You can substitute store-bought marzipan, although Celia makes her own from almonds, sugar, and egg whites. Marzipan was used in the Middle East as early as the fifth century C.E. Always a delicacy of the Jews, it was also, according to Muslim tradition, a particular favorite of the prophet Mohammed.<<< Less
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper cut into a circle.
Place the sugar, marzipan, and orange zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle; beat to break up the marzipan until it is the texture of sand.
Replace the paddle with the whisk and add the eggs to the marzipan mixture. Whisk until light, fluffy, and pale yellow in color.
Take 2 tablespoons of the flour and sprinkle over the dates and candied citrus peel in a small bowl. This flour coating prevents them from sinking to the bottom of the batter.
Sift the remaining flour, the baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.
Replace the whisk with the paddle and add the sifted dry ingredients, orange juice, and melted butter to the marzipan-egg mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Don't overmix-the batter should be soft and creamy. Fold in the dates and citrus peel.
Pour the batter into the springform mold, tap the mold a couple of times against the counter to remove the air bubbles, and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 40 minutes.
To make marzipan: Place the almonds and sugar in a food processor equipped with a steel blade and process, adding just enough egg white to bind the sugar and the almonds together.
Celia suggests adding a little cognac, rum, orange-blossom water, orange peel, cinnamon, coriander, or whatever flavor you like to the marzipan before processing. If it is too soft, add a bit more ground almonds or almond flour.
Joan Nathan is the author of several cookbooks, contributes articles on international ethnic food and special holiday features to The New York Times, Food Arts, Gourmet, and the B'nai B'rith International Jewish Monthly. Visit her website here.