Author Notes: I’ve long been a fan of Nigella Lawson’s version of this cake: not only is it easy, flavorful and attractive, but it’s gluten-free, too. It’s so rare to run across a gluten-free recipe that’s so easy to make and with so few ingredients — all of which are common pantry items. I’ve changed it up quite a bit from the original, adding flavor and intrigue in the form of chocolate and ginger. I also love these cakes as cupcakes: they’re perfect little bites of exploding flavor. I’ve also made this recipe as a layer cake (see the picture) which works great, too. It just about doubles the cooking time.
You can make this cake with a variety of citrus fruits — meyer lemon and kumquats are a favorite — but make sure it’s a thin-skinned citrus or else the resulting cake will be too bitter. You can use a traditional cream-based ganache for the frosting, but I like how the tartness of the yogurt offsets the sweetness of the cake. —vrunka
Makes: 18 minicakes
mandarin oranges (about 12 ounces)
cup granulated sugar
cups almonds, finely ground
teaspoon baking powder
cup candied ginger, chopped small
Chocolate Yogurt Ganache
cup Greek-style (or other very thick) yogurt
ounces bittersweet chocolate (either in chips or chopped into small bits)
tablespoons powdered sugar (make sure it’s gluten-free if you need it to be)
- Clean oranges, leave them whole. Place them in a medium-sized saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 1 hour or until the skin is very soft (i.e., the skin breaks easily when you touch it). Remove oranges from water and allow to cool. Cut them open and remove seeds (if there are any) and then puree them in a food processor (it’s better if it’s not perfectly smooth and you still have some chunks of zest).
- Preheat oven to 375. I’ve found that silicone muffin pans are best for this and you won’t need to grease them. But if you only have standard muffin pans, butter them well and add a light dusting of sifted ground almonds. If you’re making a layer cake, use a springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Whisk in the sugar and honey and then stir in the baking powder and almonds until well combined. Mix in the chopped oranges and the ginger.
- Fill the muffin cups just about to the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Keep an eye on them to see if they’re getting too brown and if so, cover them with foil.
- Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. Melt the chocolate in a small mixing bowl by zapping it in the microwave for 15 seconds at a time and stirring between zaps. (or melt in a double boiler if you prefer). Stir in the powdered sugar, then the yogurt and combine until smooth. Place in the refrigerator until you’re ready to frost.
- Wait for the cupcakes to cool completely before removing from pans and frosting them. You may serve them right away or wait up to 3 days (if you’re waiting, though, don’t frost them until right before serving).
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