The recipe for this hazelnut and orange cake comes from Silvana Rowe’s gorgeous Middle-Eastern cookery book – Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume.

Like all Sephardic cakes, the recipe contains no flour or dairy products. However, although particularly handy for those with dietary requirements (apart, obviously, from nut allergies), you would never know the cake is ‘free-from’ anything. Using ground nuts instead of flour provides both flavour and moisture, and drenching the cake in a sweet, fragrant syrup really seals the deal.

As the cake is quite dense and sticky, I tend to think of it as more of an indulgent dessert than a tea-time treat. But on a cold afternoon in mid-December, it could be just what the doctor ordered!

Silvana Rowe’s Hazelnut and orange cake with orange blossom syrup

5 eggs, separated
200g caster sugar
250g ground hazelnuts
For the syrup *
150 ml water
250g caster sugar
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
Zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp orange blossom water

Method: Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Grease (with oil) and line a 20 by 10cm loaf tin.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until you have a pale and creamy mixture. Gradually add the ground hazelnuts and combine well (don’t worry if it’s quite stiff).

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff and glossy, then gently fold into the hazelnut mixture.

Pour the cake mixture into your prepped tin, and bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until golden, firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean-ish.

While the cake is in the oven, make the orange syrup. Place the water, sugar and orange juice in a saucepan and simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until it reaches a thick syrupy consistency. Remove from the heat and cool, then stir in the orange zest and flower water.

Remove from the oven and poke holes in the top. When cool enough, pop it out of the tin and remove the baking paper. Return to the tin and evenly pour most of the orange syrup over the top. Pour the rest into a small jug.

When completely cooled, take the cake out of the tin and scatter over fresh orange zest before serving with natural yoghurt or crème fraiche and the remaining syrup.

*I found Silvana’s syrup too sweet and strong for my taste, so I reduced the amount of sugar and flower water and added more fresh orange juice and zest to freshen it up a bit. My alternative is: 100g caster sugar, 200ml water, zest and juice of two oranges, and 1 tbsp orange flower water.