Plumcake all'Arancia (Orange Loaf Cake). Simple and oh so delicious, this soft, fragrant, dairy-free loaf cake is ideal for breakfast, snack, or light dessert. All you need is eggs, sugar, flour, oil, and a couple of organic oranges, rich in flavor and Vitamin C.
In the Italian tradition some cakes are suitable for breakfast but double up as snack and dessert.
Plumcake all'Arancia or Orange Loaf Cake
Don't ask me why in Italy we call "Plumcake" this type of sweets since there are no 'plums' involved. It seems like it comes from the English 'Pound Cake', but how it happened that "Pound" arriving in Italy has become "Plum" remains a mystery.
What I can tell you is that it is recognizable not only by its characteristic parallelepiped shape but also by the pillowy softness of the crumb and an unmistakable fragrance.
Let's gather the ingredients
Normally, the ingredients I have, influence my baking and not vice-versa. In the case of this Orange Loaf Cake, I used:
- flour type 0 (which is less refined than the double zero 00). You can use unbleached all-purpose flour, but also spelt flour or whole wheat flour;
- free-range organic eggs;
- organic oranges from the farmers' market, since I am going to use both the juice and the zest;
- organic cane sugar (I used beet sugar I bought in Japan during my last visit). You can use any sugar you have, better if raw or unrefined;
- a vegetable oil or a light olive oil (I often use peanut oil, which is the only vegetable oil I buy and use it for frying and baking);
- organic 'lievito vanigliato', the Italian vanilla-flavored equivalent of baking powder.
Plumcake all'arancia is easy to make
In my apartment in Rome I don't have a stand mixer, but an old handheld mixer that was my mom's. It works perfectly to beat up the eggs and sugar nice and fluffy. Then you need to add the vegetable oil, the orange juice, and the zest and keep beating on low to incorporate. After that, you add the sifted flour and baking powder and stir or beat just until incorporated.
Tips on how to get a soft crumb
- Always sift the flour and all the other dry ingredients in the recipe. In this way, you eliminate any lumps and incorporate more air that will help to get a nice rise of the loaf.
- Add the flour last in your batter. As soon as the flour comes in contact with the liquids it develops gluten. And the more you mix the ingredients the more gluten you develop. The end result will be a dense (read: "hard to swallow") crumb.
- In some cases, to increase the softness, just add a starch (corn starch, potato starch, or rice flour).
- All the ingredients have to be at room temperature, including eggs (and dairy, when using).
- Beat the eggs and sugar for a few minutes until they start to foam and gain volume and fluffiness.
- The oven temperature must be moderate. The best cooking temperature is at 350°F (180°C). And always preheat the oven, at least 15 minutes before baking.
Now that you've made a wonderful batter, the last step is to pour it into a loaf pan greased and floured and wait for it to turn into a tall, golden loaf. You can use any loaf pan, I used a silicone mold. You can also bake it in a round pan. It works great as well.
How do you know it's done?
Since every oven and baking pans are different, I don't always rely on the baking times like they are some set rules. I usually do not leave my baked good unattended for long, instead, I check it often (from the glass door, I mean. Don't open the oven door before the 30 minutes or it will flop). I check the rise, I look for that golden color, and when I think it might be done, I poke it with a wooden skewer to see if it comes out clean. I also engage my sense of smell. My mom always says that you can tell if a cake it's done by the particular aroma coming from the oven. It smells like it's done, she asserts 😉 .
Plumcake all'Arancia, Orange Loaf Cake, is a simple cake that tastes like home to me. It is a cake I've been making for decades and that I could do with my eyes closed. When I am in Rome, my family requests I make it to have it for breakfast, or if we are having people over for an afternoon tea.
Hope you try it. Its soft crumb and delicate orange flavor will brighten your mornings and cheer you up like a ray of sunshine on a cold winter day.