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Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Orange Cake

This rich, moist, and fragrant bake is a chocolate version of Nigella Lawson's famous clementine cake. Leave out the leavening powders and this makes an ideal Passover dessert.


This has a very simple origin, which is just as it should be for a very simple cake. I think more people tell me they did my clementine cake in How to Eat than any other recipe, and when I was having some friends round for dinner one night, I thought I’d get ahead the evening before and try out a chocolate version. There’s something about its citrussy wetness and yet the lightness you get from not using flour that makes this perfect to toy with over a cup of coffee at the end of an evening. And it’s useful to bring out when you have to entertain the gluten-intolerant.

In fact, though, its sombre plainness makes it really the antithesis of any dinner-party gateau. If you want a cake to hang around the kitchen (it lasts for an almost spookily long time) to be sliced as mood and appetite dictate, then this is it.

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2 small or 1 large thin-skinned orange, approx. 375g total weight
6 eggs
1 heaped tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g ground almonds
250g caster sugar
50g cocoa
orange peel for decoration if wished

Essential kit

You will need: a 20-23cm springform tin

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Note: You can leave out the baking powder and bicarb if dietary requirements make that desirable, but in that case, I’d use a 23cm tin instead and expect it to need slightly less cooking time.

Put the whole orange or oranges in a pan with some cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 2 hours or until soft. Drain and, when cool, cut the oranges in half and remove any big pips. Then pulp everything – pith, peel and all – in a food processor, or see below if you’re proceeding by hand.

Once the fruit is cold, or near cold (though actually I most often cook the oranges the day before I make the cake), preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C. Butter and line a 20cm springform tin.

Add the eggs, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, almonds, sugar and cocoa to the orange in the food processor. Run the motor until you have a cohesive cake mix­ture, but still slightly knobbly with the flecks of puréed orange. Or you could chop the fruit finely by hand, and with a wooden spoon beat the eggs one by one into the sugar, alter­nating with spoons of mixed ground almonds and cocoa, then the oranges, though I have to say I’ve only ever made this the lazy way.

Pour and scrape into the cake tin and bake for an hour, by which time a cake tester should come out pretty well clean. Check after 45 minutes because you may have to cover with foil to prevent the cake burning before it is cooked through, or indeed it may need a little less than an hour; it all depends on your oven.

Leave the cake to get cool in the tin, on a cooling rack. When the cake is cold you can take it out of the tin. Decorate with strips of orange peel or coarsely grated zest if you so wish, but it is darkly beautiful in its plain, unadorned state.

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