These cakes, based on cornmeal as well as flour, are from Samantha Seneviratne‘s new book, The New Sugar & Spice, in which she promises to help us to bake in a bolder way. The “marmalade” is really a candying process of the whole orange slices and takes attention to detail, but you will be rewarded with amazing little cakes just like in the photo. She also brought us her Saffron Currant Braid, redolent with spice with a tender texture and lovely crunchy pearl sugar topping.
Excerpted with permission. The New Sugar & Spice, by Samantha Seneviratne. Published by Ten Speed Press, 2015. Photos by Erin Kunkel.
These buttery, tangy corn cakes are pretty enough for a party but not so sweet that you couldn’t enjoy one for breakfast. While a traditional marmalade rarely includes vanilla beans, I find that their creamy aroma is right at home with the oranges and sugar. In earlier versions of this recipe, I made the quick marmalade and added it all to the cake batter. The results were delicious, but they needed a visual boost. I remembered a gorgeous photograph I had seen when I worked as a food editor for Martha Stewart. In one of her cookbooks, there is an image of a cupcake with a candied orange slice perched on top. There was my solution. I reserved twelve orange slices from the marmalade mixture and put them on top of the cakes after baking. Now they’re gorgeous and tasty.
- 2 small seedless navel oranges (5 to 6 ounces each)
- 3⁄4 cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- 11⁄4 cups water
- 1 cup (41⁄2 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 3⁄4 cup (4 ounces) fine-ground yellow cornmeal
- 11⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3⁄4 cup (11⁄2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3⁄4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2⁄3 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- Cut an 11-inch circle of parchment paper. Cut a small hole in the center of the circle.
- To prepare the marmalade, slice off the ends of each orange and discard. Slice each orange into 9 rounds, about 1 ⁄8 inch thick. Stir together the sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, and water in a 10-inch skillet. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the orange slices and place the parchment circle directly on top of the fruit and the liquid. (This keeps the moisture locked in and the fruit submerged in the syrup.) Decrease the heat to low to maintain a very gentle simmer. Cook until the slices are almost translucent and the liquid is the consistency of maple syrup, 35 to 45 minutes. Flip the slices over every so often to make sure they are all being cooked evenly. Add a little more water if the level gets too low before the slices are cooked. Let the mixture stand off the heat until cool enough to handle.
- Reserve 12 slices of the same circumference and the syrup for later. Finely chop the remaining slices.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
- To prepare the cakes, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chopped orange and the lemon zest and beat to combine. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in half of the flour mixture, then the buttermilk, then the remaining flour mixture.
- Divide the batter among the cupcake cups and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 16 to 18 minutes. Let cakes cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Top each cake with a reserved orange slice and brush the orange slices with the reserved syrup.
- These are best served the day they’re made, but you can store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
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