What’s Cooking: Sweet on citrus

Fragrant citrus permeates this moist, rich old-fashioned California orange cake.
Fragrant citrus permeates this moist, rich old-fashioned California orange cake. Los Angeles Times

As spoiled as we Californians are with our Mediterranean climate, there are days, even weeks, when the fog or clouds close in and life just seems gray.

Thank goodness for local citrus fruit, whether it’s from the clementine tree in the backyard, the Meyer lemon in the patio pot or the piles of navel oranges at the farmers market. The bright colors and aromas of tart goodness have the ability to shake us out of our fog-brained lethargy.

Here are some sweet interpretations of citrus for winter enjoyment.

Girasole’s orange cake with mascarpone

Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes, plus cooling time

Serves 8 to 10

Recipe adapted by the Los Angeles Times from Girasole Restaurant in Los Angeles.


2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

14 tablespoons (1¾ sticks) softened butter

3 egg yolks

Juice and finely grated zest of 1 orange

2 heaping tablespoons orange marmalade

1 tablespoon vanilla

Whipped mascarpone (half mascarpone, half heavy cream whipped together), for garnish

Candied orange peel, for garnish


Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 9-inch Bundt pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add the softened butter to the dry ingredients and mix, using the paddle attachment of the stand mixer or a hand mixer, until the butter is fully incorporated with the dry ingredients. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat together the egg yolks, orange juice and zest, marmalade and vanilla. With the mixer running, slowly beat in half of the egg mixture until incorporated, then beat in the second half.

Spoon the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake until the cake is puffed and lightly browned, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 minutes to an hour. Rotate the cake halfway through baking for even coloring. Cool on a rack.

Per serving (based on 10): 338 calories; 18 g fat (11 g sat.); 3 g protein; 42 g carb.; 98 mg chol.; 1 g fiber; 24 g sugar; 86 mg sodium.

Clementine cake with cheesecake cream

Serves 12

The recipe is adapted by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel from the BBC’s food blog,


12 seedless clementines (divided)

2 1/4 cups superfine sugar (divided)

1 1/4 cups water

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature, plus extra for greasing

Zest and juice of 1 lemon (divided)

3 eggs

1 package (10 ounces, 2 ½ cups packed) blanched ground almonds

1/4 cup farina (Cream of Wheat)

1 small tub (7 ounces) Greek yogurt

Cheesecake Cream (see recipe)


Thinly slice 5 clementines, rind on, horizontally, discarding ends.

In a small pan, combine 1 ¼ cups sugar with the water and bring to a simmer. Add clementine slices, cover and cook until slices are tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, grease a 10-inch springform pan and line with parchment.

Use a slotted spoon to lift out clementine slices from syrup. Arrange slices neatly over bottom of springform pan, overlapping where necessary. Zest remaining 7 clementines. Divide zest in two and reserve half for cheesecake cream. Squeeze juice from 4 of the zested clementines.

Stir clementine juice into syrup in pan. Boil gently uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or to desired thickness – up to 30 minutes if you prefer a thicker sauce. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Beat remaining 1 cup sugar with the 1/2 cup butter, lemon zest and half of the clementine zest until pale. (Reserve lemon juice for cheesecake cream.) Beat in eggs one at a time.

Peel 3 remaining zested clementines and separate into segments. Place segments in food processor and process until pulpy. Stir pulp into butter-sugar mixture, along with ground almonds, farina and yogurt. Mix until smooth.

Spoon batter carefully over candied clementine slices in springform pan. Bake in preheated oven until a skewer inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool cake in pan on rack. As cake bakes, make cheesecake cream.

Invert fully cooled cake onto serving platter. Peel off parchment. Serve wedges of cake topped with cheesecake cream and a little syrup.

Cheesecake cream


1 small tub (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese

1 small tub (7 ounces) Greek yogurt

1/2 cup superfine sugar

Reserved lemon juice (from cake recipe)

Reserved clementine zest (from cake recipe)


Combine all ingredients until well blended. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Old-fashioned orange cake

Total time: 1 hour

Serves 12

This recipe came to the Los Angeles Times from Marian Wilke, who notes that the original recipe called for processing the orange and raisins in a meat grinder; that gives you an idea of the size of the chunks that are necessary. It should be baked in a metal pan rather than glass, which tends to burn the cake.


1 orange

1 cup raisins

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup shortening

2 eggs

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, divided

2 cups cake flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup powdered sugar


Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch metal baking pan.

Scrub the rind of the orange well. Remove both ends of the orange and cut it into large chunks. Set aside.

Place the raisins in a food processor and pulse 6 or 7 times until coarsely chopped. Add the orange chunks and pulse 5 or 6 times to reduce them to evenly sized small pieces. Empty into a small bowl and set aside. Pulse the granulated sugar and shortening together in the food processor 4 or 5 times to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and process in between, scraping down sides. The mixture should be smooth, light and fluffy. Add 3/4 cup buttermilk and process to combine. The mixture will be very liquid and may look slightly separated.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon and add to the processor. Pulse just to combine into a smooth batter. Add all but 2 tablespoons of the orange-raisin mixture and pulse once or twice. Add the walnuts and pulse once; do not overprocess. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake until the sides have begun to brown and pull away from the pan, 35 to 40 minutes. The cake should still be moist in the center.

Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of buttermilk and the powdered sugar until smooth. Whisk in the reserved 2 tablespoons of the orange-raisin mixture and spread it over the hot cake. Serve at room temperature.

Per serving: 389 calories; 146 mg sodium; 35 mg chol.; 16 g fat (3 g sat.); 58 grams carb.; 5 g protein; 2 g fiber.