I don’t know how to properly explain my love for a clementine cake. It’s sweet, citrusy, moist, and just about as close to a little slice of heaven as one can get in cake-form. I can make this cake year-round but it’s during the Christmas season that I feel this cake tastes the most special, the most delicious. Maybe you’ve had one before and so you already know what a delightful treat this is. For those who’ve not yet enjoyed the sweet magic of a clementine cake, now is your moment.
Of course, the clementine is the star of the show. It once followed in the holiday tradition that oranges or clementines would find their way into our Christmas stockings. There’s a legend about how three young women, too poor to pay the dowry for marriage, woke up on Christmas morning to find that the oranges in their stockings had turned to gold! During the Great Depression, an orange tucked into a Christmas stocking was an especially treasured gift. So, Christmas and oranges go hand-in-hand, and what better way to honor that tradition than with a clementine cake.
This cake will start from the bottom, you might call it an upsidedown clementine cake. I’ve buttered and sugared the bottom of the cake pan and then laid a single layer of sliced clementines on the bottom. The cake batter is made with almond flour instead of all-purpose and is enhanced with clementine zest and freshly squeezed clementine juice. There’s a lightness to this cake that comes from the use of apple sauce and buttermilk and of course, the zesty citrus from the clementines will give the cake its distinctive orangy flavor.
Once baked and cooled, it’s time for the dramatic flip of my cake, bringing the bottom to the top to reveal the gorgeous slices of clementine, like an orange-jeweled crown. I almost – almost – feel guilty slicing into this cake but it simply must be done. A clementine cake is moist, flavorful, and practically sings of citrusy flavor. Clementine cake perfumes my home with the aroma of bright, sweet citrus and is a delicious part of our Christmas traditions. We may not have clementines in our stockings, but we will enjoy a slice or two while we open our stockings on Christmas morning.
30m prep time
50m cook time
- 10-12 clementines
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- ⅔ cup brown sugar
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 ¾ cup almond flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 large eggs
- ⅓ cup canola oil
- ⅓ cup unsweetened apple sauce
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons clementine zest
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed clementine juice
- ½ cup buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Thinly slice 4-5 clementines, ¼-inch thick. Set aside. Pour the melted butter into the prepared baking pan then sprinkle the brown sugar over top. Place the slices of clementine on top of the brown sugar-butter, covering the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
- Sift the almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a bowl. Set aside.
- Zest 4 clementines and mix the zest with ¾ cup sugar. Juice the 4 clementines and set the juice aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs and clementine-zested sugar. Add the clementine juice, canola oil, apple sauce, and vanilla and beat until combined.
- Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, alternating between ⅓ of the dry and ½ of the buttermilk, ending with flour (⅓ dry, ½ buttermilk, ⅓ dry, ½ buttermilk, ⅓ dry). Mix until batter is well combined.
- Slowly pour the batter over top of the sliced clementines in the prepared baking dish. Gently tap the baking pan to release any pockets of air.
- Place the baking pan on the middle rack of the oven. Keep an eye on the cake as it cooks; you may need to cover it with foil to prevent the top from burning. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the cake tester comes out clean.
- Cool the cake for 10-15 minutes. Place a serving platter over top of the baking pan then flip the cake over. Gently lift the pan and remove the parchment paper to reveal the, now top, of the cake, with the decorative orange slices.
Recipe adapted from Simply Scratch.