Years ago—when I was still in high school? maybe college—my mom and I were watching cooking shows one afternoon and saw Nigella Lawson make this clementine cake. It was near the holidays and mom had clementines in the house, of course, and if I remember correctly, she made one immediately after seeing the episode. Over the years she’s made it more than once, but I never had.
Clementines are so perfect this time of year—I’ve always associated them with Christmastime—and I recently bought a crate of them. Though I ate practically one a day, I still have a lot left, so this cake is perfect, as it uses up 5! Though it doesn’t have what we might consider “traditional” Christmas flavors, it’s still one of those scents and tastes that is very, very December.
The interesting thing about this cake is that it is completely gluten-free (though definitely not vegan, with six eggs in the mix). Instead, it’s made with ground almonds (I bought whole roasted unsalted almonds and ground them in the food processor—cover your ears and warn your family, because it’s a LOUD process!), which makes this really more of a nut confection. It reminds me of some Middle Eastern sweets I’ve bought at bakeries in my neighborhood. (If anyone knows what they’re called, please let me know! I often point and ask what it is, and they tell me the ingredients. When I hear “almond” I always say “I’ll take it.”) It’s a rather sweet cake; I might cut down on the sugar in the future and add just a touch of almond extract to really pump up the almond.
The recipe is available on Nigella’s site, though it uses all the metric measures. Here it is, “translated” and tweaked a bit to offer some of my own experience.
4 to 5 unpeeled clementines (about 1 pound total weight)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/3 cup ground almonds
1 heaping tsp baking powder
Put the unpeeled clementines in a pot with cold water to cover, bring to a boil, and boil gently for two (2) hours. Add more water if the level gets too low. Drain and, when cooled, cut each clementine in half and remove any seeds.
Chop everything finely—skins, flesh, and all—in the food processor (or by hand). Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter and line an 8-inch springform pan.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the sugar, almonds, and baking powder. Mix well, adding the chopped clementines. Don’t use the food processor for this, it’s easy to mix in by hand.
Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes. You many need to cover the pan after about 40 minutes to stop the top from burning.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack in the pan. When the cake is cold, take it out of the pan. Serve!
Because it’s pretty sweet, I’d recommend eating plain (my preference) or perhaps with a nice dollop of very lightly sweetened whipped cream.