It always makes me feel cheery to see the bright colors of citrus at their peak during dreary winter months. The vibrant yellows, greens, oranges, and pinks add a spark of light to the dark, cold days. You know what else creates a spark? Cake. Cake brings pure happiness no matter the temperature outside, and when paired with the sunny, juicy clementines, fireworks happen.
As if you needed another reason to whip up a cake, this recipe uses the whole clementine, rind and all, meaning there is no food waste. It’s the perfect cake to make when you have the weeknight baking bug. The batter comes together quickly in the food processor leaving you with very few dishes to wash.
This clementine cake is elegant enough for celebrations and casual enough for snacking. Let’s gear up for all you need to make this vitamin C packed treat.
The Pith Is Magical
The thing that makes this cake really special is that the entire clementine is used, no need to peel, zest, or compost! It’s no secret that citrus zest has so much flavor. But it can also be quite bitter on fruits with thicker piths, like lemons and grapefruit. The bitterness of a clementine is scaled back because the pith is thin, which makes it perfect for this recipe.
Once it’s puréed, the whole clementines become thick and creamy resulting in a dense but moist cake. It also means the batter doesn’t need as much added fat.
Bathtime for Clementines!
Clementines are more than just a snack. These sweet little goodies are an often-seedless hybrid of mandarins and navel oranges. They are at their peak flavor when the pith feels soft and is easy to peel away.
It is important to wash the clementines with hot soapy water to remove the waxy coating. This wax helps protect them on the long journey from its tree to your kitchen, but you won’t want to eat it.
To Boil or Not to Boil
There are some recipes out there for whole clementine cake that call for boiling them. This method breaks down and softens the fruit while decreasing the bitterness.
I skipped this step and instead increased the sugar slightly and used less clementines. The sugar helps balance the bitterness. Plus, the boiled clementines soak up water, making it difficult to get the proportions of the remaining ingredients just right.
Almonds + Clementines = Perfect Flavor Marriage
Almonds have a special affinity for citrus. Nutty almonds and floral oranges are a well-known couple in the world of cooking, and I did not feel it necessary to break them up. Here, I use almond extract to add that subtle flavor in the batter and then chopped roasted and salted almonds get sprinkled on top of the cake.
Top It Off
Creamy and smooth homemade whipped cream spiked with almond extract gets dolloped on top of the cake. Then chopped, roasted, salted almonds are sprinkled on for the ultimate crunch with each bite. Alternatively, you could simply dust with powdered sugar, drizzle with melted chocolate, or slice up fresh berries to serve on the side.
The Best Citrus Swaps
The key to a good cake is to use citrus with a very thin pith.
Kumquats are great for cooking whole, are delightfully tart, and would be a nice substitute. Key limes are also a good choice. They are juicy, tart, and boast the perfect thin pith you want in a whole citrus cake.
Steer clear of lemons, limes, grapefruits, and navel oranges. Lemons and limes are incredibly sour and would need more sugar. Grapefruits and navel oranges both have very thick piths.
Other Delicious Swaps That Work
- As for the other ingredients, use equal amounts of almond flour instead of the all-purpose flour to make this a gluten-free dessert.
- I tested the cake with olive oil and found it too bitter when paired with the clementines. I suggest sticking with a neutral oil like vegetable or canola.
For longer storage, leave off the whipped cream and simply wrap the cake with plastic wrap, then with foil. It can sit out at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the fridge for 1 week.
If the whipped cream has already graced the top, flip a large mixing bowl over the cake so that it remains covered and refrigerate for up to 3 days. The whipped cream will lose some volume and seep into the cake making it a little denser, but rest assured it’ll be delicious.
More Citrusy Treats to Try
Whole Clementine Cake
For a more subtle almond flavor, you can reduce the amount of almond extract in the batter to 1/2 teaspoon and in the whipped cream to 1/8 teaspoon.
For the cake:
Nonstick cooking spray, for greasing the pan
4 clementines, unpeeled and quartered (9 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups (349g) sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups (325g) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the whipped cream:
1/2 cup heavy cream, cold
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch kosher salt
Zest from 1 clementine (about 1/4 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon almonds, roasted, salted, and chopped
- 9-cup (or larger) food processor
Preheat the oven:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set it aside.
Puree the clementines:
Place the clementines, oil, and milk into a food processor set with a blade attachment. Puree until completely smooth with just a few tiny pieces of zest visible. It should look like you zested the clementine with a rasp grater.
The batter comes together in the food processor. I used a 14-cup food processor, and it didn’t overflow. Don’t use anything smaller than a 9-cup food processor.
Add the remaining wet ingredients:
Add the sugar and process until just combined. Add the eggs, almond extract, and vanilla extract, and pulse 5 to 6 times until just combined.
Add the dry ingredients:
Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and pulse until just combined, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if needed.
Bake the cake:
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and gently tap the pan 3 times on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake until the outer edges of the cake are golden brown, have slightly pulled away from the sides, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs, 55 minutes to 1 hour.
Cool the cake:
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool completely for about 2 hours. Place the wire rack on top of the pan and gently invert the cake onto it. Flip a cake stand or serving platter on the cake and gently invert it so that the cake sits on the platter right side-up.
Make the whipped cream:
Just before serving, combine the heavy cream, sugar, almond extract, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy and medium-stiff peaks have formed, 2 to 3 minutes. It should be soft, hold its shape pretty well, and the tip of the peak should curl over itself when the beater is lifted.
Decorate the cake:
When the cake is completely cooled, spoon the whipped cream in the center of the cake and use the back of the spoon to spread it over the top, creating swoops and leaving about a 1-inch border. Sprinkle with the clementine zest and the almonds.
The cake can stay on the counter for up to 3 days without the whipped cream on top. Tightly wrap the cooled cake in plastic wrap and then again in foil. To refrigerate it, brush the top of the cake with simple syrup, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and foil, and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 10 to 12|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 20g||25%|
|Saturated Fat 4g||20%|
|Total Carbohydrate 58g||21%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||4%|
|Total Sugars 37g|
|Vitamin C 12mg||61%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|