Welcome to In Season, our series celebrating the juiciest fruit and crispest veggies in Texas. This winter, we asked local chefs to share stories about their favorite items of seasonal produce—and create original recipes that make the most of winter bounty. 

For Kevin Wenzel, owner of Wiseman House Chocolates in Hico, winter citrus stirs childhood memories of a 4-H food show. One of the items he recalls making—with some parental guidance—is orange-candied pecans. “My mother did most of the work zesting oranges, and this was before Microplanes existed,” the chef and chocolatier says. They scored a second-place ribbon at the 1976 show, and Wenzel says his mom was thankful they didn’t place first. “My mother was relieved for the red ribbon since a blue ribbon would have made me proud of what I really didn’t cook.”

His sister Kara, however, swept the culinary board. “She made her own dish, knew the food groups, and both years we did the 4-H food show, she received blue ribbons,” Wenzel says. “She now runs the family business, the Dutchman’s Hidden Valley Country Store in Hamilton, where I grew up making and creating new sandwiches, baking breads, and stirring fudge and batches of peanut brittle.”

Those years spent helping the family business (along with some additional training in school) led to a business of his own. In 1996, Wenzel opened Wiseman House in Hico, where he crafts handmade chocolates ranging from Texas whiskey truffles to toffee melts. They put on a show worthy of a thousand blue ribbons.

There is no chocolate in Wenzel’s Texas Citrus Rustic Cake, but there is an abundance of tangy citrus. “I make this cake not for sweetness,” Wenzel says, “but for flavor, which is what I want from my chocolates here at Wiseman House—full-flavored, not sweet-focused.”

Texas Citrus Rustic Cake 

1 medium orange, or two small tangerines or tangelos
1 large lemon
⅔ cup Texas olive oil 
6 ounces raw almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 large eggs, room temperature
½ teaspoon sea salt or Himalayan pink salt
1 ½ cups granulated white sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place all citrus in a pot with enough water to cover the fruit. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes to soften the fruit. Pour out the water and let fruit cool to room temperature. You can run cold water over the fruit to speed up the cooling process. Remove seeds and then place the fruit, with skin, in a food processor and puree until smooth. While processing, slowly trickle in olive oil to make a paste. Remove paste and set aside; wipe out food processor. 
  2. Place almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 20 minutes or so. To test, break an almond in half and check for a toasted color. Once they’re toasted, remove almonds from the oven and let cool. 
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the almonds have cooled, add them to the food processor and pulse until they reach a fine texture similar to sand. Add the all-purpose flour and baking powder to the food processor, and pulse to combine.
  4. In a bowl, whisk eggs with salt until foamy, then add sugar a little at a time while whisking. (Alternatively, use a stand mixer to whisk the eggs, then slowly add sugar.) Whisk until sugar is mostly dissolved.
  5. Fold in orange paste. Then fold in flour mixture. Do not overmix. Pour into one 10-inch or two 5-inch springform pans and bake for 45 minutes to one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack until the sides pull away. This cake tastes better after it has cooled.