I first found this recipe on the food blog Smitten Kitten and was so intrigued, I had to try it. It uses the entire clementine – rind, pith, and flesh – and it uses no butter or flour. So, you can make this for your gluten-free friends.
The original recipe is by Nigella Lawson of the Food Network, and is supposed to be a cake, but I thought cupcakes would be fun for my book club meeting. The comments on the Food Network site were a little all over the map on this one, but I managed to get some good advice from them.
First, keep in mind that this is not a particularly sweet cake. The rind makes it somewhat bitter, so it doesn’t taste like a typical dessert. A five year old is not going to want this for their birthday. Second, the fruit you choose is very important. If the rind or pith are too thick, it will be too bitter. Clementines are really the ideal fruit to use, since the rind is so thin. Nigella suggests doing this with regular oranges and lemons, but increasing the sugar. You can always taste the batter before you pop it in to the oven to add a little more sugar if you need to. Finally, while the original recipe does not call for vanilla, I think it adds a nice flavor to the cupcakes, and I’d recommend using it.
I also made a little orange-vanilla glaze for them, though the recipe says you can eat the cake without it (and would be delicious plain, particuarly as a nice cake for a brunch).
This recipe makes 1 8 inch cake or about 20 cupcakes.
For the cupcakes
4 to 5 clementines (about 1 pound total weight)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/3 cups ground almonds
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
For the glaze
One orange, zested and juiced
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 pod from the vanilla bean (optional)
Put the clementines in a pot with cold water to cover, bring to the boil, and cook for 2 hours. I had to add extra water at about the one hour mark, since a lot had boiled off.
If you are using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the pod, and pulse in a food processor with the sugar.
If you are planning on making a glaze, put the pod in with a cup of confectioner’s sugar, and let sit until you are ready to make the glaze.
Drain and cool the clementines. Cut each clementine in half and remove the seeds.
Puree the skins, pith, and fruit in the processor until very smooth.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Line the cupcake tins with cupcake wrappers, or butter and line an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper.
Mix the sugar, ground almonds, and baking powder.
Beat the eggs. Stir in the pureed clementines. If you are using vanilla extract instead of a bean, I would add it here.
Slowly pour the dry mix into the wet mix and stir well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan or tin. I baked the cupcakes for 20 minutes. If you are making a cake, Nigella says to bake for 1 hour, covering with foil after about 40 minutes.
Let the finished cupcakes or cake cool on a rack. The cakes will keep for at least several days, and in fact, the flavor will improve over a day or two, so feel free to make in advance.
To make the glaze
Take the powdered sugar and slowly add in the orange juice, a teaspoon or so at a time. Add a pinch or two of finely zested peel. Whisk until incorporated, and add more juice as necessary. You want the glaze to be thick, about the consistency of glue. If you put a drop on the cake and it runs too much, just add a bit more sugar to thicken it up and try again.
Do not add the glaze until you are ready to eat the cake. After it’s been on the cake for 12 hours or so, it will start to absorb into the cake. While it’ll still taste good, it will look weird.
To frost, just take a small spoonful and drop it on each cupcake. It should spread out a little without too much running or dripping.
And that’s it.