Orange Cake (Portakallı Kek)

This cake reminds me of my childhood. I grew up with orange and lemon cakes since I used to live in part of Turkey where citrus trees grow. The Mediterranean region is blessed with citrus fruit. Fields are filled with lemons, oranges, clementines, mandarins and grapefruit trees. There is an abundance of citrus fruit, so they are widely used in desserts, salads and other dishes.

When I was growing up, during the citrus season (usually winter months), our home always had lots of citrus fruit and none of it was ever purchased. Due to the generosity of relatives, family friends and acquaintance who own citrus farms or citrus trees, we never had to purchase them. Now, my father has his own citrus farm which he enjoys taking care of as a hobby, so now we have more citrus fruit than we even want. In fact, he has a few orange trees that last until the summer, so every year when I go home, they save a tree full of juicy oranges so I can enjoy them from the tree. I know that’s really sweet.

Back to the cake…This cake is very simple and common, which does not require elaborate ingredients. To me, the simpler, the tastier. Sometimes, I do not enjoy foods that have way too many ingredients and different flavors which cause my palates to be confused. Usually, I enjoy one flavor without the interruption of other flavors. Since I am fan of oranges, I like the hint of orange flavor that comes out of the cake. The cake is not too sweet, but flavorful. I wanted to attain the exact flavor I enjoyed when I ate this, God knows how many years ago, at home in Turkey. I still remember flavors of orange and lemon cakes I had when I was a child!

It has been almost two years since I have baked a cake, since I try not to bake or make desserts often. It is usually too much for me and my husband and we end up eating it all. Not so much for weight gain (partially), but for health reasons. However, I did find a solution. When I make desserts or cakes, I take most of it to my office or send to my husband’s office so we could share with our colleagues. I like sharing food, so there are times when I bake things only for the office (not just for experiment). Since I baked this cake 7 times in the past couple weeks, I sent almost all of these cakes to my husband’s office and some to my office. As a result, a coworker of mine offered to bring me oranges from his orange tree in front of his house! I gratefully accepted and the next day he came with a bag full of oranges so I could bake more cake! I baked my last version of the cake with these natural oranges which turned out really good.

The first cake I baked, was too dry, but came out of the cake mold perfectly. The second time, I improved the flavor tremendously, but the cake was cracking and it didn’t come out of the pan nicely. The third time, I improved the flavor even more, but the top of the cake was cracking. Well, during my next try, I covered it with aluminum foil for the first 15 minutes of baking, which prevented it from cracking. However, it still did not come out of the cake mold nicely. Every time it had to break slightly, in one place or another. So, finally, I am happy to say that last night, this cake came out really good with the help of a tip from my mom. The trick was that, instead of greasing the cake mold with liquid oil, I greased it with unsalted butter, with a sprinkle of flour on the greased pan and baked it at lower heat than usual. Apparently, this is a known tip for bakers. Obviously, I have a lot of room for improvement in baking.

I did not want to post this cake until I perfected it in every way. Now, here it is. Enjoy!

2 cups flour
1.5 cup sugar
1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 cup canola oil (or vegetable oil)
3 eggs
1 large orange (both the zest and the juice to be used)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract

Unsalted butter for greasing the cake pan
¼ tsp of flour to sprinkle on greased cake pan

Note: All ingredients need to be at room temperature. To hinder the cake from cracking around the ring, cover with aluminum foil only for the first 15 minutes of baking time.

Using a Stand Mixer:

Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Place the egg whites in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Attach the wire whip to the beater shaft of the mixer. Using the wire whip of the mixer beat the egg whites starting with the lowest speed and gradually increasing the speed to 8. Once a foamy texture is attained, place the foamy egg in a separate bowl.

Grate the orange and put the zest aside. Squeeze the orange and set aside. In the mixer bowl, place the egg yolks, sugar, orange juice, orange zest, yogurt, vanilla extract and oil. Whip together at speed 8; again starting at the lowest speed and increasing it gradually.

Remove the wire whip attachment from the mixer and attach the flat beater (Do this after unplugging the stand mixer as the instructions of the mixer suggest). Add the foamy egg white to the bowl. Sift the flour and baking soda in a separate bowl and add them to the wet ingredients in the bowl of the mixer. Mix together at speed 4 for a few minutes until all the ingredients are incorporated and you have a smooth batter. In case some of the flour stays around the mixing bowl, scrape them down using a spatula. Make sure your mixer is off when you are doing this.


In a deep bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are foamy. Set aside. On another large deep bowl, put the egg yolks, sugar, orange juice, yogurt, oil, vanilla extract and orange zest and whisk together until all the ingredients are integrated. Add the egg white foam the rest of wet ingredients. Sift flour and baking soda and add to the wet ingredients. Mix all the ingredients until you attain a smooth batter.

Set oven heat at 325ºF. Grease a cake mold with unsalted butter. Sprinkle a little flour on the greased pan or cake mold. Pour the cake batter in the cake mold. When the oven is ready, place in the middle rack and bake for 50 minutes. To check whether the cake is baked well or not, insert a toothpick in the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, that means your cake is ready, if it comes out with batter, that means it still needs baking.

When you remove the cake from the oven, let it rest for about 15 minutes before taking the cake out of the cake mold.

Enjoy with a hot tea or coffee.

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