Vegan orange cake using a WHOLE orange including the rind just like the classic Sicilian orange cake. Gluten-free, grain-free, eggless, flourless and uses only 5 ingredients!
This cake tastes exactly how I remember whole orange cake or flourless orange almond cake. It's moist, has a beautiful crumb from the almond meal, fluffy yet reminds me of French financiers or friands just like my pistachio cake recipe.
It's bursting with orange flavor (yet isn't bitter from the orange rind) and has the most gorgeous natural orange hue!
What's a whole orange cake? Is it vegan-friendly?
A whole orange cake has origins in Sicily, Morocco and the Middle East. The cake is traditionally made using whole oranges (with their rind still on) and primarily almond meal/flour. The cake is flourless, very moist and is more like a French financier or friand in texture rather than a sponge cake.
Conventionally, a whole orange cake recipe uses up to 6 eggs so is definitely not vegan (or easily veganisable). When a recipe calls for a HIGH amount of eggs, they can't easily be substituted, especially in a gluten-free recipe!
Eggs have three functions in cakes: binding, rise and fat. One simple egg replacer will not work here!
I tried to veganise the flourless orange almond cake MANY times over the years by substituting eggs with flax eggs, chia eggs and aquafaba.
However, they all made the cake TOO moist, dense and/or minimized its beautiful orange hue. I added more almond flour to balance the extra moisture but the cake was still missing structure (typical of gluten-free cakes which don't incorporate a starch).
Basically, we need an egg replacer AND a gluten-free flour stabilizer!
The simple magical ingredient
- often used with other gluten free flours to help bind and thicken ingredients
- often mixed with water and used as a vegan egg substitute
- a dry ingredient and doesn't weigh down the vegan orange cake (compared to chia or flax eggs)
- tasteless and colorless which allows the orange to shine!
If we were using the potato starch as a 1:1 egg replacer, I'd need to add 1-2 cups of water to this recipe which is already very moist. Adding more liquid to the recipe also changes the texture of the cake and makes it less like the original whole orange cake! I omitted most of the water and the cake worked beautifully!
You can get potato and corn starch in some major supermarkets, health food stores and Asian specialty stores. In Asian stores, they are both very affordable!
I also increased the baking powder to help the cake rise and bake through. In non-vegan cakes, eggs don't just bind ingredients but make them fluffy!
5 ingredients you'll need
Even with all the changes, my vegan orange cake uses only 5 ingredients plus water. It's oil-free, butter-free, eggless, dairy-free and flourless. You'll need:
- A whole orange
- Almond flour (in Australia, this is blanched almond meal)
- Potato starch (or corn starch)
- Baking powder
And water... but is that even an ingredient?! As always, the exact ingredient amounts are at the bottom of this post in the grey box :).
Steps for making this vegan orange cake
First, we need to boil a whole orange in water. Keep on the rind (or skin) but remove the 'stem' (if there is one). We'll eventually be eating the rind so I'd recommend using an organic orange! My orange weighed just over 250g but it doesn't matter if yours is 10g lighter or heavier.
The orange doesn't need to be completely submerged in water. There just needs to be enough water so it boils/steams! Your home will smell absolutely lovely when you boil your orange... I need to do that more often haha :).
Once the orange is cooked, drain and discard all the water. Roughly chop the orange so you can fit it in your food processor. If there are any seeds, remove them at this stage!
Next, add the orange (rind and all) to a food processor and pulse until it's pureed. It doesn't need to be extremely fine but 'smooth enough'. Any chunks in the orange will add beautiful specks to your final cake.
Next, simply add ALL the ingredients to the food processor and pulse until combined. The vegan orange cake batter will be quite thick which is exactly what we want! If your batter is runnier, I'd recommend adding a little more potato starch.
Normally I wouldn't recommend mixing cake batter in a food processor as over-mixing can create a tough cake. However, gluten is the culprit of tough cakes and this cake is gluten-free so you don't have to worry about over-mixing!
Next, scoop (or pour) the thick batter into your cake tin. The surface will be a little rough so just smooth it out using a spatula or spoon. If you want an extremely smooth top, dip your spatula or spoon in water and use that to smooth the top.
Tips for baking the cake
The whole orange cake has a high amount of almond flour so we need to bake this at a slightly lower temperature than normal. Nuts tend to burn quickly so a lower temperature prevents this from happening!
The cake is ready when it is slightly golden brown on top and you can insert a skewer into the middle and it comes out mostly clean. A skewer with wet batter means the cake isn't ready. A skewer with a few cake crumbs is fine!
If you have an overly hot oven, your flourless orange almond cake might turn golden brown before the cake is cooked inside. If so, simply turn down the heat of your oven AND place an oven-safe plate on top of your cake tin (as long as it doesn't touch the cake).
When you remove the cake from the oven, it's very delicate so let it cool in the cake pan. When it's cool, you'll be able to easily remove it!
Serving the cake
This eggless orange cake is perfect for morning tea or with your daily coffee! It can be enjoyed plain or accompanied with some:
- thick dairy free yogurt
- dairy free cream
- dairy free ice cream
If you want to bring this cake to a celebration, you can top the cake with beautiful rose petals and pistachios.
I think the cake is already full of flavor (and sweetness) but if you really want to decorate it further, I'd recommend topping it with yogurt or a simple icing such as the one in this lemon pistachio cake. I wouldn't recommend buttercream frosting as the cake is already quite sweet.
Ingredient substitutions and customizations
Almond flour is about 15% fat so adjustments need to be made if we replace it. I'd recommend using a combination of all-purpose flour and light-tasting vegetable oil (listed in the recipe card notes). The cake will be fluffier and have a more subtle orange flavor compared to the original.
No, this won't work. The whole orange has pulp, fiber and the rind which makes the cake moist and gives it structure. Orange juice just won't compare with the texture and FLAVOR of a whole orange!
I haven't tried this but it should work if you cut off the rind. You don't need to boil the orange but just blend the orange before using it in the recipe.
More easy vegan cake recipes
Vegan Whole Orange Cake
- I'd recommend weighing the ingredients for this rather than using the cups measurement. Like all of my recipes, this whole orange cake was tested using grams except the baking powder measurement.
Preparing the orange:
- Thoroughly wash the skin of the orange and remove the stem, if it's still on. Add around 4 cups of water to a small saucepan and place the whole orange in it. Over medium heat, simmer the orange for 30 minutes until you can pierce the skin with no resistance. Drain the water and allow the orange to cool.
- Roughly chop the orange and remove any seeds. Place it in a food processor and blitz until it's pureed. Don't worry if there are little bits of rind in the puree.
Making the cake batter:
- Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F). Grease or line a 20 cm (8 inch cake tin) (Note 3).
- Add the rest of the cake ingredients to the food processor. Process until the mixture is combined and quite thick. If your batter is more runny, add 1 tablespoon (7g) of potato starch at a time and mix until it forms a thick batter. If in doubt, err towards a thicker batter rather than thinner batter.
- Scoop the cake batter into a your cake tin. Smooth the top with a spoon or spatula.
Baking the cake:
- Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes (Note 4). The cake is ready when a skewer can be inserted into the middle and there is no wet batter on it (some crumbs are fine). Allow the cake to completely cool in the cake tin.
- To serve, dust the cake with icing sugar (Note 5). Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 day, in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
- The total amount of almond flour can be substituted with 1 cup (125g) all purpose flour and ½ cup (125g) light-tasting vegetable oil such as sunflower or rapeseed. We have to add oil to compensate for the natural oils normally found in almond flour.
- This amount of sugar creates a mildly sweet cake. You can decrease the sugar to ½ cup (100g) but it will create a more dense cake which may be a little bitter.
- The cake bakes very well in muffin tins and can be divided into smaller cake tins, of course with different baking times. However, baking the whole quantity of the cake in a smaller tin (for example 15 cm or 7 inches) may cause 'dense spots' throughout the cake.
- If your oven is too hot, your cake may be cooked on the outside but still raw inside. If so, turn down the oven temperature and cover the tin with an oven-safe plate, as long as it doesn't touch the cake.
- Alternatively you can also:
- Drizzle a simple syrup on the cake. Combine ¼ cup (80g) orange juice and 2 tbsp of sugar in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Drizzle on the cake while it's warm.
- Top the cake with a simple icing, such as the one in this recipe (but substiute the lemon juice with orange juice). Wait until the cake is completely cool before you ice the cake.
This recipe was originally published in November 2017 and updated a few times since then. Vegan baking science has grown a lot over the years!
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