Juicy Satsuma Orange Cake

One of my Christmas presents from Matt was a collection of Virginia Woolf’s letters, which I’m really enjoying, and to which, the introduction reads: “In turn-of-the-century handbooks on how to write a proper letter, women were advised to be self-effacing. Ladies, they were told, do not begin a letter with ‘I’. They begin instead with something that will interest their correspondents, chiefly themselves.” Therefore, “The proper female letter writer was simply another version of the hostess.” 

Maybe because I was sick on New Year’s Eve, spending it with a crazy headache and no champagne, Matt and I didn’t feel forced into a discussion about resolutions. And maybe because, in a bit of a turn-of-the-century-inspired change of pace for this usually non-self-effacing writer, I haven’t felt compelled to publicly (or privately) set a single resolution for 2012.

I—here ‘I’ go again!—think it’s because I’m a bit tired of setting goals. Even when my dear friend broached the topic with me and told me about how her resolution for 2011 had been to have more fun, and I instantly wanted to steal it for myself, the more I thought about it, the more I wondered: what does it mean—to have “more fun”? Does that mean I should watch more TV? Does that mean I should throw a Downton-Abbey inspired cocktail party? Does it mean I should meditate more so that I can become less stressed and more open for a good time in general? Or, does it mean I should go to amusement parks with friends and ride the roller coasters with no hands? Do you see what I’m saying? It started becoming goal-oriented. So, alas, here I sit, one week into 2012 and very much resolution-less.

But hey, I don’t want to rain on your 2012-resolutions parade. In fact, please tell me: how’s it going for you? Are you doing the Gwyneth/Goop cleanse? Are you making macaroni and cheese? What about cake? Surely, you can fit in one slice of heavenly orange cake, no?
What if I told you that when you pull this cake out of the oven, you have to wait until it’s cooled down a bit before brushing the orange glaze on top, and that during this interim period, I nearly pressed my face into the cake’s surface as the smell was that intoxicating? It was floral but orangey, and sweet. So, naturally, I hovered over it with my nose only one centimeter from the top for at least thirty seconds, if not a full minute.
This is a beauty of a cake—perfect for a winter dinner party or, just for yourself. In fact, while I was eating a slice, I had the thought that if it weren’t for Bon Appetémpt, I wonder if I would have made such a pretty, fairly involved cake. Perhaps, but probably not midweek with only Matt and I to eat it, which is really a shame because it made an ordinarily drab Wednesday so much better.
Isn’t that funny? That while we may no longer approach letters, or emails, with a hostess mentality, or any real sense of etiquette for that matter, (I know I use a lot of emoticons.) we still do when it comes to actual hosting, over 100-years later. The editor of this collection, Joanne Trautmann Banks, writes: “The successful Victorian hostess devoted herself to her guests and appeared to deny herself.” And isn’t that the same for the successful present-day hostess? We vacuum the whole apartment, make special cakes, wash a million pans, and then wave off any compliments with, “Oh, it was nothing! Thank you for coming!” I’m not complaining, I promise—I’m not at all ready to say goodbye to this tradition. There’s nothing I love more than being invited to dinner, to being hosted.

Maybe that could be my resolution—to treat myself like I would my guests? Oh, but I’ve strayed. Back to you! Would you be interested in having me for dinner? Thanks in advance!
Juicy Satsuma Orange Cake via Andrea Reusing's Cooking in the Moment
Oranges and Glaze
5 satsuma oranges
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup semolina flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 10-inch round pan. (I used a 9-inch and, plain as the eye can see, it worked out great.)

Finely grate the zest of one of the oranges, and reserve the zest for the cake batter. Cut the orange in half, juice it, and strain the juice; you should have 1/3 cup juice. Slice the remaining 4 oranges into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Combine the orange juice, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and orange slices in a medium saucepan, and bring to a slow simmer over low heat. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes, until the centers of the orange slices are starting to become tender and translucent but are not falling apart. Carefully transfer the orange slices to a plate with a slotted spoon, and continue to simmer the syrup until it has reduced to 1/2 cup, 5 to 8 minutes. Set the glaze aside. (I did this step and then went to yoga class, came back an hour and a half later and finished everything up. Just in case, you need to break up this baking session.)

To make the cake, combine the butter and sugar in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix until fluffy. While the mixer is running, add an egg and wait for it to be incorporated before adding the other. Add the reserved grated orange zest. In a bowl, sift together the semolina flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture, a little at a time, to the batter mixture and mix until all of it is incorporated. Pour the batter into the pan and arrange the orange slices in one layer on top of the batter. Bake for 15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is an even golden brown and baked through; a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Let the cake cool on a wire rack until it is warm. Then, using a wooden skewer, poke holes all over the surface of the cake. Brush the glaze over the top, using a pastry brush. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature, and then unmold.
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  1. I love this cake, but the rind-bits are too bitter for me!

  2. We'll happily host you ANYTIME. Especially if you bring cakes this pretty.

  3. I cannot handle how good this cake looks! I love the smell of citrus, and can't wait to give this recipe a try. As far as hosting goes, it seems there is a movement away from entertaining and towards gathering. It's about being together and sharing simple pleasures (like this cake), not a hostess creating the perfect meal and slaving over her guests.

  4. can you please make it for me one day? please please!!

  5. so so so beautiful! i wonder if i could make this with clementines?

  6. This was a great read. I am resolution free too. I have a few 'hopes' instead...less pressure. The cake looks stunning by the way.

  7. @jodi !!! still thinking about that brisket...

    @la domestique: True! tho before anyone steps foot in my place, I clean everything, which i assume I'll always do...

    @jeana hahahhaa. of course!

    @the actor's diet: definitely. you could make it with any kind of orange!

  8. 1. First of all (avoiding the beginning 'I' with unnecessary phrases, does that count?), I think that's a perfectly good resolution- to treat oneself as one would one's guests. One of the reasons I like having people over once a week is that the house gets such a deep clean (and a big bunch of flowers) that it looks pretty for days afterwards (and also, leftovers).

    2. A while ago (see above), I decided that instead of a New Year's resolution, I'd make a New Day's resolution, because waiting till the first of January seemed silly, plus on the first of January there are so many damn things I want to change that I end up half-assing them all and never really changing anything... so no, no resolutions here, not for the new year.

    3. Pressing a face into hot cake for the aroma good? Gluten free adaptation is on the list... though the chocolate beet cake is still up there at the top (maybe today will be the day).

    4. Happy new non-resolute year. Sometimes wandering aimlessly is just as fun as ploughing straight ahead with blinkers on. Then you get to do things like spend a minute smelling orange cake :).

  9. Looks beautiful. I picked up this book after your post last week and literally want to make everything.

  10. Yes, I would be interested in having you as a guest--only if you bring this cake!

  11. I want this every day forever! and ever! SATSUMA love :)

  12. This cake is so M.F.K. Fisher + Borderlands {"peel an orange..."}. I'm in love.

  13. RE: an ordinarily drab Wednesday so much better...AND RE: while we may no longer approach letters, or emails, with a hostess mentality, or any real sense of etiquette for that matter...

    You brought the hosting to YOU! This is totally articulate, but this orange cake on a Wednesday is the PERFECT anti-Victorian splendor. Well done!

  14. Hahaha, loved the turn around at the end, well played. I really like that this cake uses semolina-- I have a tiny bag that I've been meaning to use up somewhere. Helloo orange breakfast cake.

  15. This would put me in a sunny mood ANY day! Yum! No New Year's Resolutions for me either. Though I am not one to resolve things arbitrarily.

  16. hmmm...i made this a couple months back (which includes 2 whole blended oranges in the batter!) and was utterly underwhelmed. but this looks enticing enough for me to give orange cake another go -- the syrup + orange slices seem sassy enough to actually make it work!

    but so so weird... i've been thinking a lot, a lot, a lot about old-fashioned etiquette and Victorian decorum lately. (even been pouring through the old turn of the century domestic magazines...ads for summertime rust-proof corsets are a little eye-opening!) but flying in the face of all those shoulds and shouldn'ts, i think the tricky thing about having more fun is exactly that -- elimnating those things that you think *should* be fun, and instead leaning into whatever it is you actually you relish - whatever that may be...

    and yes, i do believe you'd be a pleasure to host for dinner! x

  17. ohhhhh my gosh i just died when i read 'floral but orangey and sweet' - could possibly be my most favorite smell ever!

    looks amazing.

  18. That is lovely and makes me want to go get a glass of orange juice until I can make the cake. I totally identify with you on the work that goes into hosting and then brushing it off as no big deal. Why is it so hard (at least for me) to accept compliments/thanks?

    Also, and somewhat unrelated, I finally made it through my stack of December magazines and have flagged the BA forked potatoes--I've had that on my mind since you posted it. Yum!

  19. This cake looks so gorgeous! If my husband weren't averse to fruit in desserts, I'd be making this right now.

    I also get into super cleaning mode before having guests over, and wish I could just be more relaxed about the whole thing.

    1. I believe that means if you make it, you get to eat the whole thing yourself.

  20. these photos are especially gorgeous. and the sentiment is lovely as well!

  21. Oh my! Its been my new year resolution to find a good orange cake recipe. I have had a few good ones bookmarked, but after seeing this, they have all gone to the recycle bin. It looks delicious and Im sure tastes even better than it looks! Will try it out and let you know!

  22. Oh I love the idea of enjoying a nice cake on a weekday. Hmmm, maybe I should do that more often? the new year snuck up on me and I have not made any resolutions, although I don't really think I ever have.

  23. i don't know who you think you are making a gorgeous cake like this. YOU'RE AWESOME and 2012 better watch out for you.

    i have a few resolutions and one of them is to cook more fun things, kinda like this. : )

  24. thanks, friends! So glad you like this pretty cake.

    @Ms.Nožisková you are sooo right. Once I take away all the "shoulds," what's left? This is what I need to keep my eyes open for.

  25. Longtime reader, first time commenter but had to post as my resolution this year is to "enjoy 2012." I'm having fun, yes, but I'm also trying to relish each moment, savor every day....and eat some great food in the process, of course.

  26. I think this is a delightful mix of a semi-sour and sweet treat. I just love oranges and this recipe is just what I'm looking for.

  27. I made this last week when the streets were literally flooded here in Houston, but used all purpose flour only and clementines. It was amazing! I'm making it again tonight with the semolina, but when naval oranges. This time, it has a much stronger orange aroma.

    The best thing about this cake is that is seems to get better, more moist, as the days pass.

  28. Is it weird that I keep coming back to read this again and again? I am indescribably inspired by your non-resolution.

  29. OK - the cake turned out amazing! The semolina crunch and the delicious glazed oranges are something to return to at least a few more weekends this winter. My first cake cooked a touch too long (likely my oven is a bit too hot!) so I'll keep a better eye on that next time. Thanks for sharing!

  30. Naval oranges were an EPIC fail, FWIW

    1. oh no!! what happened?? Did you still eat it?

  31. Made this cake... twice. Loved it! I used blood oranges both times because I love the color--but I think when using thicker-rinded citrus it's important to really candy them thoroughly to get rid of any bitterness. Blogged about it here: http://themoveablefeasts.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/juicy-blood-orange-cake/
    Thanks for sharing the recipe!


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