addition to displaying them in the house, we also gift them to friends and family.
With its glossy orange skin, the mandarin orange is thought to resemble the sun or gold. It is considered auspicious for the new year and thought to bring good luck.
Something new for our celebration
As I saw the beautiful piles of mandarin oranges, I was reminded of an episode of Nigella Bites from many, many years ago. On this particular episode she made a Clementine Cake and what caught my attention was the fact that she boiled the fruit whole – peel, pith, flesh, everything – before turning it into a slushy, citrus puree and incorporating it into a cake batter. It seemed an easy substitute – mandarin oranges for clementines.
The other primary ingredient of the cake is ground almonds or almond flour. As with many foods associated with the Chinese New Year celebration, nuts represent longevity, happiness, and health. Almonds in particular symbolize a bright future.
So, although this recipe is not Chinese, it seemed appropriate to incorporate as a new tradition. It doesn’t mean that we will forgo our other foods like gao, we are simply adding another.
Great for everyday
While I am making this Citrus Almond Cake for our New Year’s celebration, it is also great to eat year-round, as long as you have fresh citrus available to you. Nigella points out that it travels well and is great for a picnic. It is also naturally gluten-free as it doesn’t contain any flour and as long as you use a gluten-free baking powder.
She also has suggestions on her website should you wish to use other citrus like lemons.Print
This simple, moist, gluten-free cake is modified slightly from Nigella Lawson’s Clementine Cake. It travels well and is great for a picnic.
1 pound whole mandarin oranges or clementines (about 6–8 depending on size)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar*
2 1/3 cups almond flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
Place the clementines in a pot with enough cold water to cover. Bring to the boil and cook for 2 hours. Drain and let cool.
When cool, cut each fruit in half and remove any seeds. Finely chop in a food processor – peel, pith, and flesh.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter and line an 8-inch cake pan with parchment paper.**
Beat the eggs with a whisk. Add the sugar, almond flour, and baking powder and mix well. Mix in the chopped clementines.***
Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. You may need to cover the cake with foil after about 40 minutes to stop the top from burning.
Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool, in the pan, on a rack. When the cake is cold, gently run a knife or thin silicone spatula around the edge to loosen the cake. Gently remove the cake from the pan.
The cake gets better if made a day ahead..
*If you would like to reduce the amount of carbohydrates, I have successfully replaced the sugar with an equal amount of a monk fruit sugar/erythritol blend.
**The original recipe uses an 8-inch springform pan. I’ve found that if the pan and parchment paper are well-greased, a standard cake pan can be used instead.
***This batter is easily made by hand but you could use an electric or stand mixer if you prefer.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Category: Cakes
- Cuisine: British
- Calories: 310.90
- Sugar: 38.30 g.
- Sodium: 77.44 mg.
- Fat: 13.35 g.
- Saturated Fat: 1.62 g.
- Carbohydrates: 43.34 g.
- Fiber: 3.40 g.
- Protein: 8.04 g.
- Cholesterol: 93.00 g.
Keywords: mandarin oranges, clementines, ground almonds