Orange Steamed Cake with Candied Orange Peels

When I was originally stewing on my idea for a cookbook, I came up with this rendition of a Chinese steamed cake, flavored orange for Chinese New Year. I should have posted this back in January but it escaped me!
You begin by zesting two oranges and then juicing them. You'll need one of these trusty Microplane zesters that I keep raving about...
...because it's the only tool that will give you this very fine zest, packed with flavor, but not so large that the pieces stick in your throat.
This might be the first cake recipe you've seen that's cooked in a wok on the stove - it was for me. You'll need a bamboo steamer insert which can be picked up relatively inexpensively ($12-$20) and is handy for steaming all sorts of things. Once the batter is prepared the cake pan just nestles inside the steamer to cook.
When it's fully cooked, which happens amazingly quickly thanks to the steam, it takes on this spongecake-like appearance and texture.
This is a light dessert that won't fill people up after a meal - you can also experiment with the flavors and use the same wok steaming technique and if you come up with something delicious, please let me know!

Orange Steamed Cake
Serves 6-8

1 large oranges, zested and juiced
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
whipped cream, optional
Candied Orange Peels, recipe follows
Grease an 8 inch round cake pan (or whatever size fits into your steamer) on all sides. Line bottom with parchment paper and grease the paper. Set a covered bamboo steamer in a wok and add about 4 cups of water. Turn stove to high and bring water to a boil; reduce heat to simmer. Meanwhile, combine 2 tablespoons of the orange zest, 1/4 cup of orange juice, oil, eggs and extract and whisk to combine well. In a separate bowl combine sugar, flour, baking powder, soda, salt and cornstarch. Stir to combine, then add liquid ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon, about 30 seconds. The batter will be fairly thick. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Place cake pan into the bamboo steamer and cover. Bake until a toothpick comes clean out of the center of the cake, about 30 minutes. Turn off heat, remove cake from steamer, and invert cake onto a plate. Cover with plastic wrap immediately to retain moisture. Slice into 8 wedges to serve and top with a dollop of whipped cream and a couple of candied orange slices.

Candied Orange Peels
Serves 6-8

2 large oranges
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
To make the candied orange slices, carefully peel the oranges from top to bottom in large pieces with a vegetable peeler. Reserve orange segments for another use. Place peels in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Drain, and repeat with cold water for a total of 4 times to remove bitterness from the peels. Combine 1½ cups sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, allowing sugar to dissolve. Add orange peels, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for about 30 to 45 minutes, occasionally gently pushing peels into sugar water if they float to the top. Check frequently and do not let the sugar advance to the browned caramel stage. Place remaining ½ cup of sugar in a medium plastic container with a lid. Drain the peels and add them to the sugar, quickly cover, and toss to coat the peels in sugar. Set peels aside to cool, discarding any remaining sugar.
P.S. I'm still working on that cookbook idea...stay tuned!

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