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Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Cake

January 24, 2013

Cara Cara Orange Chocolate CakePin it!

I tasted my first cara cara orange about two weeks ago.

I can’t even count how many I’ve eaten since then.

Perhaps I’ve been incredibly vitamin C-deficient as of late, or perhaps they’re just divinely delicious.

Cara Cara Oranges

If you’ve never had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with a cara cara orange in person, they seem like your typical navel orange on the outside, but the fruit inside is a ruby-tinged pinkish orange, and the flavor is distinctively flowery and surprisingly sweet. (Surprising because the bright pink color might lead you to expect a cameo appearance of at least some of the bitterness of a grapefruit, but there is little to be found.)

The oranges are sugary with a barely-there backdrop of tartness– inviting, juicy, and refreshing.

Cara Cara Orange Chocolate CakePin it!

I’ve been craving citrus-drenched desserts recently, and this cake fit the bill. I thought the upside-down cake-style topping of candied orange slices would showcase the gorgeous color of the cara cara oranges (although the pink faded to orange a bit as they were simmering in syrup).

Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Cake

I had another (celebratory) reason for baking a cake as well: Paula & I got engaged!

Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Cake

She proposed to me right before our two-year anniversary, and– though I didn’t see it coming– it was the most obvious thing in the world to say yes. I usually try to avoid gushing all over my food blog about anything that’s not about food, but I will say this: she’s the best, and I love her. And we will get married once I’ve finished my dissertation, or once gay marriage is (re-)legalized in California… preferably both.

Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Cake Batter with Candied Orange Slices

This cake seems extra appropriate for the occasion, since Paula has been downright obsessed with cara cara oranges for a long time. (So obsessed, come to think of it, that she practically would have preferred getting to slice up and eat those three oranges– which went into the cake– to the cake itself. Too bad this is only occurring to me now… but she liked the cake, too!) Paula used to buy cara cara oranges all the time from grocery stores in Los Angeles, but she hadn’t found them once since moving up to Santa Barbara… until this month. (Thank you, Trader Joe’s.)

Cara Cara Orange Slices

I adapted this recipe from a Mediterranean cookbook I got on the sale rack of a bookstore when we went out of town for our anniversary weekend. (I love cookbooks on sale racks. And bookstores!) Considering I am often apathetic (if not antipathetic) toward chocolate cakes, this one won me over. With all the flavors it had going on other than chocolate, how could it not? (And yes, I had to resist calling it a Candied Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Almond Polenta Greek Yogurt Orange Juice Cake.)

Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Cake with Polenta, Greek Yogurt, and Candied Orange Slices

The cake itself is not overly sweet and only subtly chocolatey (unless you add the semisweet chips for some extra bursts of chocolate). It’s also not overly dense, considering it has both almond flour and polenta; the Greek yogurt and orange juice lighten things up. Drizzled in luscious orange-flavored syrup, the cake takes on an aromatic, honeyed sweetness that would pair nicely with a side of vanilla ice cream.

Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Cake with Polenta, Greek Yogurt, and Candied Orange Slices

Best eaten on the first day, while still warmed from the drizzle of simmered syrup and topped with glossy, stunning orange slices, this cake is sure to impress your guests. I hope you all have just as many reasons to celebrate as we do.

Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Cake with Polenta, Greek Yogurt, and Candied Orange SlicesPin it!

Print this recipe. (PDF)


Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Cake
(Adapted from “Chocolate and Orange Polenta Cake” in “Mediterranean Cooking” by Metro Books.)

(Serves 8-10)

~ ¾ cup sugar
~ 1 cup water
~ 2 cara cara oranges, thinly sliced
~ 1 cara cara orange, zested and juiced
~ 8 Tbsp. butter (1 stick), softened
~ 1 cup packed light brown sugar
~ 3 eggs
~ 1 cup flour
~ ½ cup cocoa powder
~ ⅔ tsp. baking powder
~ ½ tsp. baking soda
~ ¼ tsp. salt
~ dash of ground cardamom (optional)
~ ½ cup ground almonds (almond flour)
~ ½ cup polenta (coarse-ground cornmeal)
~ ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
~ ¼ cup orange juice (from juiced cara cara orange, above)
~ ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, or chopped semi-sweet chocolate

Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Cake

How to make it:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan (or a deep 8-inch cake pan) with cooking oil (or grease with butter), and line the bottom with two sheets of parchment paper.

2. In a large skillet, over medium heat, stir to slowly dissolve the sugar in the water. Once the sugar has dissolved, then bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered and without stirring, for 6-7 minutes, or until the syrup starts to thicken. Use tongs to add the orange slices and simmer, uncovered, for another 6-7 minutes (turning the slices once halfway through cooking).

Candied Orange Slices for Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Upside-down Cake

3. Use tongs to lift orange slices from the syrup and spread them out across the base of the cake pan, slightly overlapping each slice. Then bring the syrup back to a boil (add up to another 1/4 cup of water, if necessary), then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered and without stirring, for several more minutes or until syrup is a light honey color. Pour two-thirds of the hot syrup over the orange slices, and set aside the remaining syrup.

4. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom. Set aside.

5. Beat orange zest, butter, and brown sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in the sifted dry ingredients (from step #4), as well as the ground almonds, polenta, Greek yogurt, orange juice, and optionally chocolate chips. Carefully spread the mixture evenly over the oranges in the cake pan.

Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Cake

6. Bake cake for 50-60 minutes (slightly longer if using a deep 8-inch cake pan), or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool in the cake pan for 15 minutes before running a butter knife gently around the edges, then flipping it out onto a serving plate. Re-heat the reserved syrup for a minute or two, then spoon syrup over the oranges on top of the cake. Enjoy!

Print this recipe! (PDF)

Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Cake with Polenta, Greek Yogurt, and Candied Orange SlicesPin it!

Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Cake with Polenta, Greek Yogurt, and Candied Orange SlicesPin it!

Related recipe posts:
> Almond Cinnamon Baklava
> Skillet Cranberry Apple Crisp
> Zesty Lemon Lime Bars

66 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2013 9:17 am

    The cake looks divine & CONGRATULATIONS on your engagement!

  2. January 24, 2013 9:36 am

    YAY!! Congratulations on your engagement, how exciting :) On another less exciting but still impressive note, your cake looks wonderfully moist and delicious! I would like a slice for lunch… right now please ;)

    • January 24, 2013 3:33 pm

      Thank you!!

      And yep, it was a pretty good cake… The very last pieces of it got a little dry on day 3, but it was moist and delicious the first two days, especially because of the extra drizzle of orange syrup!

  3. Lily permalink
    January 24, 2013 9:41 am

    Congrats on your engagement! And the cake looks soo delicious!

  4. January 24, 2013 9:56 am

    What a beautiful cake! I just love the sliced oranges on top, it gives such texture. Congrats to you and Paula on the engagement. :) BIG HUGS to you two!

    • January 24, 2013 3:36 pm

      Thanks, Anne!! :)

      I loved the oranges on top too… chocolate cake is not usually my favorite dessert, but the oranges make this one way more worth eating (in my opinion).

  5. vnvie permalink
    January 24, 2013 9:58 am

    Awesome recipe, and more importantly big congratulations on the engagement!!

  6. Kelly Savage permalink
    January 24, 2013 10:13 am

    Wow! This looks great :)

    • January 24, 2013 3:37 pm

      Thanks! You could totally use the same technique (orange slices + parchment paper + syrup) to create this kind of candied orange topping for a vegan chocolate cake instead!

  7. January 24, 2013 11:26 am

    What a gorgeous looking cake! Congratulations on your engagement :-)

  8. January 24, 2013 12:43 pm

    Congratulations my friend that is so exciting :D
    Your cake also looks perfect to celebrate with!

    Choc Chip Uru

  9. January 24, 2013 2:10 pm

    Congratulations! What sweet news, and what a delicious way to celebrate it. :)

  10. January 24, 2013 3:40 pm

    Nice recipe…we grow cara caras- so we will give this a try!

    • January 24, 2013 3:42 pm

      You grow cara caras?!? I haven’t been this jealous of you since I found out you had a kaffir lime tree!

      • January 25, 2013 11:36 am

        Yes, the only issue is that we are just on the border of the right growing “zone”. Some years they are good, some not…we will know in the next week or so how we do this year…

    • January 24, 2013 3:42 pm

      (Also, I have one more cara cara orange recipe, coming soon!)

  11. January 24, 2013 5:23 pm

    Gorgeous photos!!! Congrats on your engagement. Hopefully your marriage will be sooner rather than later…

  12. January 24, 2013 5:34 pm

    Yum! this looks amazing Allison! I adore Cara Cara oranges, aren’t they just to die for? Beautiful photos too!

    • January 29, 2013 9:19 pm

      Thanks, Shira! Yes, I’ve totally started to share Paula’s obsession for Cara Cara oranges… it didn’t take long; they are so good!

  13. January 24, 2013 5:35 pm

    And Congratulations! Amazing News Allison!

  14. January 24, 2013 8:08 pm

    This cake looks absolutely great! I wonder if I can get Cara Cara oranges around the name. Also, congrats on the engagement!!!

    • January 29, 2013 9:22 pm

      Thank you!! I hope you can find Cara Cara oranges where you live! Or else come visit California sometime during their season (which I think is January to May-ish).

  15. January 24, 2013 10:53 pm

    Shakshuka and cara cara oranges – so many great food names this week I can hardly stand it! Congrats on your engagement and thx for reminding me to look for cara cara at the store tomorrow!!!!

    • January 29, 2013 9:25 pm

      Thank *you*! Were you able to find cara cara oranges at the store the other day?

      And yep, “shakshuka” is pretty much one of the best food names ever and “cara cara” is pretty great, too.

  16. January 25, 2013 2:08 am

    Congratulations Allison! I’ve never heard of a cara cara orange, but they sound delicious (:

  17. January 25, 2013 8:49 am

    this cake looks absolutely delicious!

  18. January 25, 2013 1:27 pm

    Congratulations Allison – happy happy news :-)
    I never heard of Cara Cara oranges – they sound amazing and your cake looks incredible! Beautiful!

  19. January 25, 2013 2:27 pm

    Looks like a beautifully made cake for a happy celebration. Congratulations to you both.

  20. January 26, 2013 7:39 pm

    Congratulations Allison, such a happy time, I hope you both enjoy every single second of it!

  21. January 26, 2013 7:51 pm

    I’m new to your blog and that cake just looks fantastic!! Congratulations on your engagement– definitely agreed that calls for a gorgeous celebratory cake. I think I’ll have to try making it for my dad’s birthday this upcoming week. It just seems so unique and especially flavorful! Looking forward to getting other menu ideas from you.

    • January 29, 2013 9:37 pm

      Thank you! I hope you do get a chance to try this cake soon, whether for your dad’s birthday or not. It is very unique; I actually liked it more than the typical chocolate cake because of that.

      And welcome! I’m glad you’ve discovered my blog. :)

  22. January 27, 2013 2:21 am

    I’m new to blogging and just stumbled accross your blog – I have to say that this cake looks delicious – I’m definitely going to try it out!

  23. January 27, 2013 8:18 pm

    Congratulations on your engagement, Allison!!!
    You keep amazing me with wonderful posts/recipes. What a treat! :D Fae.

  24. Nami | Just One Cookbook permalink
    January 27, 2013 8:25 pm

    Congratulations Allison!!!! I’m praying for gay marriage will be legalized again in California! ;) This cake looks so delicious – always love chocolate and orange combo! :)

  25. January 28, 2013 11:01 am

    I know you’ve got a long list of congrats messages to reply to but I’ve just got to join in: CONGRATULATIONS on your engagement! Really happy for the both of you :)

  26. January 30, 2013 11:37 pm

    Congratulations Allison! What great news! And I’ll have to pick up some Cara Cara oranges next time I’m at the market. Last time I bypassed them for all the clementines!

    • January 31, 2013 10:52 am

      Thanks, Cate! Yes, if they are available where you live, then consider yourself lucky, and definitely give them a try! …although I love clementines, too. :)

  27. February 2, 2013 1:19 pm

    Allison, what a beautiful blog! Your photos are beautiful and your recipes sound delicious. This cake is a must bake, in my opinion.

    Congratulations on your engagement. I’ve been married to the person I love for 20+ years, and I wish EVERYONE would be afforded the same right I have enjoyed. I am hoping that California will get it right soon.


    • February 5, 2013 11:26 am

      Thank you so much, Daisy! (And by the way, I think your blog is just gorgeous!)

      It is so nice to hear both your kind words about my blog, and that we share the same sentiment about marriage equality. :)

  28. February 22, 2013 4:24 am

    Waw, Allison! What a georgous & so delectable special cake! i love the topping too! :) So cool looking too!

    • May 18, 2013 4:04 pm

      Thanks, Sophie!! I somehow missed this comment earlier. I though it was a pretty cool-looking cake, too. I want to try making more citrusy upside-down-style cakes now!

  29. May 18, 2013 2:51 pm

    Orange and chocolate, my favorite combo!! I read your about page, and you said that you weren’t much of a baker. I bake (ha, get it!) to differ!! Celeste

    • May 18, 2013 4:05 pm

      Thanks! I know, I’m getting there with the baking… I’ve definitely been (a little bit) more of a baker since I started this blog, just as I predicted! :)

  30. April 17, 2014 12:57 pm

    Oh my gosh, I love this. An upside down cake! I didn’t bake the cara cara’s into my cake. I added them after. Great idea. These cakes are so similar, yet so different. Don’t you just love using citrus in baking?

    • April 20, 2014 12:00 pm

      Thanks! The upside-down-ness of it was in the original recipe that I adapted it from, too. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have been brave enough to try it…

      And whoops, I didn’t realize your orange slices weren’t baked into the top, too—I guess I didn’t actually read your recipe; just the cute story about your son. :)

      I love citrus in everything, including baking! And though I often just use citrus for the flavor/acid, I also love recipes like your honey cake (and this one) where you get to use citrus fruit for its visually striking appeal, too.


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