Chocolate and blood orange cake


Completely taken by its aged beauty, I took a picture of this orange tree while visiting Florence last year. I've never had the chance to see an orange tree before. A lemon tree, yes, my grandparents used to have it planted in a huge pot - a wine barrel - which  was hand made by my grandfather. Because of the extreme weather, it needed special care and I remember him  moving it around the house and the garden a few times a year. The tree lasted for years, but not for long after my grandpa past away. I wish everyone could  have this kind of tree in their back yard! You need juice? Step out into the garden. Need lemon zest? No need to check whether it was waxed or not. But, that's something to think about for the retirement plan.

The oranges I used to make a cake to celebrate this magnificent tree didn't come from Florence, but from Sicily and were equally beautiful.

First of all poach the slices of one orange in 200 ml water and 100 g granulated sugar. This should ideally be done one day ahead, but a few hours is also fine. Bring the water and sugar to a simmer and put in the orange slices. Let them simmer on low heat for about half an hour, cool and refrigerate over night.

For the chocolate cake batter

Preheat the oven to 220 C/425 F/gas mark 7

150 g butter
120 g plain flour
150 granulated sugar
20 g unsweetened cocoa powder
3 eggs
5 g active dry yeast

Beat the butter until creamy, add the sugar and whisk to mix, then add eggs, one at the time. When fully mixed, fold the cocoa, flour and yeast that was previously stirred together. At this point you can add soaked raisins, candid oranges or sliced nuts if you wish.
Butter a loaf pan - 25x8x8 cm - and fill it with the batter 2-3 cm below the rim. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from the oven and make a knife slit lengthwise, then return to the oven , lower the temperature to 180 C/350 F/ gas mark 4 and bake for 40 minutes.

In the meanwhile, prepare the syrup. Bring 150 ml of orange juice ( I made it fresh, although bought could be also used) and 120 g granulate sugar to boil and set aside.
When the cake is ready, take it out, place it on a cooling rack which was set on a rimmed baking sheet.  Using a ladle to pour syrup that was brought to a simmer over cake then allow to soak. Make small holes in the cake using a toothpick. Gather syrup from the baking sheet and pour again.  Allow to cool and decorate with poached orange slices.

You can also make a glaze using 50 g of orange jelly and 1 tbsp of water.  Heat it lightly and coat the cake.

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