The perfect seasonal snack cake, moist, delicate, sweetly bursting with a triple-effect of citrus flavor. Equally rewarding for dessert, afternoon snacks, or, uh, breakfast.
My son will not touch a vegetable to save his life, but when it comes to fruit, he is an absolute machine. Thus, I find myself buying entirely out of season berries and feeling grateful to the good farmers of southern Europe for helping me and my fellow low country inhabitants ward off scurvy for another winter. Oh, and I am really, extremely, unreasonably grateful that it is citrus season.
Blood oranges are something I had seen a lot and considered vaguely exotic but never bothered to, you know, buy and try for myself until this year. I have no idea why I waited so long, other than a vague fear of the unfamiliar, but am very glad I overcame it! The Sanguinello variety, which is what seems most widely available here in Belgium, is right up my alley – sweet-tart, a gorgeous, deep ruby, orange-raspberry mix. Normally I can’t be bothered to take the time to peel and eat anything but the ever-accessible Clementine, but if you had wandered into my kitchen a couple times in the past week you would have spied me slicing one of these Sanguinellos open and gracelessly devouring it with my teeth. Anyway..
As much as I love eating these straight, I sacrificed a few blood oranges for this cake, and it was entirely worthy. Delicate crumb, sweet flavor, and an inviting ribbon of pink thanks to the syrup and glaze. In my mind, this is the perfect afternoon snack cake. That said, the first time I made it was for an office breakfast, and I heard zero complaints about the pre-noon consumption. Any involvement of fruit makes a dessert/breakfast crossover acceptable, correct? Please don’t tell me if you disagree. : – )
Blood Orange Snack Cake
Yield 8-10 servings
For the cake:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp. blood orange zest
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
For the syrup:
- 1/2 cup blood orange juice (from 2-3 blood oranges)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
For the glaze:
- 3/4-1 cup powdered sugar
- 1-2 tbsp. blood orange juice
- additional blood orange zest for garnish, if desired
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter and flour a 9-inch bundt pan and set aside.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to blend and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar and blood orange zest. Rub the mixture with your hands for a minute or two to incorporate the zest into the sugar. Add the eggs, and fit the stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until the mixture is thick and creamy. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed, just until incorporated.
- Pour batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 45-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cake cool completely in the pan before inverting onto a platter or plate.
- To make the syrup, combine the juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 1-2 minutes. Prick the cooled and inverted cake with a fork, then pour the syrup over the cake with a small spoon.
- To make the glaze, combine powdered sugar and juice, beginning with just 1 tbsp. of juice and adding more as needed until the glaze is just thin enough to pour. Drizzle glaze generously over the cake, and sprinkle with zest if desired. Allow to cake to set, then serve at room temperature.
I made this in a bundt cake pan, which I really loved, though do not be antsy like me and try to turn a bundt out of its pan before it’s entirely cool. It will taste just as delicious but likely be crater-y and subject to cracking. Be patient if you possibly can. The first time I made this I was forced to let the cake cool in the pan for more than one hour (silver linings of a son who still needs to be held to take a decent nap..), after which it flipped out perfectly. The second time I was less patient, and it showed.
If you prefer, I’m sure you could also make this in a loaf pan, just experiment and be vigilant about the cooking time, and remove as soon as a toothpick comes out clean. You may have extra batter - I’m sure you can find some other vessel worth baking it in! If you do try this in a loaf pan or anything else, please come back and let me know in the comments how it goes!