Orange Tea Cake

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Raise your hand if you have old leftovers sitting somewhere in your fridge or on your countertop. Come on, stand up and be counted. Me? Oh, that’s me in the corner. That’s me in the spotlight, raising my hand sheepishly and asking you to please step away from my refrigerator, where there are two giant buckets full of old dough, a container of chickpeas and sauteed onions that I’m afraid to even open to dump out, and some pizza sauce from when I made that first bucket of dough, for pizza, I don’t know how long ago. Step away from the fridge. Nothing to see here, folks. Other times there’s that one cookie or scone that my fella and I are both leaving for each other. And we leave it until it gets stale, because neither of us wants to eat the last one. We’ll never learn.

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And then there’s the marmalade. The sweet, sticky, beautiful clementine marmalade that I overcooked thanks to a faulty thermometer. Sure, I spread it on toast and mixed it into oatmeal, and it’s been delicious, but it was a bit too candy-like for some of my concoctions, and the jar was still almost full at the start of this past weekend. I made it in January. In my recipe, I said keep it in the fridge for up to two months — just to be on the safe side. Whoops.

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But just in the nick of time — or just after the nick of time, depending on whether you abide by the “rules” — a friend of mine posted a recipe for orange marmalade cake on her Facebook page. The recipe’s author, Melissa Clark of the New York Times, recommends good marmalade — caramelized and chock-full of bitter seville orange peel. Caramelized? Accidentally or not — yes! Chock full of peel? Oh hey now! I checked for mold, threw the “rules” out the window, and got to work.

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What drew me to this recipe was not just the fresh flavor of the citrus, enhanced by orange and lime zest and orange juice, but the fact that it was simple. The wet ingredients are all mixed with an electric hand mixer, the flour mixture is folded in, and it goes in the oven. Boom. I love multi-batch recipes like cookies so much that cake and brownie recipes are always such a revelation.

This beauty is rather dense, but such are tea cakes. It’s moist and has the loveliest, most delicate aroma. It’s bold yet delicate. I altered the proportions of orange and lime zests, favoring the orange, but the hint of lime adds a layer of complexity that a solely orange base couldn’t provide. Melissa calls it “floral” and she’s spot on. The cake itself isn’t too sweet, so the glaze, made with more marmalade, some confectioner’s sugar, a bit of butter and a pinch of salt, is a welcome highlight. It’s wonderful with tea, as the name suggests, but it’s also great with a morning cup of coffee.

And now — hurray — I have less than half a jar of marmalade to power through. I’m still working on that New Year’s resolution. I think I can do it. Let’s see another show of hands. Who else wants some delicious orange tea cake?

Orange Tea Cake

adapted from The New York Times

If you don’t have clementine marmalade on hand, definitely do try to get your hands on a nice, dark British orange marmalade. Or if you feel like making some from scratch you can find the recipe here.

For cake:
107 grams (⅓ cup) orange or clementine marmalade
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pan
150 grams (¾ cup) granulated sugar
1 ¼ teaspoon grated lime zest (from 1 lime)
1 ½ teaspoons grated orange zest (from 1 large orange)
3 large eggs at room temperature
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice (from ½ orange)
190 grams (1 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

For glaze:
107 grams (⅓ cup) orange or clementine marmalade
30 grams (4 tablespoons) confectioner’s sugar
½ tablespoon unsalted butter
pinch salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric hand mixer, beat softened butter, sugar, lime zest, and orange zest until it is light and fluffy, about five minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated, making sure the mixture is smooth. Beat in marmalade and orange juice. Fold flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing out the top. Bake until the surface is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Turn cake out of pan and place it right-side up on the rack. Place a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment, wax paper, or foil under the rack to catch the glaze.

Heat ⅓ cup marmalade in a small saucepan over low heat until loose. Whisk in confectioner’s sugar and butter until smooth. Slather over the top of the cake. Let the cake cool completely and the glaze harden before slicing. Store well-wrapped at room temperature.

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