Caramel Kumquat Cake

Twisted indulgences | September 6, 2012 | By

Try saying that title three times fast.

I had to prep this dangerous food mostly because of the name.  My friend said it sounded like an insult a little kid would use.  ie. “Whatever, kumquat.”  I used to prefer, “Nice head,” but whatever it takes.

I won’t use the word kumquat to insult a kumquat, though.  First of all, they’re cute.

And if you eat a whole one, it will give sour keys a run for their money in puckering up your face.

When eating a kumquat, you’re supposed to chomp the whole thing, skin and all.  I was reluctant to try it (as I could say about almost every single food on this blog) because eating orange peel whole doesn’t seem very attractive, and I was right to be cautious because, although none of the websites I looked at described it this way, it tasted quite a bit like orange peel.  One website I looked at even said to separate the skin from the sour innards and eat the “sweet skin” alone, but if you’re into trying that I’d suggest taking a peeler to an orange and you might get the same effect.  Ugh.

But don’t worry, kumquats weren’t about to scare me off.

I decided that something as sour as a kumquat needed to find balance in sweetness, so at first I went for caramel, thinking I would make soft square candies with kumquat chunks in them.  I had never actually tasted caramel with oranges, but I think I had been secretly craving caramel ever since I had recently passed up a few of those caramel squares where you have to spend ages peeling off the cellophane that is folded neatly around its bottom, so much so that you end up swearing because you get too tired to unwrap more than three even though you want twelve.  Maybe I’ll start a diet based on tight fiddly packaging.

I used this recipe for caramel, but it gave me a few challenges.  Please imagine me as a cross between Mr. Miagi and Lucille Ball while preparing it, because that was how it all worked out.  Oh, and imagine a fat Lucille Miagi, because this recipe taught me that there is probably nothing worse for you to eat than caramel.

Kumquat Caramel

  • 2C heavy cream
  • 1/2C sweetened condensed milk
  • 2C light corn syrup
  • 2C granulated sugar
  • 1/2C (1 stick) softened butter, cut into squares

Directions:  Prep a 9×9 pan by lining it with foil and spraying it with cooking spray (I didn’t have cooking spray so I gave it a rub down with oil).  Combine the cream and condensed milk in a small saucepan on low, and heat until warm but not hot.  In a medium-large saucepan, combine the corn syrup, water, and granulated sugar over med-high heat.  Insert a candy thermometer and reduce the heat to medium.  Let the mix come to a boil and cook until the thermometer reads 250 degrees.  This took a LONG time.

Add the milk mix.  At this point I was Lucille Ball – my pot wasn’t big enough and the whole thing immediately boiled over huge and I flapped my arms in a jumping blind squealy panic.  It was so sticky that it glued anything it touched, so when it doused my gas burner out I couldn’t even remove it to clean it because it was crazy-glue stuck, so I had to chip away at it with an array of small implements, trying to get it all done quickly before my husband walked in and caught me hacking away at the stovetop for the sake of unhealthy slop he wouldn’t like anyway.

Add the butter.  Cook while stirring constantly until thermometer reads 244 and the caramel becomes dark golden brown.  Here I was Mr. Miyagi, trying to learn patience with ‘whisk on, whisk on,’ while I stirred for a gabillion years.  I still gave up too early because my caramel ended up with rolo consistency instead of firm like I wanted.

Slice kumquats and spread them across bottom of prepared pan.  Pour caramel into pan, and let it sit overnight to firm.

When ready, lift foil from pan and flip onto plate.  More Lucille – my caramel wouldn’t let go of the foil, so I started trying to pull it with my fingers and became a gluey mess.  Eventually I freed it from its Alcan prison, and it morphed into one blob, but there still wasn’t an easy way to eat it.

Because it was still pourable, I decided to convert it to a filling for…

Kumquat Caramel Cake

(based on citrus vanilla cake recipe here)

  • 3C whole wheat flour (the wheat flour might have made my cake slightly dry, but it compensated for the health guilt about the caramel)
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 2C sugar
  • 1C butter, softened
  • 4 eggs
  • 1Tbsp kumquat peel, diced finely
  • 2tsp vanilla
  • 1/2C milk
  • 1/2C orange juice
  • Icing, pre-prepared if you’re not Miyagi enough to make your own

Directions:  Preheat to 350 and grease two 8” round pans.  Mix flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl.  In large bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Combine kumquat zest, vanilla, milk and OJ in another small bowl.  Add flour alternately with OJ mix to butter mixture, beating well after each addition.  Pour batter into pans and bake 45-55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely and level tops with sharp knife.  Spread caramel across cut top of one cake, placing other cake on top, crumb side down (upside down).  Spread a thin “crumb layer” of icing on cake and allow to harden in fridge.  Ice with a final thicker layer of icing.  I used store-bought icing because I’m no Ralph Macchio.

Results:  I thought this cake was pretty good, and it also had the added benefit of chants from my nieces and kids that went something like, “We want kumquat cake!”  Any time I can make kids chant weird food words, I consider a recipe a success.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law didn’t make any comments about the cake, though, so maybe I’m alone in my favourable opinion.  Maybe they just didn’t like hearing the kid-swear, “kumquat,” being yelled from their kids’ lips.  And my bro-in-law even picked out the kumquat bits, so maybe they should have been smaller in the caramel.  Despite this, my Rating is 2 Yums.  If you’re too tired to do a karate crane kick but still want to get your inner Miyagi on, give this recipe a try.


  1. Leave a Reply

    Bonnie Banters
    September 10, 2012

    I love the concept of your blog. I have an international market across the street from me (which I often mention). I’ve posted one or two unusual fruit posts in the past; but I hoped to do more recipes with these exotic vegetables and fruits…maybe your blog will inspire me! The kumquat caramel as a cake filling sounds pretty interesting!

    • Leave a Reply

      Ann Allchin
      September 10, 2012

      Thanks! Let me know if there are any specialties local to you I should try (checked out your blog at and I see you’re a Southern Belle! Will try your chili). As for the International market, go for it! Lots of fun. When I find a market like that I feel like I’ve just discovered treasure

  2. Leave a Reply

    Your Brother-In-Law
    September 11, 2012

    Not entirely true! We did like the cake! The idea of caramel with the kumquats really did work! The reason I picked out the kumquat bits was because the peel was really tough and I didn’t feel like chewing it for two minutes before swallowing. Not your fault, I know. Maybe there is some way to soften the peel. I suppose, had we known that our reaction was going to be featured on the web site, we might have given you a more animated response. We’ll have to keep this in mind next time …

    • Leave a Reply

      Ann Allchin
      September 11, 2012

      Good to know! (although a kumquat without its skin, is like… just not a kumquat). I could have chopped it more finely. You didn’t notice me watching your reaction with my pencil and notepad? 🙂 Thanks for being a guinea pig! And don’t worry, I know that you keep guinea pigs, so that won’t be on the menu for you any time soon.

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