I have a fascination with candied citrus. It’s delicious, particularly when well executed and dipped in dark chocolate. I credit this to my Grandmother. She loved strips of candied orange rind but only the real stuff – no terrible orange jelly strips in cheap, waxy chocolate for her! Oh no, it was the expensive, slowly candied rind dipped in high quality dark chocolate or nothing. On my visits to Chicago, we’d wander down to the basement of Marshall Fields and find our way among the beautiful candy counters, looking for just the right treats. Oh how I miss Marshall Fields and their beautiful candy department! It’s just not the same these days, not even close.
The other day I decided to turn this delightful combination into a cake and maybe candy a little citrus in memory of my Grandma. There was a stash of egg whites in the freezer, leftovers from a consulting project that used an ungodly amount of egg yolks. I needed an egg white heavy recipe and nothing uses up excess whites like an angel food cake. Since it is the Month of Everything Chocolate, I decided to make a chocolate version and the enormous bowl of oranges and clementines on the kitchen table, another project remnant, begged to be included.
The cake follows the standard angel food techniques – whipping the whites to stiff peak and folding in the dry ingredients then baking in an ungreased tube pan. The recipe I used, with a few modifications, was from Serious Eats and is adamant about using regular, not Dutch-process, cocoa powder. I typically use Dutch-process exclusively as I greatly prefer the dark color it gives to finished baked goods. I was skeptical but I tried both and I do think the regular cocoa powder made for a more tender, if not as dark, cake in this instance. What I absolutely do recommend is using the biggest bowl you have to fold in all those egg whites. For my first cake, I stupidly used too small of a bowl and unnecessarily deflated my whites a bit too much, making for an unappetizing tough cake. Regular cocoa, a big bowl and careful folding with a rubber spatula made sure everything was perfect on the next try.
For the glaze though, I did use a Dutch-process cocoa. I told you, I like the deep, dark color but use what you have. I can’t assume you’re crazy enough, like me, to have four different kinds of cocoa powder in your house. Because that’s just nuts. (But a big **fist bump** if you do!)
The cake was lovely simply glazed but I couldn’t get those candied orange peels out of my head. I stared at the bowl of clementines and remembered a rather complicated cookie I made a few Christmases back. Rich buttery cookies were topped with whole slices of candied lemons. They were stunning. They were a pain in the ass. It took nearly a week to candy those lemons. Rethinking that technique, I knew there had to be an easier way. Of course there was. Because clementine rinds are thinner and softer than lemons, a low and slow simmer in the sugar syrup for just two hours did the trick and did it beautifully. The secret is to find clementines that are small and tight – look for fruit that feels solid, with no give between the peel and flesh as soft, squishy specimans might make for easy peeling but results in some ugly candied slices. After two hours at a low simmer, the thin, delicate slices are then carefully removed to a wire rack to dry. With a minimal amount of work, you’ll have the prettiest garnish. Round, beautiful windowpanes of orange. I can’t wait to dip these in dark chocolate. My grandmother would swoon.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: SOMETHING SPECIAL. I have a friend who particularly likes the combination of chocolate and orange, so this one went directly to her without a second thought. She actually squealed with delight when she opened the box. Now if that isn’t some kind of awesome feel good therapy for both of us, then I don’t know what is. The other great thing? It’s angel food. While the cake is loaded with sugar, it’s fat free (except for the small amount of butter in the glaze). So there’s that! And guess what? That leftover syrup from candying the clementines makes a helluva drink, with bourbon especially or just sparkling water. It’s the cake that keeps on giving.
Seven years ago: Khachpuri
Six years ago: Fancy Valentine’s Day Cookies
Five years ago: Chocolate Churros
Four years ago: Chocolate Dulce de Leche Swirl Ice Cream
Three years ago: Peppermint Patty Brownies
Two years ago: Dulce de Leche Fondue
Last year: Flourless Chocolate Cookies
ORANGE CHOCOLATE ANGELFOOD CAKE WITH CANDIED CLEMENTINES – cake slightly adapted from this recipe
1 cup cake flour
1 cup regular cocoa powder, divided
1 ¾ cup sugar, divided
2 teaspoons instant espresso
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup boiling water
1 Tablespoon fresh orange zest
15 large egg whites (450g)
¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
chocolate orange glaze (recipe below)
candied clementines (recipe below)
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
- Sift the flour, ½ cup cocoa powder, ¾ cup sugar into medium bowl; set aside.
- Place remaining ½ cup cocoa powder, espresso powder, salt and orange zest in the largest bowl you have.
- Stir in boiling water until smooth; set aside.
- In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium speed until frothy.
- Add cream of tartar and continue to beat until the whites start to turn opaque, about 1 minute.
- Slowly add the remaining 1 cup sugar.
- Increase the speed to medium-high and beat to stiff but not dry peak, about 3-5 minutes.
- With a rubber spatula, mix in about 1 cup meringue into the cocoa/water mixture to lighten.
- In three stages, gently fold in remaining whites.
- Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture onto the meringue and gently fold in. Stop before the flour mixture is completely incorporated.
- In two more additions, sift and fold remaining flour mixture into batter until combined, taking care not to deflate the egg whites.
- Gently spoon batter into a tube pan with a removeable bottom (or an angel food cake pan if you have one.)
- Bake until cake is puffed, just set, and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
- Set pan on wire rack for 5 minutes, then invert pan onto wire rack so that cake can completely cool in pan upside-down, about 4 hours. If your cake bakes above the pan rim, like mine did, turn the pan upside down onto a bottle (a wine bottle works great) to keep from crushing the cake top.
- When completely cool, run a paring knife along inside of pan and invert cake onto a serving plate.
- Drizzle the cake with the chocolate glaze and top with candied clementine slices. Cake will keep for 2-3 days if tightly wrapped.
3 Tablespoons cocoa powder, regular or Dutch-process
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
- In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients until smooth.
When looking for clementines get the smallest ones possible, as they make the prettiest slices, and give them a squeeze. They should feel firm to the touch. You want nice intact slices; with softer clementines the peel is somewhat separate from the flesh and doesn’t make the prettiest candied slices. I’ve had great success lately with “Halos” – they’ve been nice and firm and the perfect small size.
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 small, firm clementines, peel on, sliced as thinly as possible
- In a saucepan combine the sugar with 2 cups water and bring to a boil.
- Add the clementine slices, reduce heat to simmer, and place a parchment paper circle on top of the liquid to keep fruit submerged.
- Keep the sugar syrup at a low simmer and cook the clementine slices very gently for 2 hours. The syrup should just barely bubble. If the syrup reduces too much, gently stir in ¼ cup water and continue to cook. When done, the slices should be bright orange and translucent.
- Place a piece of parchment paper in a sheet pan and top with a wire rack.
- With a pair of tongs, carefully remove the clementine slices, one by one, from the sugar syrup, letting the excess drip back into the pot.
- Carefully place the slices flat on the wire rack and allow to dry, at least 2 hours. Keep tightly wrapped until needed. Candied slices will keep for quite some time; the sugar may crystallize over time but that’s ok.