A Sunny Citrus Cake to Brighten Up Your Winter Doldrums

You can make this simple and yet elegant vegan cake with any favorite seasonal citrus, from tangerines to clementines

Alicia Kennedy
Published in
3 min readFeb 11, 2021

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Overhead view of a cake still in its baking tin, resting on a wire rack. The cake is topped with 1 crosswise slice of orange in the center surrounded by 7 other slices.

If winter citrus is part of your life, make the most of it with this extremely simple olive oil cake recipe. Whether it’s Cara Cara, Blood, or Mandarin oranges, grapefruit, or Meyer lemon, this cake works with the flavor of the citrus fruits for a pantry-friendly snacking cake that brings brightness to dreary days. It also looks beautiful, thanks to the supremed citrus on top becoming caramelized and getting jammy. This requires no frosting, not even a dusting of powdered sugar, because the fruit itself acts as all the texture, contrast, and acidic sweetness you need.

Making this cake begins with zesting the entirety of one piece of the citrus you’re going to use. If you’re using something small like a clementine, you’ll need two — but precision isn’t that important here. You just want at least an eyeballed teaspoon of zest, or more, in a small bowl. After zesting, juice the citrus into the same bowl.

Then take the piece of decorating citrus and supreme it, which means removing not just the skin but the white pith so that it is bright and glistening, without any icky inedible parts making their way into the cake. (You can candy the citrus peels for an extra treat.) To supreme, cut off the ends of the fruit so that it’s stable on the cutting board, then take the knife by slicing off all the outer layers of skin. I cut the citrus into rounds at this point, once all skin and pith is gone, but you can also do segments and cover more of the cake’s surface area — this is also truly supreming; my way is a bit of a cheat that I use because of the flowery look I prefer.

I adapted this cake from a New York Times recipe, making it vegan and a little more interesting flavor-wise thanks to the splitting of brown and cane sugar, but feel free to use one or the other depending on what’s available. Any non-dairy milk will work, and if you don’t have arrowroot starch, corn or tapioca will be just fine, and so would flax or chia eggs. This is very adaptable and forgiving, thanks to its simplicity. The only thing that won’t change is how delicious it is.

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Alicia Kennedy
Tenderly

I’m a food writer from Long Island based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter on food issues: aliciakennedy.substack.com