I've been a bit sick lately. Not just the little stuffy or a bit achey sick, but flat. out. sick. There was so much pressure in my head the past week I thought my face was going to explode, and my breathing's been as subtle as a passing train. Of course, all the projects I was hoping to get started on got pushed by the wayside and I was laid up in bed, so I've been doing as much from my computer as I possibly can. It was kind of needed, though, to be honest. Everything's been going a million miles an hour lately, and most days I'm on my feet in the kitchen developing recipes for 10 hours straight, so being forced to spend several days in bed just resting and drinking hot tea was exactly what I needed. Then once I started feeling better this past weekend, I tried refinishing the floors of my living room/dining room with Jeremy. I know, I have a problem. However, after two straight days of sanding I feel very, very sore but much less congested. Who would have known??? And right before I got all bogged down with the world's worst cold, I made this little winter citrus guy, and have been nibbling at it ever since.
I feel like people use the term 'winter citrus' a lot nowadays but the source of its meaning isn't really widely known, and because I am a giant food nerd I am going to share it with you. Back in the day when being able to quickly ship and trade exotic fruits and vegetables wasn't really an option, wealthy European landowners had gardeners whose jobs it was to keep the land of the estate producing and looking robust. Because they needed food sources year-round, they had elaborate and beautiful greenhouses built, and the best of the best gardeners would be able to produce a harvest of fruits, namely citrus, in the dead of winter. And thus the term 'winter citrus' was born. Nowadays most, if not all, of the winter citrus we get is shipped to us from a far away place rather than painstakingly grown in a local nursery, but that doesn't make it any less remarkable in flavor, color, or variety. There are so, soooo many types of citrus out there, and the best part is that you can use any of them for this cake! It's not limited to orange, lemon, kumquat, tangerine, or grapefruit, but the rainbow citrus sky is the limit with this one.
I used a mixture of blood oranges, lemons, kumquats, and grapefruits for this cake and it came out splendidly. But if you want it to be completely sweet without any tangy notes, I'd leave out lemons and sour grapefruit varieties when it comes to the slices on the bottom of the cake. Their juice is fine, but the flavor of the citrus you choose to place on the bottom of the cake will become very pronounced as the cake bakes, so choose wisely! I also used a gorgeous walnut cutting board from Red Maple Run for cutting up all this fine citrus. If you're as obsessed with wood slab cutting boards as I am, you'll enjoy peeking at their shop. Well, I will leave you to daydream about all the tasty possibilities winter citrus can bring you, and here's hoping all that citrus wards off the awful colds of this chilly season.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons lemon juice
about 5 thin slices citrus, enough to nearly cover the bottom of an 8-inch cake pan
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup orange or blood orange juice
1/4 cup citrus juice of your choosing
3 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated blood orange zest
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the bottom of a well-greased 8-inch cake pan with parchment paper, set aside.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat with the light brown sugar, honey, and lemon juice, whisking until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and pour syrup into the cake pan. Arrange the sliced citrus on the bottom of the pan in a flat even layer. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom until blended. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the eggs, granulated sugar, and olive oil at medium low speed until smooth. Add the orange juice, citrus juice, milk, vanilla and zest and mix until incorporated. Then gradually add the flour mixture to the batter, mixing until just blended.
Fill the cake pan 3/4 full with the batter and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.