Even in California, it’s tough to find a good selection of local fruit in the winter. Citrus is about the only choice at the farmers market these days and I get weary of clementines, as wonderful as they are.
The arrival of blood oranges is always cause for celebration. I can’t resist these beautiful oranges with the blushing rind and dark red flesh. Their flavor is deeper and more complex than ordinary navels, with wine-like undertones and a lively balance of sugar and acid.
Blood oranges are great to eat out of hand but I think they’re best used in salads and desserts that capitalize on their exotic flavor.They’re an intriguing substitute for the usual lemons in this take on the old-fashioned pudding cake.
To call it a cake is really a stretch. Think of it more as a rustic souffle floating atop a luscious sauce. As a bonus, it’s much less temperamental than the classic souffle. It puffs up in the oven and deflates a little on standing but never totally collapses.
This is a homey dessert. With the exception of the oranges, all the ingredients are probably sitting in your pantry and fridge. Stir up the batter, beat the egg whites, fold them in, and spoon it all in a buttered dish to bake while you fix dinner.
As the batter bakes, it separates. An airy cake rises to the top of the dish and a tangy, pale pink sauce forms on the bottom. The sauce tends to be fairly thin but incredibly tasty.
Of course, if you can’t find blood oranges, lemons will make a very nice pudding cake. Meyer lemons would be even better.
Serves 63/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided use
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Grated zest of 1 blood orange
1/4 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups whole milk
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and butter a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Find a roasting pan or oven-proof dish at least 2 inches deep and large enough to hold the baking dish. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Turn off heat and let water sit while you stir together the cake.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, flour and salt. In another bowl or large glass measuring cup, whisk together the zest, blood orange juice, lemon juice, egg yolks and milk. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and stir together until the batter is well-blended.
In a large, spotlessly clean bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed, using a whisk attachment if you have it. Beat whites until they form soft peaks. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating just until the whites become glossy and fairly stiff. Don’t over-beat.
Spoon about 1/4 of the beaten egg whites into the orange juice mixture and stir to lighten the batter. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites, being careful not to deflate them. Pour batter into the buttered baking dish.
Place the baking dish in the larger pan and pour hot water around it, being careful not to splash any into the batter. You want the water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake for about 40-50 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the cake feels a little firm to the touch.
Let cake cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before serving. Can also be served cold or at room temperature.