Tunisia grows a lot of oranges. Over 550,000 tonnes, according to The Guardian, in what was admittedly a freak year – apparently, 200-400,000 is more normal. Anyway, you have to do something with all that fruit, and one of things the Tunisians do is to make orange cake – or “Khobzet borgden”, as it’s called in Arabic.
If you look up English language recipes for Tunisian Orange Cake, you tend to get something different, often involving stale breadcrumbs and a lot of ground almonds. These are also very good – my wife has been making her mother’s orange almond cake recipe for years and it’s a winner – but I can’t find any evidence that they’re authentically Tunisian: the closest I got was a recipe where the cake was decorated with flaked almonds.
So I’ve gone for one of the many recipes for Khobzet borgden on Tunisian websites, generally in French. Variations include choice of fat (butter / olive oil / vegetable oil) and how to treat your oranges: the most extreme one I’ve seen involved blitzing whole oranges – skin, pips and all – and adding the resulting purée to your cake mix. Just about all the recipes involve drizzling your finished cake with an orange syrup. I’ve started with one from tunisienumerique.com (translation: digital Tunisia), which uses oil (I chose olive – it doesn’t specify) and lots of orange zest as well as decorating the top of the cake with slices of orange.
A couple of notes on my adaptation: (1) the suggested baking time of 20-25 minutes wasn’t even close. Either their oven or their baking tin is very different from mine. (2) my cake domed hugely in the middle. The original recipe specifies one sachet of baking powder, and I have no idea how much you get in a Tunisian baking powder sachet. So I went with around 12g, which may have been a bit excessive.
- 300g plain flour
- 12g baking powder
- 3 oranges
- 3 eggs
- 150g granulated sugar
- 100g olive oil
- Preheat oven to 180℃ fan.
- Grease with butter a 20cm springform tin (or other cake tin of similar size).
- Sift your flour and baking powder into a bowl.
- Zest at least two of the oranges (all three if you really want a bitter orange flavour).
- Slice one of the zested oranges into rounds (I needed five rounds to fit onto my 20cm springform tin). Squeeze the juice out of the rest of this orange and the other two: you should get around 200ml. If the yield is substantially less, you might want to add some orange juice from elsewhere (or from a fourth orange if you have one).
- Put the eggs and 100g of granulated sugar into the bowl of your stand mixer and mix at high speed until well blended.
- Add the orange zest and 100g of the orange juice and mix until well blended.
- Add the oil and mix until well blended.
- Add the flour and baking powder and mix until you have a smooth batter.
- Pour the batter into your tin. Arrange the orange slices over the top, pressing each slightly in so that it’s level with the batter.
- Put your tin into the oven and bake for around 30-35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
- Meanwhile, make a syrup: put your remaining 50g of sugar and 100ml (approximately) of orange juice into a saucepan, bring to the boil, stirring frequently.
- Cook until the syrup is thick (if you’re using a sugar thermometer, aim for around 105℃).
- When the cake is done, leave it to cool for a couple of minutes, then drizzle the syrup you should try to get the rest absorbed into the cake.
- Take off the outside of the springform tin and then cool the cake on a rack.
Tunisians would accompany this with black coffee. Personally, I’d go for both black coffee and a scoop of pistachio ice cream. But the choice is yours…