Hey, you know what looks good in the grocery store produce section in early March? The asparagus maybe, and the greens, sure. But the world of fruit hasn’t picked up yet. But, if you look hard over in the citrus section, you can usually find some gorgeous, sweet-tart blood oranges. They aren’t cheap, but with two of them, you can make a pretty impressive snack cake.
You can totally make this cake round, using a 9-inch pan, but I got inspired watching the “The Great British Baking Show” and decided to make it square, a homage to the British tradition of the rectangular or square tea cake called a “traybake.” This is also an opportunity to practice some of the more subtle tricks of cake-baking, most importantly, paying attention to temperature. It makes a far better cake if you pull your eggs and butter out a few hours early so they are room temperature. (I have learned this the hard way. Like, I keep learning it the hard way.) And this cake, which is made with corn flour, is also very easy to make gluten-free. Just substitute any all-purpose GF flour for the white flour.
Blood orange-thyme snack cake
2 blood oranges
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs (at room temperature)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup corn flour or fine cornmeal
1/2 cup white flour or gluten-free flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon thyme
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Mint leaves (optional)
Method: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8-inch square pan. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter until fluffy, add sugar and mix until well combined. With the mixer running at medium speed, add eggs one at a time, allowing each to fully combine into the batter before adding the next. Add yogurt and two teaspoons vanilla. Mix until smooth.
In a separate bowl, whisk corn flour, white flour or gluten-free flour, baking powder, salt, thyme and the zest of one orange. With the mixer running, slowly shake in the dry ingredients and mix, scraping the sides with a spatula, until it forms a batter. Spread it into the pan and bake 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden and springs back when touched. When the cake is done, invert on a rack to cool. To make the glaze, combine 4 tablespoons blood orange juice and a teaspoon of vanilla with the powdered sugar. Whisk until smooth. Pour over the cake (it can still be slightly warm). Garnish with thinly-sliced oranges and mint leaves.