This article first appeared on Swartland Wine & Olive Route’s site entitled “Orange You Excited to Try This Wine?”. Here, I’ve adapted the original text slightly to focus on the recipe for my orange, almond & olive oil cake.

Now with gloomy skies and chilly temperatures on the increase, I’ve been craving a burst of sunshine. Fortunately, citrus season arrives at the same time as winter and so I can include a whole array of lemons, naartjies, clementines, limes and here, oranges, to my cooking repertoire. Made without flour, my recipe for Italian orange, almond & olive oil cake is full of Mediterranean flavour. Dense and not too sweet, it makes a luxurious conclusion to a relaxed lunch or dinner party. Juicy seedless oranges from Citrusdal yield the best result. 

I’ve paired my citrusy cake with a rather interesting libation that us South Africans are still making acquaintance with.

Beloved for its summery hue and Instagram aesthetic, orange wine is truly having its moment in the sun. Also known as amber wine, orange wine’s versatility allows it to be enjoyed with all manner of eats, including some delicacies that would otherwise be tricky to pair. Think fried chicken, kimchi, sea urchin and hard goat’s cheese.

But what exactly is orange wine? 

Orange wine is made by leaving the skins of white wine cultivar grapes to ferment with the juice as opposed to removing them. In short, orange wine is white wine produced in the same manner as red wine.  When it comes to colour, orange wine can range from pale pink to ripe clementine. The deeper the hue of the wine depends on the variety of grape used, the ripeness of the fruit, the time spent in fermentation and the fermentation vessel as well as the method of extraction. Since orange wines have a higher tannin concentration than their white counterparts, they possess a more robust mouthfeel and sharper acidity – making orange wines great to pair with fuller flavoured foods.

Skin-contact versus skin-fermented

Currently very desirable in the wine world, skin-contact wines pertain to types of white wine grapes that are macerated with their skins for a short period before the juice is extracted for fermentation. This process ensures that some of the flavour and colour of the skins blend into the juice, but the predominant fermentation happens to the juice alone. This shorter skin-contact method yields a lighter flavour and colour. In opposition, skin-fermented wine is fermented with the grape skins for far longer, thus producing bolder, tannin-rich wines. 

Orange wine in South Africa

The Swartland’s warm climate and old vine/bush vine cultivars like Viognier and Chenin Blanc are ideal for producing low acidity skin-contact orange wine like Intellego’s The Sleeping Co-Pilot and Môrelig Vineyards’ Wightman & Sons Skin Contact Chenin Blanc.

The former is developed by fermenting whole bunches of Viognier grapes for 14 days before maturing in old oak barrels for 10 months. The latter is made from Chenin Blanc grapes macerated on the skins for around two weeks before being basket-pressed and matured in oak barrels that add lightly wooded notes along with soft, full aromas of orange peel and a gentle acidity. 

Since both wines are rich in citrus notes, an equally buttery recipe for Italian orange and almond cake pairs well with the balanced tannins of each. 


Italian Orange, Almond & Olive Oil Cake

Prep time: 30 mins /Cook time: / 50 mins /Makes: 1 cake


  • 3 medium seedless oranges
  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 400g ground almonds
  • 20ml baking powder
  • 50ml flaked almonds
  • 10ml icing sugar
  • 50ml Seville marmalade
  • 1 small orange, zested and juiced


Fill a saucepan with water and submerge the three oranges in it. Bring to the boil and simmer for 25 minutes or until the citrus is tender. Drain the oranges and place them into a blender. Blitz until smooth. Grease a springform tin with butter and line the base with paper. Whisk together the eggs and the caster sugar. Beat in the olive oil followed by the orange purée.

Fold in the ground almonds and baking powder. Pour the mixture into the tin and scatter over the flaked almonds. Bake the cake on the middle rack of a preheated 180° oven for 50 minutes or until golden brown. The cake should have a light springy touch to the top and have shrunk away from the sides of the tin. Leave the cake to cool in the tin.

Zest and juice the orange. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the orange juice with the marmalade to make a syrup. Use a skewer to prick holes all over the cake and drizzle over the syrup. Leave the cake to cool completely before turning out and dusting with icing sugar and orange zest.


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