These indulgent chocolate fondant cakes perfectly combine slightly acidic blood oranges with rich dark chocolate and highlight the complementary flavors of both ingredients.
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Have you been enjoying blood orange season yet? From December to March or April, depending on where you live, blood oranges are inviting you to feast on their gorgeous, jewel-like ruby flesh. Their taste is ever-so-slightly more acidic than regular oranges (especially the Moro variety), but you can of course use (and eat!) them every way you’d use regular oranges.
Nerd alert: do you know what causes the flesh of blood oranges to turn red? Antioxidants! Blood oranges contain anthocyanin, a natural pigment that develops when blood oranges ripen during warm days tempered by cool nights. Interestingly, anthocyanins can color fruits from deep red to violet. They are what give blueberries their gorgeous indigo color, eggplants their deep violet shade, and—you guessed it—blood oranges their ruby red tone.
What I’ve always found fascinating is that blood oranges are not always the same color. Sometimes blood oranges will only be streaked with red, whereas other times, they’ll be fully deep crimson red. I find it usually depends on how far you are into the blood orange season, but it can also depend on the variety you buy. I just love the surprise of slicing into a blood orange to discover its particular shade! File this under: the miracles of nature.
I had long been wanting to create a dark chocolate and blood orange dessert, not only because the color of both ingredients makes for such dramatic plates, but also because both flavors work so incredibly together. The slightly acidic flavor of blood oranges cuts through the richness of dark chocolate, while also complementing its fruity flavor. In this recipe, the dark chocolate fondant cakes are infused with blood orange zest and have a rich, barely set interior that’s close to that of a lava cake. But what makes the chocolate fondant cakes extra special is the blood orange segment syrup: the syrup adds an extra orange kick, and the segments sit on top of and around the chocolate fondant cakes like jewels.
You’ll need eight blood oranges to make this recipe. If you can’t find blood oranges, Cara Cara oranges make for a fine substitute: their coral flesh would be just as spectacular with these chocolate fondant cakes. If blood oranges and Cara Caras are off-season, pick up Navel oranges and don’t look back. I promise you’re in for a treat, regardless of the variety you choose to use.
If you’re unsure how to zest or segment the oranges, scroll down to the recipe notes for instructions.
Blood Orange and Dark Chocolate Fondant Cakes
For the fondant cakes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup dark cocoa powder
- ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- ½ cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice (about 2 oranges), or milk
- 3 eggs
- Finely grated zest from 2 blood oranges (about 4 loose tablespoons, or 60 ml)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 5 ¼ oz best-quality dark chocolate, chopped, or dark chocolate chunks
For the blood orange segment syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup orange liqueur (Cointreau, Grand Marnier, or Triple Sec)
- Zest from 2 blood oranges (see notes)
- Segments from 6 blood oranges (see notes)
- In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and cocoa powder. Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, melted butter, orange juice or milk, eggs, orange zest, and vanilla extract, and whisk until smooth. Fold in the chopped dark chocolate or dark chocolate chunks.
- Divide the cake batter between the prepared muffin cups (you should spoon about 2 tbsp/30 ml mixture into each cup). Place one muffin pan on the top rack of the oven, and another on the lower rack. Bake for 25 minutes, switching and rotating the pans halfway through, or until the tops of the cakes look just dry, which means they are barely set—this is essential to preserve their fondant texture. Transfer the pans to cooling racks and let the cakes cool completely to room temperature.
- For the blood orange syrup: In a medium saucepan, bring the water, sugar, and orange liqueur to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the orange zest, and simmer until the liquid reduces to about ¾ cup (180 ml), about 30 minutes.
- Strain the syrup into a measuring cup. Gently stir in the orange segments to coat with the syrup. Let cool until just warm, or room temperature, about 30 minutes.
- SERVING: Serve the fondant cakes topped with a spoonful of blood orange syrup and segments.
- STORAGE: Store the cooled fondant cakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 2 months. Gently rewarm the cakes before serving.
- How to zest oranges: For the syrup, you can either grate the zest finely using a Microplane, or use a vegetable peeler to collect strips of zest. Make sure to leave as little white pith onto the zest as possible. Make sure to zest all the oranges before peeling and segmenting them.
- How to segment oranges: First, peel the oranges. Cut off both the top and bottom of the fruit. Stand the fruit on either of the flat ends. Run a very sharp knife along the fruit from top to bottom, removing the skin and pith, leaving the flesh bare. Rotate the fruit and repeat to peel all the oranges. To collect segments, take a peeled orange in one hand, and run a sharp knife alongside the membranes, leaving entirely bare pieces of fruit behind. You should make sure to do this over a bowl and squeeze the remaining membrane to catch all dripping juices. You can add this juice to the syrup, but if you do, make sure to simmer the syrup for longer so it thickens properly. Alternatively, save the juice for your next smoothie or cocktail!
- If you don’t have two muffin pans on hand, bake 12 cakes at a time. Make sure to cover and keep the remaining batter in a cool spot of your kitchen while the first batch bakes and cools. Unmold the first 12 cakes, then thoroughly wash the muffin pan. Generously coat with cooking spray, or line with parchment paper cups again, and bake the second batch as directed.
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