Cookbooks: Dairy-Free Almond-Orange Cake from Vegetarian Planet

Several years ago, one of my high school friends got hitched and both she and her husband are gluten-free. At her storybook wedding, she had a moist, gluten-free cake, which made me rethink the possibilities of cake. Didi Emmons, founder of Pho Republique and Haley House Bakery Café and Veggie Planet restaurant in Central Square, Cambridge, created this almond-orange cake for a vegan wedding.

The reason I gravitated towards Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons at the Harvard Common Press Boston Brunchers event is because yearned for inspiration and motivation to incorporate more vegetarian dishes in the new year. I chose to make the almond-orange cake because I love the aromatic combination of almond and orange, but omitted the chocolate frosting to make it more like a tea cake. This almond-orange cake is not overly sweet and perfect with tea.

My great-aunt would make this lovely orange cake that had a whole orange (without the rind). She would food process the entire thing, zest, juice, segments, fiber and all. As a result, the cake was full of orange flavor and aroma.

Adapted from Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons

  • 1 cup whole almonds, lightly toasted (I used almond flour)
  • 2 cups unbleached white flour (or gluten-free flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 c canola oil
  • 3/4 cup soy or almond milk
  • 1/4 cup juice from orange (I used 1 medium blended orange with pulp and juice)
  • 2/3 c honey (I used 2/3 cup granulated sugar)
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tsp finely grated orange rind

Chocolate icing

  • 5 ounces semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate (my favorite brand is Sweet River), broken into small pieces, or 5 ounces chocolate chips
  • 4 T soy margarine
  • 2 T honey (or 2 T confectioners sugar)
  • 3 drops vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9- or 10-inch cake pan (I used a loaf pan) by rubbing or spraying it with a bit of oil or non-stick spray. Grind the almonds in a food processor or blender (you’ll need to grind them in two batches if you use a blender). Transfer the almonds to a large bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well.

In a smaller bowl, combine the canola oil, soy milk, honey, vanilla, almond  extract, and the orange rind. Pour about half of this mixture into the flour mixture, and stir briefly. Add the remaining liquid, and stir until the batter is smooth. pour it into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in its pan on a rack for 15 minutes, then loosen the cake with a sharp knife. Place a plate on top of the pan, and invert the cake onto the plate. Let the cake cool completely.

Make the icing: Melt the chocolate in the top of a double broiler or in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Once the chocolate is melted, add the margarine 1 T at a time, whisking after each addition. Whisk in the honey and vanilla or liqueur.

Ice the cake, using a cake spatula or butter knife. If the cake won’t be eaten within 5 hours, store it in the refrigerator.

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