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Grown in Mediterranean countries, Blood oranges have a very short season during the months of late winter here in the UK. They are tarter than regular oranges with a spicy, raspberry-like flavour in addition to the citrus notes and have a distinctive dark-red flesh. You may also notice that the exterior of the rind may also show some dark colouration, depending on the variety. Blood oranges can be used in soufflés and other puddings such as steamed sponge, cakes, sauces and salad dressings, marmalade, and ice cream and sorbets.

The blood orange is a natural mutation of the regular orange which itself is a hybrid of the pomelo and the tangerine. The crimson flesh colour of the blood orange is due to the presence of anthocyanins, a family of polyphenol pigments commonly found in many fruits and flowers, but unusual in citrus fruits. The anthocyanin pigments begin gathering in the vesicles at the edges of the segments of the orange segments and at the blossom end of the fruit, and continue to build up in cold storage following harvest. The main compound found in red oranges is chrysanthemin (cyanidin 3-O-glucoside) and the flesh develops its crimson colour when the fruit matures over the low temperatures of the night. Sometimes the rind is tougher and harder to peel than regular oranges.

This yummy loaf cake showcases the versatility of blood oranges and is gluten-free. A light, airy sponge, it makes the perfect teatime sweet treat. If you are unable to source blood oranges you could substitute them with red or pink grapefruit. You could also substitute the vanilla with poppy seeds, if you prefer. You should get up to 12 slices from this cake.


For the cake:-

  • 50g melted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 blood orange, juiced and zested
  • 1 vanilla pod, split, seeds only.
  • 200g gluten-free plain (all purpose) flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 medium free-range eggs
  • 220g caster sugar
  • 75ml sunflower oil
  • 140g full-fat Greek-style yoghurt

For the icing:-

  • 1 blood orange, juiced and rind peeled into thin strips
  • Up to 200g icing (powdered) sugar
  • 50g caster sugar (optional)

1. Preheat oven to gas 3, 170oC, fan 150oC. Grease and line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin with greaseproof baking paper or a ready-made cake liner.

2. Zest and juice the blood orange and set the juice aside in a small bowl along with the vanilla seeds for approx. 10 minutes.

3. In a mixing bowl, mix the flour, ground almonds and baking powder together.

4. In a larger mixing bowl, beat the eggs with 220g caster sugar and the orange zest until light and fluffy. Mix in the oil, melted butter, yoghurt, and the vanilla and orange juice mixture. Fold in the dry ingredients in #3 above until combined.

5. Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45-55 minutes. Check it after 40 minutes and if it is browning too much, cover with foil. To check that it is ready, insert a skewer into the centre of the cake and see if it comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning it out on to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

6. Meanwhile, peel the rind of one blood orange into thin strips (or use a zester) and juice it thoroughly. Set the juice and zest aside separately. If you would like to make candied orange peel for decoration, heat 50g caster sugar with 50ml of the orange juice in a small saucepan over a fairly low heat until the sugar has melted. Add the orange strips and simmer for 5-10 minutes until translucent and softened. Remove from the heat and transfer to baking paper to cool.

7. To make the icing, mix the icing sugar with blood orange juice, 1 teaspoon at a time to achieve the consistency of double cram. If you prefer the less sugary decoration of an icing drizzle to full coverage, you will need less icing sugar and a runnier texture more like the consistency of single cream. The icing will take on an attractive light pink colour.

8. Pour the icing over the cake and top with the orange peel or candied peel and allow the icing to set before slicing. The cake will keep covered and stored in a cool place for up to 5 days.


If you are unable to source blood oranges, substitute them with pink or ruby red grapefruit and follow the recipe. You will need 1 grapefruit for the cake and one for the icing and decoration.

If you prefer, substitute the vanilla seeds with one good teaspoon of vanilla extract or 2 tablespoons of poppy seeds.

You can also make this cake with regular plain (all-purpose) flour for a non-gluten-free version.

You can freeze this cake un-iced. Cover in cling film, pop it into a clear, sealable food bag and label ready for the freezer.


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