Blood orange upside down cake (GF, DF)

This is a bit of an unusual blog post for a photography blog, but a few people asked me to write up my recipe for a gluten/dairy free cake I recently made. And I guess this post does have some pretty cake pictures… So here it is!

Blood orange upside down cake is one of my favourite winter treats, mainly because of that beautiful bright red colour you get from the oranges. Aren’t they gorgeous?


I made a gluten free and dairy free version, combining an adapted gluten-and-dairy-free cake by the ultimate domestic goddess Nigella with the original upside down cake recipe I’ve used previously (which is actually from a blog called “not quite Nigella“).


4-5 blood oranges
2 cups caster sugar
200g ground almonds
50g fine polenta (not instant)
1tsp GF baking powder
180g caster sugar
6 large eggs
3 tsp lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 180C, or 160C fan, gas mark 4, 350F. Line the bottom and sides of a 20cm tin with greaseproof paper.

2. Thinly slice 3-4 of the oranges, like in the picture above.

3. Combine 2 cups sugar with 1 cup water and boil until sugar is dissolved and the syrup is bubbling. Add the orange slices and cook for 10-15 mins until the slices are starting to get a bit translucent.

4. Take the slices out with a slotted spoon and cook the syrup down a bit more. When the slices are cool, line the bottom and sides of the tin with them, using the syrup as glue if they don’t stick to the sides. You could also add some syrup to the bottom of the pan before adding the oranges – this will caramelise the oranges a bit more, making them more sticky on top of the cake, à la chunky cut marmalade. Keep the leftover syrup for later.

5. Chop the remaining fresh blood orange into small-ish chunks (skin and all, but take any green tops off) and weigh – you should have around 130g. I used 1.5 small oranges. Pop them into a smaller pan with half an inch of water and a bit of sugar, and simmer for 10-15 mins, until the orange pieces are tender. The water should have reduced and turned into a thin syrup.

6. If you’re lucky enough to have a food processor, throw the stewed oranges with their syrup into the processor and blitz. If you have to use a hand blender, that also works. You’re looking for a porridge-like consistency. Add almonds, polenta, caster sugar, baking powder, eggs, and blitz / mix again. Finally add the lemon juice and mix in briefly. Pour this carefully over the orange-slice-lined tin and bake for 40 mins or so. It’s ready when the top is golden and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, or just with a few crumbs on.

7. Cool in the tin for 10 mins, then turn over and peel off the greaseproof paper. Warm up the leftover syrup before pouring and brushing it over the cake – this adds a sticky  and wonderful glaze, and also makes the cake lovely and moist. I still had quite a bit of syrup left at the end, so I guess you could stir this into some softly whipped double cream and have that with the cake…. if dairy is your thing 😉


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