What Matters Today: Oranges

So much for saying that I would give baking a rest for a few weeks. Alas, it is true: I have quite a baking problem. My short-lived hiatus from baking was broken last week with a peach-blueberry dump cake, and I could not even make it through the weekend without summer fruit calling my name and begging me to put it in a cake.

This time, it was citrus that was the flavor of choice. Citrus fruits are my favorite to bake with, as it’s always fun for me to coax the flavor out of the fruit and weave it into a cake or cookie, and then pair it with other flavors. Not to mention that citrus practically screams summertime baking, so it thus becomes the perfect excuse to fire up the oven and bake.

My other excuse was my parents’ first social outing since the Covid-19 pandemic began: a simple Sunday venture to a local vineyard with my boyfriend and his family. Something simple, outdoors, and with plenty of space for them to spread out, eat, and relax despite all of our slight anxiety over heading out into the world these days.

Of course, my brain finds this to be the perfect excuse for a homemade dessert, and one involving one of my favorite summer flavors: orange. Searching for a packable item to stow in one of our coolers, I landed on The Kitchen Magpie’s “Amazing Orange Loaf Cake” recipe and got to work.

My very own Amazing Orange Loaf Cake, perfect for a vineyard trip in the sun. Thanks, Karlynn at The Kitchen Magpie!

I zested the entirety of an oversized orange from my local grocery store and used standard store-bought orange juice in the cake, baked it for about 55 minutes, and ended up with a glowing golden-brown cake.

The original recipe suggests an accompanying glaze for the cake, and while I didn’t use that particular recipe, I crafted my own simple glaze with confectioner’s sugar, orange juice, and orange extract — I can’t say I used specific measurements, as I’ve whipped up so many glazes in the past that I just eyeball at this point.

What resulted was a shiny, glassy glaze that coated the entirety of the cake. Cut to a few hours later, two bottles of wine and a round of sangrias later at the vineyard, filled with stuffed breads and sub sandwiches, it was finally time to test out the cake. Despite my hacking with a plastic knife, the cake was a hit and a great companion to our outdoor meal. The was ripe with juicy orange flavor, and the glaze added an extra sweetness that made the cake resemble an orange creamsicle.

With a sun (and wine)-soaked day in the books, it quickly became a sweet memory of time with family, time outside of our typical at-home routines that have come to mark our daily lives. So what matters today is time outside and time well spent. What matters today is time with family that served no other purpose than to relax in each other’s company. What matters today is sharing meals and sharing time with the people you love, gathering around one shared space to catch up sans distractions.

What matters most is making life feel a little more normal and a little less stagnant by being together — and by sharing a delightful meal and dessert together in the process.