Blood orange upside-down cake with hazelnuts and thyme

by Stephanie Weaver on May 7, 2012

Upside-down blood orange cakeCelebrate Mother’s Day by baking this dressy cake that is surprisingly simple to make. Blood oranges combine with hazelnuts, polenta, maple syrup, and olive oil for a heart-healthy treat that tastes like it’s covered in orange marmalade.

I got my love of baking from my mother Dorothy, and this beautiful silver tray from my mother-in-law Corinna. This post goes out to both of you with love, and to all of you mothers out there… whether you are mothering children, pets, the earth, or your fellow humans.

This cake came into being because I had four blood oranges from our CSA basket, and it seems wrong to simply peel and eat them. They are so beautiful and sweet, with nice thin skins. I started thinking about an upside-down cake to show off their color, and remembered this amazing lemon olive-oil polenta cake I had at fellow blogger Sally Cameron‘s house last year.

So I looked at five or six upside-down cake recipes, and about five or six olive-oil polenta cake recipes, and started to meld them. Usually I pick one recipe that’s close to what I’m envisioning and go from there. I used Sally’s recipe as a starting point, because it was already gluten-free (she’d adapted it from a cookbook by Deborah Krasner to make it gluten-free for a client).

I wanted it to be vegan and have no granulated sugar, as I need to get back off the granulated bandwagon. Is there a Granulated Bandwagon? That actually might make a good name for a band.

I had to adjust the recipe considerably, as using a liquid sweetener instead of a dry granulated product can be tricky. I also had no idea if this would even work.

Would the blood oranges cook enough? (Yes.) Should I have peeled them? (No.) Would they caramelize enough with just vegan margarine and maple syrup? (Yes.) Should I throw some fresh thyme in? (Yes, although it was subtle.) Did the hazelnuts work with the oranges? (Yes!)
Blood orange slices arranged in the bottom of the panThe batter is made in the food processor, plus a small saucepan for the glaze, so it’s very easy. Kids could help with this by arranging the fruit on the bottom of the pan. It’s always fun to flip the finished cake over and see what it looks like.

How do you like to celebrate Mother’s Day? Do you have a favorite cake or tradition? Please tell us about it in the comments.

Blood orange upside-down cake with hazelnuts and thyme
Makes 12-14 servings

2 T. (10 g) chia seeds
1/2 C. (90 g) gluten-free cornmeal

1/2 C. (65 g) gluten-free flour blend, sifted
2 t. (4 g) baking powder, sifted

1/4 t. (0.5 g) kosher salt 

4 blood oranges (about 560 g)
1 T. (15 g) vegan margarine
1-1/2 C. (160 g) ground roasted hazelnuts

1/2 C. (125 ml) maple syrup, plus 2 T. (30 ml)
1/2 C. (125 ml) extra virgin olive oil
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme, optional

Pre-heat oven to 325F/160C/gas mark 3. Put the top shelf in the middle of the oven.

Spray a 9” (22-24 cm) round cake pan with non-stick spray and line with parchment paper cut to fit the bottom.

Put the chia seeds in a small bowl with 4 T. (60 ml) filtered water. Set aside to gel.

After sifting and measuring the flour and baking powder, whisk it together with the cornmeal and salt in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.

Wash and dry all the oranges.

Cut your orange slices and set aside: Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the largest orange in half and cut a very thin slice from the middle. That will be the center of your design. Slice the other oranges to create enough thin slices to fill the bottom of the pan. I cut some in half and some in quarters to create the pattern. The most important thing is for all the slices to be a consistent thickness.

You will need to juice at least one orange for 1/2 C. (125 ml) of juice, and you’ll add about half an orange cut into chunks (minus any seeds or hard ends) to the food processor.

Put the margarine and 2 T. (30 ml) of maple syrup in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Stir it a few times to get everything mixed in.

Pour it into the prepared pan, tilting the pan to cover the bottom evenly. Create your orange slice design on top of it, fitting in the pieces as closely together as possible.

Add the orange chunks to a food processor fitted with the S-blade and pulse until finely chopped. Add the hazelnuts, 1/2 C. (125 ml) maple syrup, 1/2 C. (125 ml) orange juice, olive oil, the chia seed mixture, and the leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme. Pulse until everything is well incorporated.

Add the flour mixture and pulse it a few times to combine.

Pour the batter on top of the orange slices in the cake pan and smooth the top. Bake 45-50 minutes. It should be evenly golden, firm when pressed in the center, and a toothpick will come out with just a few crumbs attached, no goo.

Set on a wire rack to cool for 10-15 minutes. Run a knife or thin spatula around the edge to release it.

Place your serving plate face down on top of the pan, then flip the whole thing over and wait for that satisfying thunk as it drops onto the plate. Remove the pan, and peel off the parchment paper.

Top with a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves and a little minced orange zest just before serving.

Store in the refrigerator, well wrapped, for up to two days. Happy Mother’s Day!

Other healthy treats for Mom:
Raspberry-filled chocolate cupcakes from Cara’s Cravings

Vegan chocolate layer cake from What Would Cathy Eat? (not GF, includes white sugar)

Lemon Almond Polenta Cake from A Food Centric Life

Lemon Polenta Cake from Let Her Bake Cake (traditional, includes sugar)

Lemon Polenta Olive Oil Cake from Cook Eat Live Vegetarian (not vegan, includes raw sugar)

All of our recipes are gluten-free, sugar-free, and made with plant-based ingredients to help you build a healthy life. Suitable for Meatless Monday. Look for midweek posts on meditation, service, and life lessons, helping you create inner balance.

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