Orange and Almond Spongecake

This has become a favorite in my apartment recently. I've made it three times this semester upon my roommates' requests, and each time I've tried to make it a little differently. This time I made it for Jade's 22nd birthday as a very thin sheet cake, that I sliced into quarters and stacked into layers, but the original recipe calls for a round nine-inch cake.
This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, way in the back of the volume with the other classic french cakes.  It's made of really simple ingredients, but can be a little tricky because the spongecake has no rising agent, like baking soda or powder, instead it relies on the whipped egg whites for the fluffiness. You can make this by hand, but I (and Julia) would recommend a hand or stand mixer to help.

-1 stick of butter
-2/3 granulated sugar
-3 large eggs
-1 orange, grated grind and 1/3 cup orange juice.
-1/4 tsp almond extract
-3/4 cup ground almonds
-1/2 cup cake flour, sifted
-1 Tb granulate sugar

Short Version:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, butter and flour the cake pan and line with parchment paper.
2. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
3. Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and beat until pale yellow and fluffy. Add the grated orange peel, orange juice (1/3 cup) and almond extract.
4. Beat for a moment or two until it's light and foamy. Then beat in the almonds and the flour.
5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks, then add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
6. Fold the butter into the cake batter. Stir 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter, then fold in the rest.
7. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake until springy and light brown, about 30-35 minutes.8. Let cool for 10 minutes until the cake pulls away from the sides and a knife comes out clean. Take out the cake carefully onto a baking rack and allow to cool for an hour or two.    

Extended Version (with pictures):

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. 
2. Butter and flour the cake tin, cut out parchment paper to fit the bottom. 
*You don't necessarily need parchment paper on some tins, but it helps a lot. And please don't use wax paper!
3. Melt the stick of butter and set aside to cool (can use microwave or stove, whatever just melt it.)
4. Grind 1/3 cup almonds with 1 or 2 Tb sugar in a blender or food processor.
5. Grate the rind of the orange, trying not to get too much of the yellow (bitter) part of the rind. Then juice the orange, about 1/3 cup OJ. I always just use my hands or a fork to crush the orange over a measuring cup, seems to work pretty well.
6. Separate the eggs, save the whites (you'll need them later).
7. Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks, until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy.
*You can do this part by hand in a separate bowl, I actually recommend it if you only have a stand mixer. I had to clean this bowl three frickin' times to make this cake and buttercream.

8. Add the orange rind, juice, and 1/4 tsp almond extract. Beat for a moment until the mixture is light and foamy.

9. Add the 1/4 cup almonds and 1/2 cup cake flour (I used all-purpose flour, just about 2 Tb less).
*If you lift the mixer (or whisk) and swirl a figure-8 pattern with the ribbon of batter onto the surface of the mixture, it should be able to stay put for 5 seconds. Then it's ready.
10. Set aside. Now it's time for those egg whites! Beat with a pinch of salt.
11. Beat until soft peaks form, then add 1 Tb granulated sugar. Beat again until stiff peaks form.
12. Like so. Now take the cake batter, and fold in the cool melted butter.

13. Stir 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter, than carefully fold in the rest.

14. Immediately pour into the cake pan, spreading down to the edges with a spatula if it's a sheet pan. Bake until puffed, browned and springy. A knife or needle through it should come out clean.
 -9 inch cakes will take 30-35 minutes.
-My sheet cake took about 18 minutes.
Place the tin and all on a baking rack to cool for 10 minutes; until the edges pull away from the sides.
15. Carefully remove the cake onto a baking sheet. Allow it to cool completely before icing, about 1-2 hours.

 This cake smells so good when it's baking, the orange fragrance fills the entire apartment. The almonds weigh the cake down, I haven't been able to find a way to make it really light, so it's a little heavier than traditional sponge (almost the consistency of carrot cake). 

I made an Orange-butter Filling and Orange Buttercream from Mastering too, which I'll put in another post, if you are lazy ain't got time for that, this would go well with store-bought vanilla frosting or a just a dusting of powdered sugar. 



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