Marcella Hazan’s Ancona Style Orange Cake

Posted by hsimpsongrossman on November 25, 2013

I am quite certain that anyone who has ever lived in New York and then relocated had to find a way to overcome the lack of the New York Times on ones doorstep on Saturday mornings.  To illustrate, for the unlucky ones among my invisible readers, who were never privy to the NYT addiction phenomena, we have had to expand our subscription, from a weekend to a daily one, upon realizing that my father, a proud and loyal English subject, who used to snub anything with an American whiff to it prior to having spent a year with us in New York, used to devour each daily issue (preferably while sipping coffee at Starbucks and nibbling on a cream cheese and lox bagel) before we’ve even managed to wake up!

For me, the process of letting go was gradual and slow.  My friend Tammy used to keep the Magazine, the Book Review as well the Dinning & Wine sections for me in a special corner in her kitchen.  That used to be the first thing she showed me as I stepped into their home (our second home) (but not before she had set me up with a cup of freshly brewed coffee and a sweet pastry).  As the gaps between my visits grew longer and longer, Tammy had to settle for keeping only the Magazine and special issues for me in said corner.  Later on, “my” pile begun accumulating as soon as the phone call announcing my visit has been made.

 During my latest visit to NY, Tammy sent me off to bed on Friday night with the sweetest good night kiss possible: “listen, wake up whenever you want, DO NOT bother going to synagogue, and just relax in the kitchen with the paper and a cup of coffee”.  And, given the fact this was my first visit without a baby, I have actually heeded her advice.

I am a creature of habit, as you all must well know by now.  Even when reading the New York Times magazine on a weekend, I stick to my routine.  I start from the end and check the recipes first.  To my delight, Mark Bittman had dedicated that week’s column to Marcella Hazan, the Italian cooking teacher and cookbook writer.  One recipe which immediately caught my eye was that of and Ancona-Style Orange Cake.  It looked moist and refreshing and, given the abundance of citruses in Israel at this time of year, I knew I would have to make this cake as soon as I got back home.

Marcella Hazan Orange Cake Ancona Style, the Picture that Drew My Attention
The Picture that Drew My Attention

Two weeks later my Princess grated the zest off of three oranges and squeezed the juice out of them and two more.  I will let the pictures speak for themselves and will just add that the cake had lived up to its image – moist, refreshing, strikingly beautiful in its yellowish-orange simplicity.

Just a few notes before handing the recipe over: as mentioned above, I have indeed used zest from three oranges as indicated in the recipe.  Considering one anyhow needs two cups of freshly squeezed orange juice, nothing went to waste.  And please lookhere for a tip on stocking up on orange zest during the winter months.  Secondly, although it might seem that pouring two cups of  orange juice on the baked cake will end up producing a soggy concoction, please do follow the instructions and gradually pour those liquids onto the cake – that’s what gives the cake its moist and wonderful texture.  Oh, and if you have access to ouzo, do use it – I could feel its distinctive yet not overbearing flavor in the baked cake.

Orange Cake on the Spot: Zest three oranges; Juice five.  Combine dry ingredients. Beat wet ingredients. Combine and send to the oven.  Soak with orange juice mixed with sugar.

Orange Cake, Ancona-Style

Recipe by Marcella Hazan, with minor adjustments from Mark Bittman of the New York Times, further minor adjustments by Yours Truly.

Baking Time: 40 minutes

Servings: 8-10


For the Cake

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus flour for dusting the tin

3 large eggs, at room temperature

Grated peel of 3 scrubbed, washed and dried oranges

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick/60 grams) butter, softened to room temperature, plus butter for greasing the tin

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons ouzo liqueur (brandy or orange juice will do)

1 tablespoon whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon table salt

For soaking the cake:

2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 5 oranges), with 3 tablespoons sugar dissolved in it.


Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 Celsius).

Thickly smear a tube tin with butter and dust with flour. (Tilt the tin and pat it gently, to coat it with a thin layer of flour.  Then flip the tin and remove any excess flour by tapping the bottom of the tin).

Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl and set aside.

Using an electric mixer beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy, for about 2 minutes.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bottom and side of the bowl between each addition. Add the vanilla extract and the orange zest.

Add half of the flour mixture, the milk and the liqueur and the other half of the flouer, beating just (!) until blended between each addition.

Pour the cake batter in the pan (it won’t fill it up all the way and that’s fine as the cake will rise while baking), and place the pan in the preheated oven.  Bake for about 40 minutes, until the top of the cake becomes a rich gold color and springy to the touch, and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Please, do not over bake.

When the cake is done, release the cake gently from the tin and place it on a plate with a slightly raised rim.

While the cake is still warm, poke many holes in it using a toothpick, chopstick or fork.  Into each of the holes, slowly pour some of the orange juice.  At first the holes fills to the brim with juice, but this will subsequently be absorbed by the cake.  Keep on hydrating the cake until all the syrup is absorbed.

Serve at room temperature.

The cake keeps well for up to 1 week in the fridge, fully covered by plastic wrap and freezes well.

Marcella Hazan Orange Cake Ancona Style Crumb
Crumb on the Spot

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