Save for Kendrick, Stevie, and Alabama Shakes (and honestly that Gwen Stefani live music video situation, which I’ve found myself rewatching over and over in an attempt to crack just how they pulled it off), the Grammys were a disappointing shitshow. I haven’t sat through a full awards ceremony in a very long time — neither had my guests for the evening, who beheld in disbelief the White Mediocrity Power Hour unfolding before them. Not even The Life of Pablo‘s release could have protected music from itself this week.
And then, as if brought in by an angelic choir, Dev Hynes announced a new album.
Hynes is the closest thing we have to a contemporary Arthur Russell, charting a fractal creative path as challenging as, yet far more pleasant than, the late avant-gardiste: We didn’t know we deserved notations for pop songs about “Saint Augustine of Hippo in relation to the tribulations of Nontetha Nkwenkwe,” or allusions to Missy Elliott tribute pieces, and duets with Carly Rae Jepsen.
Multidisciplinary, with an ear for classical and art song in addition to radio pop, gently roiling with feeling, with movement, as invested in the history of dance as he is in his own personal history — in this way, he is encyclopedic, a man of multitudes. His songs are not mere vessels; listeners can pour their own stories into them, but they serve better as conduits, as mediums for the interpretation of personal and cultural history. His work is not a window, glasses to look through and then cast away, but a mindset to adopt. He writes songs that function as maps through our collective generational confusion. You know that feeling when you want to dance with someone, or fuck them — or worse, you want to like them — but you can’t shake the feeling you’re settling for Chipotle when you actually want Mission Cantina? He’s got a song for that. After all, he’s Blood Orange: encompassing both light and darkness, rind and syrup.
And winter is the season for blood oranges, rare and smooth and sweet. Remove their sunny peels and see: You’ve got a little heart that fits in the palm of your hand.
For the cake:
1 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 c almond flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
3 large eggs
3/4 c sugar
1/2 c olive oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c orange juice*
Zest of one blood orange
*Fresh blood orange juice is best, but that takes a lot of squishing and squeezing for not a lot of output. I only had a few oranges, so I used 1/4 c fresh-squeezed blood orange juice and 1/4 c orange juice in the fridge left over from the paltry breakfast-in-bed I made my dude on Valentine’s Day. I mean, he liked it because it was basically a pile of bacon on a piece of bread and a cup of juice to serve as a distraction, but you know.
For the candied blood oranges:
1 c water
1 c sugar
1 or 2 thinly sliced blood oranges
For the glaze:
1 c powdered sugar
1–2 tbsp milk or water
Dash of extract (blood orange juice, vanilla, almond, etc.)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8″ cake pan or similar-sized springform/tube pan, which is what I used because MINE is cute and has hearts on it and I hadn’t had a chance to use it yet.
2. In a lil’ bowl, whisk the flours, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a bigger bowl, whisk the eggs together. Whisk in the sugar really well. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil. Once that’s combined, whisk in the orange juice, zest, and vanilla extract.
4. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. Pour into your prepared pan and bake for 30–40 minutes.
5. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes or so before removing from the pan, especially if you’re using a springform like me. Let the cake cool COMPLETELY before decorating.
6. While your cake is cooling, make your candied oranges: Whisk water and sugar together in a saucepan and boil. Add thinly sliced blood oranges and turn down to a very low simmer. Flip them every 10 minutes for 40 minutes, or four flips, then turn the heat off to let the syrup and oranges cool completely.
7. In a small bowl, whisk powdered sugar with a scant tablespoon of milk. Glaze should be very thick — only add more liquid if it’s impossible to stir. Use whisk to drizzle glaze over the top of the cake. Before it sets and hardens, place candied blood orange slices on top.