Orange and Almond Spongecake

It can be easy to get a little down as the days get shorter and the temperatures get colder, but one thing I love about the arrival of Winter is the surplus of citrus you start to find at the store. The bright orange hues and juicy sweetness are almost a peace offering for the chilly months ahead. With holidays approaching, I thought I would share this wonderful cake recipe by the one and only Julia Child. Bon appetit!

Originally posted January 18th, 2012 on

Joe and I recently hosted brunch for a few friends, and we decided fresh squeezed orange juice and a winter fruit salad should be on the menu. We all ate oranges and grapefruits and kumquats and tangelos (great name!) until we were turning orange ourselves, and had vitamin C coming out of our ears, and we were still left with this. A very threatening amount of citrus goodness left on our counter threatening to spoil and attract fruit flies at a moment’s notice. I can hear the tangelos now. Haha! There is no way they will be able to eat us all! We are going to get ROTTEN, and there is nothing they can do!

Not in my kitchen! No navel left behind! Don’t get me wrong, I love eating a plain orange, but variety is the spice of life, so I called in reinforcements from my cookery book collection, and who should respond but the lovely Ms. Julia Child and Ms. Simone Beck! Lucky me!

Mastering the Art of French Cooking needs no introduction around these parts, and we recently enjoyed Ms. Beck’s heavenly gougères, aka Puffy Little Misters, so let’s just hop right to it, shall we?

I decided I had been eating far too healthy recently, so something slightly decadent was in order. Nothing too fussy, however, but fancy enough so I could give myself a pat on the back for a job well done. A Gàteau à L’Orange et aux Amandes (Orange and Almond Spongecake) recipe should fit the bill perfectly. Onward!

I gathered the troops and got to work. Ground almonds added a nice bit of texture and flavor along with the standard flour, and whipped egg whites stood in for a leavening agent in place of baking powder or baking soda.

Grated orange rind as well as fresh squeezed juice added lovely color and zing, and a touch of almond extract tied it all together. The cake came out looking puffed and proud, and a light dusting of powdered sugar would have been a fine ending to this story, but I knew something was missing. I almost moved on with my day until I heard a something whispering and snickering on the counter. Tee hee! We will only be good for a couple more days! Yoo hoo! Oh, fruit flies! Come and get me! I looked all around, and then I identified the source of this interruption. Kumquats.

Have you ever eaten a kumquat plain? They may look like harmless little fruit baubles, but let me tell you, these fellas pack a real lip-pursing punch. I stared at their sour smirks, afraid they might get away with it, until a sudden calm came over me. I knew what needed to be done. I will candy them. And candy them I did!

I made a simple syrup of equal parts sugar and water, and once the sugar had dissolved I added the thinly sliced kumquats and lightly simmered them for about an hour. I then removed the slices and let them cool on a sheet of parchment.

Honestly, I would eat a lot more fruit if it was simmered in a sugar bath first. Seriously, though, these taste like the best fruit snack ever. A little chewy with a great sweet/sour balance. I knew they would make a perfect adornment for the cake.


I’m saving the rest of the candied kumquats and infused simple syrup for an undetermined culinary adventure later this week. I will keep you posted. Operation Citrus was a success!

Orange and Almond Spongecake
Recipe adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
There are not many ways to improve on this recipe, so I kept any changes to a minimum. I used AP flour since I didn’t have any cake flour in my pantry, and the results were fine, although cake flour would have produced a more tender crumb. I also added a 1/2 teaspoon of salt with the flour to balance the sweetness. Joe and I enjoyed a slice of cake after dinner, and it was equally as lovely the next day paired with a cup of tea.

2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 orange, zested and juiced
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup ground almonds
3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 lb. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
candied kumquats and kumquat syrup
powdered sugar, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan, set aside. Beat the 2/3 cup sugar and egg yolks in a medium bowl until mixture is thick and pale yellow. Add the grated orange rind, juice, and almond extract. Beat until mixture is light and foamy. Beat in the almonds, salt, and flour until just combined.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks have formed. Sprinkle the tablespoon of sugar over the top, and continue beating until stiff peaks are formed.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the cooled, melted butter into the flour mixture until combined. Gradually fold in the egg whites, being careful not to overmix. Place batter into prepared pan and smooth out to the edges. Bake until cake is puffed, lightly browned, and a toothpick comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, and then turn out onto a wire rack. Reverse cake so that it cools puffed-side up.

If you have candied the kumquats, now is a good time to brush about 1/4 cup of the syrup of the top of the cake. Lightly dust with powdered sugar, and decorate with kumquats. Well done!