Buttery orange cake with almond crumble

Yield: 1 large loaf, serving 10-12 generously

By the calendar, winter has arrived, but on the west coast, skies are an impossible blue and the daytime temperature has hovered in the 70′s. Other parts of the country are snowed in. But according to the agricultural calendar, however, citrus season is right on target with an abundance of sweet, tart, colorful citrus fruits available in farmers markets and supermarkets everywhere. (Born and bred on the East Coast, where dreay skies, snowy days, school closures and sleet-covered sidewalks were part of my youth, I have always felt that the sunny flavors of citrus are all the more welcome though California-grown citrus is another world entirely.) From low-acid Oroblanco grapefruit to blood oranges with sunset colored flesh and bright orange, speckled skin, to loose-skinned Satsuma tangerines and sweet-skinned kumquats, the variety is often overwhelming. So it’s time to make the most of this bounty, from winter fruit salads, roasted duck or a firm fleshed fish with a citrus sauce to baked marvels flavored with or topped with the blessings of the orchards in winter.Here I am featuring the flavorful zest of blood oranges in a buttery cake. For textural contrast, I have topped the cake with a nutty crumble. I like to serve this warm as part of a weekend brunch and gild the lily by offering orange flavored butter,  cream cheese and marmalade to go along with it, all washed down with mugs of hot coffee or cocoa.

Here’s how to make it.

Prepare an 8 x 4 x 2-/3/4 high loaf pan by spraying it with pan release spray. Then line the bottom and sides of the pan with a single sheet of baking parchment, measuring 11 inches x 15-1/2 inches. Center the loaf pan on the parchment paper. Then cut make four diagonal cuts  starting at the corners of the paper,  and ending at the corners of the loaf pan.  Place the paper into the pan, pressing it against the inside of the pan. It should fit snugly without wrinkles and extend over the top edges of the pan to contain the batter.  Spray the parchment and set aside while you make the cake.

For the cake:

2-3/4 cups (13 ounces) all-purpose flour

1/2 t. (.07 ounce or 2 grams) baking powder

1/2 t. (.08 ounce or 2.5 grams) baking soda

1/2 t. (.10 ounce or 3 grams) salt

8 ounces (2 sticks, half pound in total) unsalted butter, at room temperature (soft but not greasy)

Scant 2 cups (13 ounces) granulated sugar

5 large eggs (approximately 8 ounces)

1 t. real vanilla extract

1 c. (8 ounces) plain whole milk Greek style yogurt

1 T. freshly grated orange zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Position the rack in the oven halfway up from the bottom of the oven.

Sift the flour, bakng powder, baking soda and salt together and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer outfitted with the paddle, on medium speed, cream the butter until light in color and fluffy, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula a few times during the creaming.  On low speed, add the sugar gradually, blending in well before adding more of it. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing on medium speed until incorporated. Add the vanilla and mix until it disappears. Then mix in the dry ingredients alternately with the yogurt, dividing each roughly into thirds, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Fold in the zest. Set aside while you make the following Almond Crumble.

For the Almond Crumble:

Generous 1/4 c. (2 ounces) granulated sugar

2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold

4 ounces all-purpose flour

1/2 t. ground cinnamon

Pinch salt

Scant 1/2 cup (2.25 ounces) whole almonds, roughly chopped

Place sugar, butter, flour, salt and cinnamon into the bowl of an electric mixer, outfitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on medium speed until the mixture appears no longer white and floury. It should resemble small pebbles. Mix in the almonds.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, top with the Almond Crumble and bake for approximately 1-1/2 hours, or until a long skewer comes out clean when stuck into the center of the loaf. Cool on a rack for about 15 minutes and then lift out of the pan using the parchment liner to support the loaf as you move it back onto the cooling rack.

Slice using a serrated knife. Serve with orange zest-flavored butter, whipped cream cheese and marmalade of your choice.



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