Blood Orange Cake
Upside-down cake is such a delightful creation (we tip our hat to whoever pioneered this topsy-turvy dessert). In the test kitchen, we’ve played around with both a grapefruit and cornmeal number, and of course, classic pineapple upside-down cake. This time, we’ve used sweet-tart blood oranges for the top, and a buttery cake that’s full of orange and vanilla — it’s pure sunshine.
The batter is made with blood orange zest and typical cake ingredients that are, most likely, already in your fridge and pantry. However, in order to create a crumb that’s airy, yet still dense and moist, we’ve also added a helping of light, delicate almond flour. Its floral nuttiness complements the citrus perfectly, so we’ve accentuated that flavor with splashes of both almond and vanilla extracts.
Because blood oranges can sometimes veer into bitter territory, we intentionally made the topping with lots of brown sugar and a knob of butter to create a caramel-like coating as it bakes. We’ve also bolstered it with a little blood orange juice, so the citrus flavor doesn’t get lost in all that rich, buttery sweetness — and to ensure the entire top of the cake is vibrantly stained.
We arranged our blood oranges to create an ombré effect: light orange to deep, deep purple-red, like a moody sunset. But whether or not your oranges fall that way, this cake will still be stunning, in both appearance and taste. The bright, buttery, moist crumb is wonderful against the bittersweet, caramelized orange slices. It eats like a snack cake, so rich and satisfying. And it makes a beautiful centerpiece for a celebration, whether it’s you and your partner’s anniversary, your best friend’s birthday — or just a celebration of a lovely, sunny day.
Our tips: When arranging your orange slices, make sure they overlap; they’ll spread apart when the cake bakes. And because the caramel from the orange topping will inevitably leak through the springform pan, place a parchment paper-lined sheet pan under your cake to avoid a messy, sticky oven.
8 blood oranges, divided
½ cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup almond flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ tsp kosher salt
2 large Gelson’s eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract
½ cup whole milk
Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 9” springform pan with cooking spray, line it with parchment paper, and spray the parchment. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Zest 2 to 3 blood oranges until you have 2 tablespoons lightly packed zest. Set the zest aside. Juice ½ to 1 orange until you have 2 tablespoons blood orange juice. Set the juice aside.
Cut the ends off 1 orange and lay it flat on a cutting board. Using a paring knife, remove the pith and peel, cutting along the curve of the orange. Turn the peeled orange on its side and slice it into ⅛”-thick rounds. Repeat with each of the remaining oranges.
In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, melted butter, and blood orange juice. Pour half the mixture over the base of the springform pan, spreading it evenly to the edges.
Line the base of the pan with the blood orange slices, overlapping the slices by 1”. Make sure to cover the entire base of the pan. Drizzle the remaining sugar mixture over the orange slices. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, and baking powder.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the room-temperature butter, granulated sugar, and kosher salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Reduce the speed to low and mix in the eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract until combined.
Add the dry ingredients and blood orange zest. While continuing to mix on low speed, slowly pour in the whole milk and mix until just combined.
Transfer the batter to the prepared springform pan. Place the pan in the oven, and set the prepared baking sheet on the rack below to catch drips. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Transfer the springform pan to a cooling rack for 20 minutes.
Remove the sides of the springform pan, flip the cake upside down onto a serving plate, and remove the base and parchment paper. Let cool completely before serving. The cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.