We rarely consider herbs in a dessert, and particularly in baking, but the mix of tarragon and orange works so well. I’d had an idea of using these together for a while, but didn’t quite get the correct balance. So my chef and I tried and tried and finally got it right in this gâteau. It’s all in the quantity—you can’t be heavy-handed with the tarragon—and the end result is fantastic.
– PREPARATION TIME 30 minutes, plus 30 minutes cooling.
– COOKING TIME 30 minutes.
– 3½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted.
– 1 cup very finely ground blanched almonds.
– ⅓ cup all-purpose flour.
– ½ teaspoon baking powder.
– 4 egg whites, scant ½ cup.
– ¼ cup less 1 tablespoon superfine sugar.
– finely grated zest and juice of 1 small orange.
– 2 tablespoons roughly chopped tarragon leaves, plus leaves from 1 tarragon sprig, to decorate.
– FOR THE CANDIED ORANGE.
– ½ cup superfine sugar.
– 1 large unwaxed orange, cut crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices, discarding the end slices.
Step 2: Beat together the egg whites and sugar in a large bowl, using an electric mixer, until soft peaks form. Mix together the orange juice and remaining melted butter, then gently fold into the whisked egg whites. Gradually fold in the almond mixture, orange zest and chopped tarragon, a spoonful at a time, until incorporated.
Step 3: Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Bake 18 to 20 minutes until the cake is risen and golden. Check that the cake is baked by inserting a skewer into the deepest part. If it comes out clean, it is baked. If not, bake 2 to 3 minutes longer and check again. Remove the pan from the oven and leave the cake to cool 5 minutes on a wire rack before turning out, removing the paper and returning it to the wire rack, bottom-side up, to cool completely.
Step 4: Meanwhile, make the candied orange. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour ⅔ cup water into a saucepan and stir in the sugar. Heat over high heat until the sugar dissolves and the liquid becomes slightly syrupy. At the same time, put the orange slices in a small saucepan and just cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then discard the water. Repeat this again with fresh water. Drain the oranges again, add them to the pan containing the syrup and bring to a simmer. Simmer 5 minutes longer, or until the orange slices are tender but still hold their shape. Lift the orange slices out of the syrup and leave to cool on the prepared baking sheet.
Step 5: Return the syrup to a low heat and simmer 8 to 10 minutes until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, then leave to cool. When the oranges a cool, cut each slice in half into a half-moon shape. Arrange the orange slices, slightly overlapping, on top of the cake. Brush the warm syrup over the top of the oranges, then sprinkle the remaining tarragon over the top.