Sephardic Flourless butter-less orange-and-almond cake

Pssst Can you keep a secret? Yes? Good…. now what I am about to tell you must NEVER be told to anyone that is not a cook. Here it is …the secret handshake of the food lovers fraternity…. we share recipes….yep its true …and we pass little jars of quince paste, capsicum relish, greens picked from a home garden, a slice of the best fruit cake you could dream of, super fresh eggs, figs and more…(by the way, thank you, you know who you are)… it’s like our secret motto, our handshake or symbol, it helps define who we are. So now that I have told you my secret, what has someone clandestinely slipped your way recently?… saying ‘try this’ or thanks for inviting me please have this little jar of something? hmmm go on tell us!.

The recipe for this cake was given to me recently on a little slip of paper… “really weird orange cake” it said, and it was a bit like Alice in Wonderlands bottle saying ‘drink me’ …except this recipe was whispering ‘bake me’. Now a cake recipe that has no wheat flour and no butter does sound weird so I did a little research. The recipe here is based on the Sephardic orange-and-almond cake in Claudia Roden’s comprehensive book A New Book of Middle Eastern Food (yes you may borrow it if you want). The recipe was originally Jewish and the cake was baked during Passover.

This cake is a winner for me for two reasons; firstly all the ingredients can be bunged ( is that a cooking term?) into the food processor, saving on washing up ( though if you do it properly it could just be that little bit nicer) and secondly because Claudia Roden says that the cake can never fail ( you have to like that). Claudia says that if the cake is not cooked enough, it is moist enough to became a pudding served with a dollop of cream or mascarpone, and the moistness helps prevent the cake becoming too dry if it is overcooked ( I proved this having not checked oven temp properly and it had been set too high)

I have found several variations to the ‘original’ recipe that you could try; Jill Dupleix separates the eggs, making a cake that is lighter, my good friend who gave me the recipe said that a heaped tablespoon of poppy seeds added to the batter was good, and I made mine with a sort of almond brittle topping.

So have a go and remember keep on sharing those recipes and other goodies, oh and thanks again Mr R.


2 large or 3 medium oranges

6 eggs

225g caster sugar (or make it sugarless too and use 3/4 cup honey)

200g ground almonds

1tsp baking powder


Place the clean, whole and unpeeled fruit in a little water, and bring to the boil. Simmer for at least 1½ hours or until soft, adding more water when necessary.

Drain the oranges, cut into quarters, discard any major pips, and whiz (including peel) in the food-processor, then cool. Throw in the rest, egg*, sugar, almonds, and baking powder.

Heat the oven to 180C

*Jill Dupleix  says to just add the yolks then beat the egg whites until softly peaky and fold gently into the mixture.

Pour into a 23cm (9in) springform cake tin and bake for an hour, until firm to the touch (cover with a loose sheet of foil if over-browning). Cool in the tin and dust with icing sugar to serve.

26 thoughts on “Sephardic Flourless butter-less orange-and-almond cake

  1. Ooh, yummy! The flourless orange cake has to be truly one of my favourite cakes, and I’ve seen a zillion variations of the recipe in various books and on the internet. The cake doesn’t ever sit about waiting to be eaten for very long…!
    Thank you so much for your kind comments on my blog about my challenge!

  2. yep, already behind with what I plan to make, however I AM gong to make the pasties and my soup this weekend …. Now this is a perfect desert! Top job.

  3. This cake looks delicious just looking at it! Juicy and sweet, I have to try this, but I have a doubt (I guess the language) What is a food processor??

  4. This cake is fabulous, I love that it is sweet, moist and flourless. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe, I sure this will quickly become a favourite.

  5. This cake is perfect for my bf who is lactose intorelant. I am just learning how to bake and this looks really easy. Can you please tell me how you made the almond brittle with orange slices as your topping. Thank you!!

    • Hi Terry, I didn’t have a recipe for the almond brittle so you will need to use your judgement regarding the quantities, but this is what I remember :
      1-2 tablespoons sugar (can be brown or white)
      1 tablespoons honey
      1-2 tablespoons butter
      Zest of an orange
      3/4 cup slivered blanched almonds
      In a heavy bottom pan, melt butter over medium-low heat, stir in the slivered blanched almonds, sugar, and honey. Stir until sugar has dissolved and the almonds have caramelised and are golden brown. (Stir continuously because if the pan is too hot, the almonds may burn). While the mixture is still warm add the orange zest then spread over the top of the cake using a spatula or the back of a large spoon.

  6. I have this recipe and made it for Passover. Unfortunately the rules of Passover require that you don’t use the baking powder in the recipe. Mine is tasty but rather dense in texture. Any suggestions?

    • Gail, perhaps as Jill Dupleix suggests you could set aside the whites of the eggs, beat and then fold into the mixture at the end. Might work?

      • Yes but add some acidic agent as well. Baking powder is a mix of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) and tartaric acid (cream of tartar). To make your own baking powder mix two parts cream of tartar with one part bicarbonate of soda.

    • I have made it with and without baking powder. Definitely making it with beaten egg whites helps as does using smaller oranges so it’s not as moist

  7. Instead of Butter , I recollect it was made of Refined Cooking oil,is it so? And Orange was not one of the I ingredients, all the same I think it enhances the cake and would taste Good!,
    Thanks and regards, Norma

  8. I love this cake and make it often. It is even better if you eat it the next day. Has anyone tried substituting the oranges with rhubarb for example, or damson purée?

    • Haven’t tried rhubarb or damson, but would if I could get hold of some. I often use raspberries or blueberries, or both together – frozen, but defrosted, then stirred in at last moment, but before beaten egg whites. I then simmer some fruit with the smallest amount of sugar or honey till thick, then cool and serve over the cake (this would definitely help if you don’t use baking powder.) When I first came across this cake I somehow forgot the BP, and made a few without it. It is more solid, but just as delicious.

  9. How can I minimise the dryness of flourless, butter-free cakes when baking?

    The cakes that I see that are flourless and butter free have a fruit of some kind, let’s say an orange that is soaked and the juices from it used. This makes for a very moist cake and you will be happy to save on those calories. Look at this recipe. h…

  10. I read the Almond Brittle recipe , but cannot see where the butter is used in “method” ? Some recipes for Orange Almond cake say beat the eggs well first, to a froth . Shalom C.Barnett

  11. I forgot to say in my previous comment that I only use 150 gms sugar, usually coconut sugar or zylitol (or a combination of those). I don’t like things very sweet, and no one has ever said it was anything other than delicious (except perhaps most delicious!). I have used chopped preserved ginger with a little of the syrup (maybe half a tablespoon) and a heaping tsp of powdered ginger (more or less depending on how much you love ginger. Also at Christmas I made the chocolate orange version (Nigella), iced it it with melted chocolate with added butter, decorated with physilis with the dried leaves pulled out to look like flowers and sprayed the lot with edible gold spray. It looked really beautiful and very festive.

  12. I am not AT ALL a baker, but even I can make this cake. It never fails and everybody absolutely loves it. It is moist, fragrant and simply delicious. Every time I make it, I get a request for the recipe, so it is a well-travelled cake now! The bonus (for me) is that the house smells amazing when I boil the oranges. Thanks so much!

  13. Just be careful which oranges you use. Smaller, thin skinned oranges best. Large pithy oranges make for a more bitter cake (quite interesting actually) and a bit too moist for my taste. Some people stir in choc chips which is very successful.

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