Italian Almond Orange Cake: Mediterranean Meal’s Dessert

Moroccan spice blend for lamb...
A week ago, I decided to ask friends over for dinner — friends I've known for a very long time.  It's the group I've mentioned before; the females know each other by profession, and the husbands by default.  It works and we all enjoy getting together to eat. 

It's a good thing we enjoy each others company, because this time, the food was less than stellar.  Sure, I'm being my usual critical self, but still.  Maybe it was because the week of warm temperatures had lulled me into thinking summer was around the corner and I was daydreaming.  Or that I'd quietly enjoyed taking my time in the kitchen that day thinking about the sequence of what I'd make first, then next, swearing I'd have good photos to use this time.  It was truly my favorite kind of day. But I know cooking for a group of people needs to be more than just pleasant time spent in the kitchen for it to be delicious as well.

I'd been in the mood for Mediterranean flavors and had a boneless leg of lamb in the freezer. Something Moroccan seemed perfect for the evening and although I scanned many recipes that sounded truly delicious, I settled on one from a cookbook one of my older sons had given to me:  The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook by Tess Mallos.  The only problem is that the lamb meat would need to be cut into chunks for the Seksu Bil Lahm or Couscous with Lamb and Vegetables.  It seemed a waste to cut the leg of lamb up for the dish even though the flavors were exactly what I'd wanted.

The night before the party, I changed my mind and chose a different recipe instead.  You know what they say about changing your mind at the last minute, right?  So…

The spices' aroma was heavenly...

…this post won't be about the Moroccan Spice-Rubbed Leg of Lamb.  Lovingly rubbed, basted in an interesting honey-lemon syrup, and roasted to an internal temp of 145 degrees, the meat was too done for me…

Shrimp, calamari, clams...

…and it won't be about the Seafood appetizer with Romesco Sauce I made because I sort of threw it together and will have to try it again, writing down the ingredients.  It's a bit challenging to do all of that when people are waiting to eat…

IMG_9075 IMG_9077

…nor will this be about my second attempt to make a Briami me Feta or Greek Vegetable Casserole with Feta.  Even though the layers were oh, so patiently put together, and carefully seasoned before baking for 90 minutes, the very thinnly sliced potatoes were not done. Par-boiling is definitely in order next time.  And there will be a next time because the flavor of this casserole was truly delicious — especially with a bite of the lamb.  Maybe next time, the lamb needs to be layered in the casserole.

Italian Orange Almond Cake

No, this will be about the dessert, which is where my day began last Saturday morning in my kitchen.  It will be about the Sformato di Aanci or Orange and Almond Cake that was so very moist and delicious.  Jenny of All Things Edible, an old Daring Baker friend has a new house and is celebrating with a Housewarming.  Join in on the celebration and send her a recipe to share before January 30th.  The more the merrier, right?  We think so!

Dinner with Friends is always good...

Orange Almond Cake

1 large navel orange (about 12 oz.)
1/2 tsp. salt
5 lg. eggs
1 c. sugar
2-1/4 c. almond flour (ground almonds)
2 T dried bread crumbs
2 T fresh orange juice
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. chopped almonds
3 T honey

Place whole orange in a pan of water making sure to cover it as much as possible.  Add the salt cover the pan and bring the water to a boil.  Turn the heat down, allowing the water to high simmer covered about 30 minutes.  Drain water, replace with fresh, cover and return to high simmer an additional 30 minutes.  The orange should be soft.

Yes, there are 2 oranges, but you only need one... 

Remove orange from the pan and allow to cool to the touch.  Slice the peel off each end of the orange and cut into quarters, leaving the rest of the peel intact.  Inspect for seeds and discard.  In a food processor, pulse the orange quarters to a pulp and let it cool completely.

IMG_9081 IMG_9083

Preheat the oven to 335 degrees F.  Prepare an 8" springform pan by greasing and flouring well.

With an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until light in color.  Fold in the almond flour, breadcrumbs, and orange juice.  To the orange pulp, add the baking powder and pulse to mix well. Fold the orange pulp into the almond mixture.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake about 1 hour.  Test for doneness with a wooden skewer inserted in the center.  Allow to cool completely in the pan and score around the edge before releasing the ring from the cake.

See where it didn't want to come out of the pan?

To serve, drizzle honey over the top of the cake and sprinkle with chopped almonds.  If desired, serve with sweetened whipped cream.


  • I had some worries about this cake.  The temperature stated in the original recipe was 325 – 350 degrees F.  I used a convection setting which has a tendency to be hotter, so set my oven for 335.  Although I did bake my cake for an hour, it seemed a bit moist in the center toward the bottom, but read that the cake is supposed to be very moist so decided to take it out of the oven anyway.  The cake cooled several hours before I took it from the ring and the bottom wanted to stick at bit, so proceed carefully.  It's heavy and moist.  Did I tell you it was moist?
  • I made the pulp with two oranges before I realized I needed to measure the pulp for the recipe.  Too much pulp in this recipe would truly ruin it and the cake would be a soggy mess. 
  • Bread crumbs:  The recipe called for "dried bread crumbs" but there was no way I was pouring packaged dried crumbs into this cake.  It just seemed wrong.  I know, how presumptuous of me!  So I tore up the heel of a piece of wheat bread, dried it in a skillet, and then made crumbs.  I'm really thinking this is a wasted step and that a bit more almond flour would be just fine.
  • Almond flour and ground almonds are the same.  Either purchase it already ground or process the almonds yourself.  I had a bit of each in my pantry, so I used about 50% purchased (Bob's Red Mill Almond Flour) and 50% almonds I processed.
  • This is a lovely cake that I would enjoy making again.  The citrus and the nuts make for an exquisitely pleasant bite that is sweet, but not too sweet.  It's lovely the next day with coffee and since there was only once piece left, I got it!

 It's nice with a bit of sweetened cream.