Let’s revisit the word ‘exotic.’ It’s a great word. Slightly less great than ‘quixotic,’ but still. I want to be it. So I made this cake with saffron in it, because that would make me so.
Irrational. What else do you expect from me?
I thought I had never done anything like this before. You know, the whole “chuck whole oranges into a food processor and out comes a cake” thing. But then I remembered that I made this whole clementine cake ages ago, which is the same idea. Ground almonds stand in the place of flour and eggs give the cake some body. Topped with a saffron glaze, the result is an ultra-dense, moist cake, filled with punchy flavor.
Saffron is punchy and so dang exotic. It’s supposed to be expensive or something, but that might have just been in Bible times, because I’m pretty sure the saffron I used was cheap. At least, it must have been, because my dad bought, and he wouldn’t go ALL OUT on saffron.
Because this cake is so moist, you can make it a day ahead without worrying about it getting dry. In fact, I recommend making it ahead because it will give the flavors a chance to deepen. I’m a big fan of eating bakes nearly straight from the oven, but you’ll be better served if you eat this after letting it relax for a while. Kind of like dumping a bunch of requests and inquiries on someone right after they walk in the door after work. Restraint is a better option.
Flourless Orange Saffron Cake
Adapted minimally from Serious Eats
3 seedless oranges (6 ounces each), washed, divided
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, divided
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons ( 8 ounces) granulated sugar
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (8 ounces) almonds, finely ground
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Line 9-inch springform pan with parchment and butter pan.
Place two whole oranges (unpeeled) in microwave safe bowl and cover with a paper towel. Heat on high power until oranges are very soft and liquid is beginning to pool at bottom of bowl, 6 to 8 minutes. In small bowl, stir 1 tablespoon of the juice in bottom of bowl with 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads. When oranges are cool enough to handle, slice into quarters and process in food processor until pureed.
In large bowl, whisk sugar with eggs until combined. Whisk in vanilla. Toss almonds with baking powder in small bowl and then whisk into mixture. Whisk melted butter and saffron with juice into mixture. Whisk in orange puree.
Pour into pan and bake until golden and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool 1 hour.
Zest outer peel from remaining orange and then juice orange. In small saucepan heat zest, juice, honey, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads until warm.
Invert cake onto serving plate and remove paper. Poke holes into cake with skewer and pour syrup over cake. Cool to room temperature and serve. Top with powdered sugar or whipped cream.