52. Armenian Orange and Almond Cake (incidentally also Gluten Free)

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

This Armenian Orange and Almond cake almost screams health (in a rather pretty way). It contains 2 whole oranges! (yes that’s right the pith and peel and everything), no butter, a relatively small amount of sugar and a whole bunch of almonds. Of course almonds are full of minerals and vitamins (vitamin E and Bs) and healthy fats that you need to live a lovely life, so surely this is a cake that you should be eating as part of you balanced healthy lifestyle! Oh and I did I mention it’s also gluten free? No flour required so even better for those with gluten intolerances/allergies too.

A very moist slice of Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

A very moist slice of Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

We’re flying into the final 28 bakes of my aroundtheworldin80bakes adventure now and what a cake to take us up to bake 52. This recipe was very kindly given to me by a fantastic lady that I work with who is from Armenia. I asked if she had any traditional cake recipes that I could try as it’s another country that I’m still yet to visit and she produced this from her repertoire.

I Heart Cake. Do you?

I Heart Cake. Do you? You could win a lovely cake mould if so!

I lovingly recreated the handwritten recipe in my kitchen using a pretty heart shaped mould that Mustard Gifts sent me to try. Thank you very much! I love my heart shaped cake mould. Next on my list of things to try is a heart shaped jelly. Not only does it look pretty whole (part of me wanted to decorate it like a flower!) but when you cut yourself a nice wedge it comes out as a perfect heart shape. The cake will make 6 heart shaped slices or 12 finger shaped sliced (depends on how much you love your friends and family as to how big a slice you’d like to give them…) You could also win one of these gorgeous cake moulds worth £15! (Competition has now closed.)

My orangey bakey heart

My orangey bakey heart

I knew I had to bake this cake to take along with me to the Clandestine Cake Club gathering this week, at the Knit Studio at Blackfriars. Our theme this week was history. I thought the Armenian Orange Cake would be a great recipe for me to use, full of Armenian tradition and handed down to my friend through her family. It did not disappoint. I managed to work my through the entire cake collection sampling a wonderful array of cakes along the way. I love Cake Club!

Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle - History theme

A fine selection of cakes at our History themed Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle, at the Knit Studio, Blackfriars

One of my favourite things about this cake is that it’s really quick to make. Boiling the whole oranges is the most time consuming part of this entire cake. They need to be boiled for 2 hours, covered in water and with a  lid on the pan to help retain the heat. I boiled my oranges the day before so I was extra prepared.

Boil 2 whole oranges for 2 hours. Simple

Boil 2 whole oranges for 2 hours. Simple

Once the oranges have reached boiling point allow them to simmer on a low heat for the full 2 hours. The oranges smell amazing, and it floats around the house carried by the steam from the pan. Leave them to cool (so you don’t burn yourself) and then blend them up to a pulp.

Soft boiled oranges

Soft boiled oranges

They’re so soft and tender they pretty much fall apart in your hands. I used a stick blender to blitz mine into a thick smooth orange paste. You could also use a food processor.

Blitz the boiled oranges to a smooth paste

Blitz the boiled oranges to a smooth paste

Next thing is to basically whisk all of the eggs together with the sugar until frothy and a little air is incorporated. Then whisk in the ground almonds and baking powder. Then whisk in the orange paste. No fuss, just whisk the entire thing in one bowl. Even better there’s not a lot of washing up involved in this cake!

Whisking up all the eggs

Whisking up all the eggs and sugar

The cake batter doesn’t take long to whisk together. Whisk it until it is a beautifully smooth, thick and glossy. You will see the gorgeous orange flecks throughout the batter. It’s very easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould.

A thick, glossy smooth orange flecked batter. Easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould

A thick, glossy smooth orange flecked batter. Easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould

Once everything is fully incorporated simply pour it into your greased baking tin/mould and bake in a preheated oven for 30-45 minutes at 200 degrees C /400F

Thoroughly greased I Heart Cake Mould

Thoroughly greased I Heart Cake Mould

I like to use spray on cake release to grease my cake tins and having not had much success with silicon bakeware in the past I may have gone a tad overboard with the old grease spray here. The I Heart Cake mould worked like a dream, the cake baked evenly and not a single bit of the cake stuck to the mould. Success!

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven on a pre heated baking tray

One way to ensure your silicon mould is supported and heated evenly I’ve found, is to pop it directly on to a baking tray that has been heated as the oven warms. This makes it even easier to lift the supple mould in and out of the oven and ensures the heat touches the mould evenly.

Fresh from the oven - Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Fresh from the oven – Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Now I did think when I read the recipe that 200 degrees C is rather a high temperature for a cake, normally a sponge with baking powder might bake at 180 C as a maximum. 200 C is more like a bread baking temperature which can take that kind of heat, however I wanted to follow the recipe to the letter. I was slightly alarmed to see how dark the cake had turned in the oven however it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference, it tasted perfect and was moist all the way through. Not a dry edge in sight, but just for peace of mind I might reduce the heat next time to 180 after the first 15 minutes of baking.

Cooling gently on a greaseproof covered cooling rack

Cooling gently on a greaseproof covered cooling rack

I left the cake to cool slightly in the mould to retain it’s shape and merely tipped it out onto a greaseproof covered wire cooling rack (to stop the cake marking or falling through the gaps). It’s quite a robust cake with all of the almonds in so it can take a bit of handling. The cake slid smoothly out of the mould and looked impressive before I even added a layer of icing to it.

A good layer of Orange blossom icing

A good layer of Orange Blossom Water sugar icing

I’ve never really been successful with making my own glaze icing and yet I continue to persevere. I decided to add a layer of icing to the cake to add a little more sweetness. I clearly got the measurements wrong (yet again when will I learn!) as the icing wouldn’t set despite being left over night!) so I ended up scraping it off and leaving the cake with the syrupy goodness from the icing seeping into every pore instead. This made one extremely moist cake. Similar to some of my other Arabic creations Baklava and Basboosa.

One orange blossom water syrup soaked Armenian Orange Cake

One orange blossom water syrup soaked Armenian Orange Cake

Icing sugar is probably not the best choice of decorative tool when dealing with a syrup soaked cake, however I wanted a quick white decoration to contrast with the golden sponge. Armed with a paper doily, icing sugar and my trusty tea strainer I placed the doily on the cake and dusted it liberally to ensure the cake got a good coating. I think its a brilliant (and cheap!) way to create an impressive decoration. I think I may be a little obsessed with this now as you can see with my Crack Pie stencilling

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Doily decorations all round – Armenian Orange and Almond Cake (ps. no one will notice the dent I put in the top of the cake when scrapping off the icing with a spoon will they…)

To continue the heart theme I sliced up some homemade candied orange peel into dinky heart shapes and placed one in the centre. As Mary Berry always says it’s good to decorate your cake with a little of what’s on the inside to give a hint of what it’s offering

Practice makes perfect - slicing candied peel into hearts

Practice makes perfect – slicing candied peel into hearts. No fingers were lost in this process

Armenian Orange cake is the most intensely orange cake I’ve ever tasted. Perfect if you like a fruity cake that’s not too sweet. The almonds give it a wonderful texture and the added sweetness from the icing lifts the slightly bitter tang of the orange peel.  An interesting cake with a healthy twist, it’s a wonderfully moist and light summery bake. The full oranges give the cake a whole other level of moisture and depth of flavour. Another cake that would be perfect with a strong cup of tea or an espresso. This is great cake for those who enjoy a good pound cake and who aren’t a great fan of buttercream icing. Although you could ice this in any which way you prefer if you’re a buttercream fan go for it. I heart all cake! Yum!

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake
A perfect piece of my heart - armenian orange and almond cake
Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Things that I used to make my Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

  • 2 oranges
  • 6 eggs
  • 230g sugar
  • 230g almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  1. Boil the oranges for 2 hours
  2. Blend the soft oranges into a paste
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar until frothy
  4. whisk in the almonds and baking powder
  5. Whisk in the orange paste until all is combined
  6. Bake for 30-45 minutes in a 9 inch tin at 200 degrees C or 400F

Icing

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 2 tbs orange blossom water
  • the zest of one orange
  • a little water to thin the icing if need

Mix it all together until smooth and thick. Pour over the cake.

*Or dust with icing sugar! The choice is all yours

 

That icing sugar sure disappears fast!

 

45. Rosca De Reyes – Spanish Three Kings Cake

Rosca de Reyes - 3 Kings Cake

Rosca de Reyes – 3 Kings Cake

I’m so excited! I’ve been invited to join an online bake off with 4 amazing bloggers, including the wonderful Yasmin Lambert from the Great  British Bake Off! We’re all baking the Spanish festive bake, Rosca de reyes and the baker with the most votes will win £500 worth of holiday holiday vouchers! (which would come in very handy for our honeymoon which are still yet to arrange following our wedding in less than 3 weeks…) I’m so happy to also be able to offer you the chance to win  £50 of vouchers to spend on the very.co.uk Christmas Shop, perfect for finding those last minute Christmas gifts! My first ever competition on aroundtheworldin80bakes! 

If you would like to enter this competition all you need to do is vote for my Rosca de Reyes (aroundtheworldin80bakes) on the Cosmos Holidays website by leaving a comment at the bottom of the article and a 5 star rating. This would be very gratefully appreciated! You can see the full Rosca de Reyes in all it’s glory over on the Cosmos holiday website. The closing date is Wednesday 19th December. Then please let me know that you have voted by leaving me a comment on (any or all!)

This means I can then contact you if you are the lucky winner. I will choose one winner at random from all of those who vote for me. You could tweet something like “I’ve voted for @laurenprince #roscadereyes  to win£50very.co.uk vouchers http://aroundtheworldin80bakes.com #bakeoff #competition Vote to enter”

Now for the bake itself! I hope you like it!

Rosca de reyes  (Kings’ Cake) is a traditional Spanish  cake with an amazing story. It’s eaten on 6th January, the day that the 3 Kings (or wise men) reached the stable to visit Jesus.  This is also known as the religious holiday the Epiphany, a day where Christians celebrate the Son of God taking on human form as baby Jesus. In some countries this is the day that children open their presents rather than Christmas Day so this day definitely needs a special cake to celebrate!  A little figurine or a bean is usually hidden inside the cake to represent baby Jesus fleeing from King Herod who was trying to kill Jesus. Whoever finds the baby bean/figurine is blessed  as ‘King’ or ‘Queen’ of the banquet and should take the figurine to church with them on February 2nd. In Mexican cultures this person also has to throw the Epiphany banquet party for their families and friends the following year!

I’ve never eaten a Rosca de reyes despite all of our family holidays in Spain as a child. We always visited Spain in the Summer holidays where we contented ourselves eating ice cream and custard filled donuts whilst basking in the sun on the beaches instead. Some of our best family holidays were in Spain, so this recipe intrigued me. I’ve never attempted to hide things inside my cakes before and was unable to find a figurine in my house small enough, or that wouldn’t poison us all so I decided to make one out of sugar paste instead and hope that it doesn’t melt in the oven!

My marzipan interpretation of the baby Jesus...

My marzipan interpretation of the baby Jesus…

Looking for a suitable recipe I discovered there are quite a few variables. The Rosca de reyes is usually a ring shape or it could also be an oval (depending on how many people you’re baking for!). The festive dried fruits usually include wonderful reds, greens and oranges so you could use cherries, apricots, figs, cranberries, or mixed candied peel. The choices are endless.

This is essentially an enriched dough, shaped into a bejewelled festive wreath. It’s a bit of a cake/bread/pastry hybrid and stuffed with beautiful dried fruits.

Whizz up the flour and yeast

Whizz up the flour and yeast

If you’re using instant dried yeast you can throw it straight into your flour and mix it evenly through the flour. Using my Russian Doll measuring cups makes life a bit easier than weighing things out on the scales.

As it’s almost Christmas (we’re celebrating on 15th December this year as our wedding is just around the corner…) I wanted to make light work of this recipe. I struggle to knead dough for a long time, I’m simply not tall enough to put enough weight into it! So I whacked it all into my food processor to ease the process. If you don’t have a food processor you can mix it together by hand instead.

Grind up a star anise

Grind up a star anise

I whizzed the yeast and the flour together first to make sure the yeast is evenly distributed throughout the flour. Then while the food processor was running I added the dry ingredients first, the sugar, salt, cinnamon and ground star anise.  The spices really enhance the colour of the dough giving it a wonderful brown hue.

Rub in the butter

Rub in the butter

Once this is combined I popped the butter in and rubbed/blended it into the flour.

Rub in the butter until it looks sandy

Rub in the butter until it looks sandy

Followed quickly by the  beaten eggs, vanilla pod seeds and water. In the future I probably wouldn’t add any water as this made an extremely wet and sticky dough which meant my food processor went into over drive and actually caught fire! The poor food processor didn’t make it but the dough was thoroughly kneaded!

 

Beat in the eggs

Beat in the eggs

 

 

The food processor may screech a bit in protest but it can (usually!) knead the dough (using the dough hook) for a good 3 minutes before it starts to rock out of control and dance off the work top.

I had to add a little more flour in order to knead the dough by hand as it was more of a paste at this stage.

It was rather a sticky dough...

 

Once it becomes a firm dough it’s ready for a final knead on the work surface for 5 minutes or so until it bounces back when pressed lightly with a finger.

I had to bring out the cavalry to sort out this sticky mess - dough scraper!

 

Then to rest the dough for 2 hours in a greased and covered bowl in a warm place until it’s doubled in size. Or if like me you like to do things in stages feel free to let it rise slowly over night in the fridge and shape it at your leisure the next day.

A nice firm brown dough

 

When the dough has risen, punch it down and knead it thoroughly before starting to shape it into a ring or wreath. This really reminds me of my Swedish Tea Ring attempt. Roll it into a rectangle  about 30cm by 20cm. I oiled the board to stop the dough from sticking rather than dusting it with flour.

Roll it out to an even rectangle about 5mm thick

Roll it out to an even rectangle about 5mm thick

Spread the melted butter all over and give a generous coating to the outside edge of the dough.

Spread a generous coating of melted butter all over

 

I found I had an extra bit of dough which I trimmed off to make my rectangle extra straight. I used this to make another plaited version of Rosca De Reyes later on.

My second plaited Rosca de Reyes

 

Line the dough with an even covering of candied fruits, cinnamon and sugar.

Coat with sugar and spice and all things nice

 

Take your figurine/bean (or in my case a hand crafted marzipan baby Jesus) and hide him amongst the fruit.

Hide your figurine inside the fruit

 

Then roll it up into one long sausage, from the longest edge to the longest edge.

Roll roll roll your dough

 

Once you have you sausage shape you can add a smattering of melted butter to one end and coax the 2 edges together to form a ring. Feel free to pop a small greased pudding dish in the centre of the ring to ensure the ring has a hole in the middle as the dough rises.

The final sausage shape

 

A final egg wash and decoration with your chosen candied fruits, I used glace cherries and mixed peel, and it’s ready for the final proving.

Using lazy egg wash in a can (!) and dotting with cherries

 

Cover your ring with greased cling film to prevent it sticking and leave it for an hour to double in size on a baking tray greased and lined with greaseproof paper.

Bejewelled and ready to prove itself

 

After 40 minutes in the oven at 170 degrees C the Rosca De Reyes will have taken on a golden tinge and be firm to the touch. You can check it’s cooked through by tapping the bottom, of the ring, it should sound hollow.

Straight from the oven

 

Once it’s cooled completely I carried on decorating my Three Kings Cake. I’ve been saving my gold lustre spray for a special occasion and this seemed to be the perfect time to use it! I thought the gold would add a regal touch to the ring and additional symbolism as one of the 3 Kings brought gold as a present for baby Jesus. So I’m presenting a very gold Rosca de Reyes to you!

Then it seemed a bit too gold… so I added a sprinkling of marzipan stars with a dab of brandy on the back of each star to hold it in place. The original plan was to add just the one star, as the 3 Kings followed the star to Bethlehem to find baby Jesus in the stable, however I got a bit carried away with my cutters and made an entire starry night of marzipan instead. Resulting in a very decadent Rosca De Reyes!

A very decadent Rosca de Reyes - 3 King's Cake

 

With my left over dough I created a plaited Rosca De Reyes and smeared cinnamon, butter and sugar in between the plaits and dotted a few more glace cherries on the top. I hid one whole cherry underneath and tucked it into the dough.

A golden plaited Rosca de Reyes

 

Once it was baked I also gave it a liberal coating of edible gold lustre.

This bake feels so festive and is a wonderful cake to share with friends and family. It’s a bit like hiding a silver sixpence inside your Christmas pudding, waiting in anticipation to see who finds the baby Jesus inside their piece of bread. I loved this bake and think it may become a regular festive creation in my house. The egg wash gives the outside a fantastic bite to it. I love warming spices and this definitely packs a punch, with the cinnamon and star anise spices in the dough, carried through to the spicy sugary fruit inside. It is also rather reminiscent of a sticky Chelsea bun but even more festive and sparkly!

Cinnamon swirls - a slice of Rosca de Reyes

 

Marzipan is not traditionally found inside Rosca de reyes, but I adore it and try to fit it into everything that I possibly can. The addition of marzipan made the rosca de reyes slightly stollen-esque and what’s not to love about stollen? (It’s another of my favourite festive bakes – as if I don’t have enough already?!)  I try not to waste any ingredients  and wanted to put my left over marzipan to good use from icing my Wedding and Christmas cakes. You can adapt this recipe to suit your own favourite ingredients and play around with the shape too. Have fun and hope you enjoy it as much as me!

 

Things I used to make Rosca De Reyes:

Bake for approximately 45 minutes at 350 degrees F or 170 degrees C

  • 1/3 cup warm water (only add as much as you need)
  • 1 packet of yeast (7g dried instant yeast)
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Filling

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon/mixed spice
  • A marzipan baby Jesus (or you can use a small figurine or toy or a bean)
  • Dried/candied fruit (about 2 cups of assorted fruit cut into small pieces  such as sultanas, orange/lemon peel, mango or cherries)

Decoration

  • Large dried fruits (so they don’t burn in the oven) such as glace cherries
  • Beaten egg (to wash over the whole ring)
  • Edible gold lustre spray (or glitter) if you wish!
  • Marzipan and star cutters