A wintry, fateful encounter: Caramelized Blood Orange Cake

By Jillian Bernardini - Jan 16, 2013 - 01:27 PM
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Quickly becoming apparent on my first two steps into the market, "Freshness, quality, and diversity" is the motto of Russo's in Watertown for the past 75 years.  A food lover's dream come true, there is a wide array of fresh produce and herbs, a cheese and salumi counter that is reminiscent of times spent in Italy, and a bread and pastry nook that can fulfill any sudden craving or satisfy as an afternoon snack.  I've heard many good things about Russo's, and I'm sad to say it took me almost 2.5 years to venture out and explore their offerings!  Past professors have wisely noted, "You can find the most obscure ingredients for any recipe!"  They were right.  From galangal root to obscure types of wild mushrooms, kaffir lime leaves, whole lemongrass stalks, three types of robiola cheese, and crazy amounts of citrus varieties.  Yep, it's heaven, basically food heaven...and I wanted to do five million laps, but resisted. 

We've been discussing winter citrus in the restaurant a ton, adding it to our desserts, appetizers, and of course, a few refreshing cocktails.  Passing through the citrus varieties, I locked eyes with the plump, alluring blood oranges.  I remember from my study abroad experience in Roma that the juice from the 'arancia rossa' was more prevalent than the traditional orange, or arancia.  I grabbed four and hustled over to the checkout, not knowing what I would make with them...and rather, hoping for some inspiration to hit me within the next few days. 

Like magical clockwork, the NYTimes read my mind and posted a recipe for this seductive-looking dessert, two days after my Russo's trip: Upside Down Blood Orange Cake.  Checking my pantry and fridge, I was instantly on autopilot, prepping every ingredient on my counter, and zesting my blood oranges.  My cake pan is a little dark in color, which I think is the causal factor for the edges looking a bit too dark. 

Fortunately, that didn't take away from the taste!  The quick caramel sauce only enhances the rich, juicy nature of the blood oranges.  The cornmeal adds a slightly 'rustico' texture to the cake, just how the Italians would like it.  I only ate one slice because my flight was the following day, but the boyfriend has been snacking on it in my absence...hopefully thinking of me fondly, just how the Italian culture has a love affair with the blood orange [seen in this YouTube video, Ciao!].

upside down blood orange cake new york times