I was cleaning some of the bookshelves in my studio the other day (Really, I was!), and I decided it was time to go through and purge some of my older periodicals (saving important articles and recipes, of course! Yeah, it’s a slow withdrawal.). I have one shelf dedicated to my collection of Delicious Living Magazines—one of my most important inspirations on my culinary and green living journey. So here’s a shocker: I have been reading, researching, archiving and cooking from Delicious Living Magazine for more than 20 years! They have been around for 30, the free and fabulous little magazine in almost every small independent health food store across the U.S.
I came by my first copy of Delicious Living Magazine at my ever-loved Green Earth Grocery in Edwardsville. I still shop there weekly and love the trusted, knowledgeable staff and amazing array of quality products. I am a huge supporter of small independent shops such as Green Earth and use my consumer dollars to help them keep organic and regenerative agriculture alive and well. I pay more because I’m getting more in the long run. Never underestimate your power to change the world by where you spend your money, I always say. And you know what else I always say? It’s time for cake!
Okay, not always, but for right now—yes! My featured cake gets heavy inspiration from a September 2009 issue of Delicious Living Magazine; the cake has become a family favorite that I’ve made annually, especially when brunch is happening in our house because it is so delicate, fragrant and subtly sweet–perfect for morning munching. When my daughter had to eliminate gluten from her diet, I created a modified version for her—an Orange Sunshine Cake that, while not the same, is pretty delicious, too.
Now before we get cooking, I should let you know that I’ve made some modifications to the original recipe—some to enhance flavor and some to be a bit more “green”. However, I still think the original is genius, so feel free to use it. The only hard and fast rule here is that you use certified organic citrus because you are eating the peel, where abundant pesticides live, if you go conventional. So here is my version, and after the recipe I’ll share why some of my changes happened over the years.
- Two organic oranges, thoroughly washed
- Two organic lemons, thoroughly washed
- Two tablespoons freshly grated ginger
- One cup lightly toasted pistachios
- Four eggs
- Three-quarters cup raw sugar
- One tablespoon ground coriander
- One teaspoon ground cardamom
- Two teaspoons vanilla extract
- One cup whole-wheat pastry flour
- One tablespoon baking powder
- One-half teaspoon fine sea salt
- Two-thirds cup expeller-expressed, unfiltered olive oil (You’ll want the best you can afford; that said, I am a huge fan of affordable Trader Joe’s Unfiltered Organic Greek Olive Oil.)
- Begin by carefully peeling your oranges and lemons (See the photo after the recipe for a step-by-step.). Reserve the fruit for another use. In a medium saucepan, cover the peels with filtered water, bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain on clean towels until nearly dry. This step can easily be done in advance; just store your drained/dried peels in the frig, tightly sealed, until ready to proceed.
- While your peels are simmering, toast your pistachios at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or so—just until lightly toasted and fragrant. Set aside to cool. Again, this can be done in advance.
- Once you are ready to begin baking the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 10-inch fluted Bundt pan. I use coconut oil to grease my pan, but use what works for you. Just be sure you get in every pretty crevice.
- In a food processor, process the toasted pistachios to a powder. I suggest pulsing so that you don’t inadvertently make butter. Set the nut powder aside and move onto the peels. Roughly chop the citrus peels, place them in the food processor and process until finely chopped (see below). Try for an even, nearly pureed, finish. Add in your grated ginger and set aside.
- In a stand mixer, beat the eggs until light and fluffy, about two or three minutes. Slowly add the sugar and continue beating at medium-high speed for about five more minutes, until you have a pale yellow color and are building a bit of volume.
- Now add the coriander, cardamom and vanilla, beating another two minutes or so.
- While your egg and sugar mixture is beating, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, alternating with olive oil, finishing with the flour.
- Fold in by hand the puréed citrus peel with the ginger and the ground pistachios. Pour batter evenly into prepared Bundt pan and bake for 45–50 minutes, until a knife inserted comes out clean. A toothpick works, too.
- Cool the cake completely in the pan. When ready to unmold, gently run a butter knife around the outside and inside edges to make sure the cake has completely pulled away from all sides. Then, unmold.
- You can serve this cake unadorned as a coffee cake or light dessert, give it a dusting of powdered sugar or, you can dress it up for after dinner with fresh whipped cream and a drizzle of Grand Mariner.
Prep includes preparing the peels and nuts, as well as assembling all the ingredients and readying them for the pan:
So Why Fix What Isn’t Broken?
The short answer: I just can’t leave well enough alone, which is why I added ginger and cardamom. They are wonderful with citrus and some of our favorite spices. That’s the only reason. You may find other spices that work well for you—one friend suggested poppyseeds, which I think is brilliant!
The other two changes are more about being environmentally conscious in the kitchen. Since citrus doesn’t grow in my neck of the woods, I wanted to try to make some changes that helped mitigate the carbon input of the citrus and the food waste of using only the peels and tossing the actual fruit.
First I changed the process—if you look at the original recipe it tells you to boil the entire fruit, take off the peel and throw the pulp away. For several years, I did exactly this. I did try using the boiled fruit for other things, but it was pretty nasty, and I never figured out a way to do it. Finally, I just got brave in the kitchen and carefully peeled the fruit first and boiled only the peels—something I’ve always done to make candied peels for the holidays. It worked! And since food waste is a huge contributor to climate change, I felt much better about this cake—sort of like having you cake and eating your fruit, too, right?
A few years later, after declining bee populations began making headlines, I switched out the almonds. For California almond growers—nearly 80 percent of the world’s almonds come from California—bees are a must-have. Without bees to pollenate their crops, no almonds. And almonds are the FAVORITE nut worldwide, so production has steadily increased. But Almond trees blossom in early February, when an already stressed-to-the-brink bee population is weak and not ready to tackle the task at hand. So…we buy them up from everywhere and force them anyway…a practice that may force them all the way into extinction and the human population into permanent food insecurity. For a deeper dive, read this HuffPost article from 2019 that explains how all this works, and then visit the Xercese Society for Invertebrate Conservation to learn why bees will be better off if we cut our almond intake.
Yes, I still use some almond product, mainly almond meal for cooking gluten-free when it is an absolute must in the recipe, but that’s about it. No almond milk, no almond snacks, none in my granola anymore. Am I hurting growers? Potentially, and I don’t make them out to be the bad guys here—I love farmers. But I’m looking forward, considering how my present choice could potentially hurt us all. Fewer almonds—as well as bans on known carcinogenic pesticides and herbicides that are known to devastate bee populations–will help the bees survive, which means we will, too. And substitution is almost always available for most recipes.
So bake the cake! Make it your own! Be brave in the kitchen and mindful of your impact on the environment. We can change the world for the better, one recipe at a time.