There would simply be no Easter in Norway without oranges. What a peculiar food to mention in the same sentence as Norwegian cuisine, you might think. Not so. Here’s a fun fact to kick off with: Norway is among the top importers of oranges, and during Easter, Norwegians double their consumption of this succulent, orange fruit and devour over 20 million oranges. Oranges from Spain dominate, but Israel and Egypt are also important countries from which we import the fruit.
Up until 1956 there was an import restriction in Norway of oranges, and they were a rare and expensive treat at the time. When the regulation disappeared, the sale of oranges sky rocketed. Norwegian prefer sweeter oranges, and these typically appear at the end of the citrus season, which so happens to be around Easter; hence the peak season for oranges and the holiday season fell together and tradition was made. The color of the orange also represents the sun, and symbolizes the switch between winter and summer…. lighter times are ahead when Easter arrives!
As many of you know, Norway is fortunate to have a plethora of majestic mountains, and Norwegians are very good at taking advantage of the nature surrounding them. Most people own cabins, and for Easter this is the preferred destination to spend the holiday, skiing, suntanning, eating great food and enjoying time with family and friends. Carrying oranges in backpacks while on a skiing trip is a well known Norwegian tradition. There is probably nothing more satisfying than sitting down at the top of a mountain after a long, beautiful, but physically challenging cross country skiing trip, opening up my back pack, peel an orange and sink my teeth into the sweet, juicy fruit. One orange covers your daily requirement for C-vitamins, but don’t think Norwegians are too healthy. We also consumer millions of “Kvikklunsj” (Norwegians’ version of Kit Kat, although of course ten times better:) along with truckloads of marzipan candies during the holiday.
Other than enjoying oranges on their own in the breathtaking outdoors or mountainside, there are many other ways to use oranges in cooking. I experimented with a couple of different recipes for an orange cake earlier in the week as I longingly looked at photos from my friends in Norway who had already taken off for the holiday to enjoy the nature, food, and the company of friends and family.
My first recipe was a gluten free cake made with chickpea flour and polenta – this turned out to be quite crumbly, not too sweet and a more ‘casual’ cake. The second recipe I tested included regular all purpose wheat flour but had very little fat, no butter, but just a little oil and lots of orange juice. This turned out super juicy, light and fluffy, and I’m still reeling from the deliciousness of it. Both cakes serve a purpose, so I wanted to include both recipes for these here, so you can decide what you are in the mood for: a daily treat (the polenta cake) or get decadent (the latter)! The best thing about both is that they are super easy and takes five minutes to put together. Whichever one you choose, you are in for a treat – decorate with fresh oranges on top of each one to make it colorful, and if you are creative enough, you may even be able to sneak a piece in your backpack if you go out hiking or skiing this weekend! 🙂 Happy Easter everyone!
POLENTA ORANGE CAKE
1 stick vegan butter (about 8 tbsp)
100 grams or 1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup almond milk or other vegetable based milk
zest from 1/2 an orange
1/2 cup polenta
3/4 cup chickpea flour
1 rounded tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Preheat oven to 400F. Dress an oiled 8-inch spring form cake pan with parchment paper at the bottom.
In a standmixer, whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly add in the almond milk, orange zest, polenta, chickpea flour, and baking soda until a smooth batter forms. Pour the batter into the prepared cake form and baking in the middle of the oven for about 20-25 minutes.
Let cool on a rack while preparing the glaze (Recipe further down, you can use the same glaze for both cakes).
JUICY ORANGE CAKE
350 grams/1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
350 grams/ 1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup freshly pressed orange juice
1/2 cup rapeseed or other neutral, organic vegetable oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
zest from one orange
2 tsp vanilla extract
Handful of toasted walnuts, chopped for decorating (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400F. Dress a 10 inch round spring form cake pan with parchment paper and oil lightly the bottom and sides of the pan.
Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and mix them into the dry ingredients until a smooth batter forms. Pour into the prepared cake pan.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 40-45 minutes, depending on your oven. The cake should be golden on the top and firm on the edges, use a cake tester to determine when done. Cool on a rack while you prepare the orange glaze.
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
juice from one orange (give or take)
1 tsp orange zest
Place confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl with orange rind and add orange juice until you get a smooth glaze to your desired consistency.
Garnish both cakes with added orange zest, fresh blood orange slices, and/or chopped nuts of your choice (I omitted the nuts).